Are We Trading Our Happiness for Modern Comforts?

“One of the great paradoxes of American life is that …. existence has gotten more comfortable [while] happiness has fallen,” says Arthur Brooks, writing at The Atlantic. Average household income was up for every quintile in 2019. And the poor, as well as the rich, are spending more on goods and services – for example, the poor spent more on eating out by 22% in 2019 over 2008, compared with an 8% increase for the top quintile. And government spending is increasing too. Houses are bigger. But happiness is declining.

Consumption, and work to enable us to consume more, can’t make us happy.

Socialism, in the form of government, can’t make us happy either.

… the political theorist Bernardo Zacka describes the popular conception of bureaucracy’s rules (“innumerable, entangled, often impenetrable”), physical attributes (“fluorescent-lit, with rows of identical chairs and gray partition panels”), and people (“distant, unconcerned”). Scientific socialism—or at least, scientific public administration—reduces citizenship to a series of cold transactions with the government.”

However, government can deliver essential services, and remove or mitigate the sources of unhappiness, by providing healthcare, education, and a social safety net.

Tech alienates us.

What makes us happy? Intimate social connections with friends and family. Money spent on help with tasks we dislike, shared experiences such as vacations with loved ones, and giving to family, friends, and charitable causes, says Brooks.