Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Affluence and Its Discontents

Robert Samuelson confirms some of my points about poverty in Affluence and Its Discontents:

Advanced societies need economic growth to satisfy the multiplying wants -- public and private -- of their citizens. The social order depends on it. But the quest for growth unleashes new anxieties and economic conflicts that disturb the social order. Affluence liberates the individual, promising that everyone can choose a "unique way to self-fulfillment," writes historian Avner Offer. But the promise is so extravagant that it preordains many disappointments and sometimes inspires choices that have antisocial consequences, including family breakdown and obesity. Statistical indicators of happiness, Offer notes, have not risen with incomes.

Should we be surprised? Not really. We've simply reaffirmed an old truth: The pursuit of affluence does not always end with bliss.

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