Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Posted by middlerage on April 3, 2014

A recent day was rainy, chilly, and windy. A perfect day to cocoon inside with a good book, or a jigsaw puzzle, or a new chili recipe. Or perhaps a documentary. I watched two in a row.

[As an aside, do you think this age of internet streaming will be the golden age for documentaries? Who wants to spend nearly $50 for tickets, popcorn, and a large orange soda at the nearest stadium-seating cinema grande for anything other than an action-packed, shoot-em up spectacle? I wouldn’t go for a documentary, but there are good documentaries, and now I feel like watching them, because the cost/benefit ratio is more attractive. To me.]

So the second documentary I watched was about happiness and how it is measured, how different cultures achieve it, and so on. At one point it showed us a chart of Happiness versus Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to illustrate that money cannot buy happiness.  Imagine a line representing GDP rising robustly from 1970 to 2010; below it is a line representing happiness, and it proceeds flatly from 1970 to 2010 showing our overall happiness in life has remained stagnant despite all the wealth we are realizing. (I tried to find a similar chart online, to display for you dear reader, but found nothing satisfactory. No matter, it was a very simple diagram and you can easily picture it in your mind.)

We are making more money, but we are as unhappy as ever.

The only problem is that just prior to watching the happiness doc I watched a documentary on wealth inequality. In that doc, there was  a virtually identical chart, except it compared wages versus GDP… and it was the wages line that remained flat and stagnant. The nation is getting wealthier, but wages have not followed suit, and only the 1% are benefiting.

Wages are stagnant and Happiness is stagnant. Coincidence? I think not.


For the curious, here are the two documentaries I watched:





2 Responses to “Can Money Buy Happiness?”

  1. switbo said

    That’s so funny that you had watched that other documentary about wealth inequality because as I was reading your post, my first thought was “well of course the average happiness hasn’t gone up because the average person’s wealth hasn’t gone up, only the top 1 percents’s wealth”.

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