This is so foundational. Thank you for sharing this point. I bought a house in a suburb of Atlanta two years ago for under $200K and got very lucky finding exactly what we wanted. Two years later, all the new construction is $500-$700,000 giant homes, entirely too big for even multi-child families. Empty plots of land are now selling for more than we paid for our 1,800 sq foot house. When we were looking, our agent, our banker and a couple of others along the way kept telling us that we could afford more house. What for? My wife and I don’t have kids and aren’t planning to have any. Why would we need a 7 bedroom house?

Our perspective on what we need to be happy has become so distorted. And it terrifies me to think that the trusted agents of authority involved in helping people make important decisions about housing, career or family are potentially driving people towards more, bigger and costly. All in the guise of “happiness”.

It’s a chronic problem in the developed world already, and now, we’re viewing the developing world through the lens conspicuous consumption. If people own bigger houses or more cars, or if they spend more on luxury items, they’re better off.

I don’t think that’s true for a second. In much of the world, that consumption coincides with rising personal debt, declining health and reduced happiness on sentiment scales.

People need access to meaningful work, clean food and water, shelter, community and personal dignity. There’s plenty to attain beyond that, but the return in happiness or well-being declines.


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