Is happiness inequality up or down?

by on April 13, 2015 at 12:09 am in Current Affairs, Data Source, Economics, Philosophy, Political Science | Permalink

Steven Quartz writes:

…our current Gilded Age has been greeted with relative complacency. Despite soaring inequality, worsened by the Great Recession, and recent grumbling about the 1 percent, Americans remain fairly happy. All of the wage gains since the downturn ended in 2009 have essentially gone to the top 1 percent, yet the proportion of Americans who say they are “thriving” has actually increased. So-called happiness inequality — the proportion of Americans who are either especially miserable or especially joyful — hit a 40-year low in 2010 by some measures. Men have historically been less happy than women, but that gap has disappeared. Whites have historically been happier than nonwhites, but that gap has narrowed, too.

In fact, American happiness has not only stayed steady, but converged, since wages began stagnating in the mid-1970s. This is puzzling. It does not conform with economic theories that compare happiness to envy, and emphasize the impact of relative income for happiness — how we compare with the Joneses.

Here is part of the answer, consistent with what I argued in my book What Price Fame?:

…social status, which was once hierarchical and zero-sum, has become more fragmented, pluralistic and subjective. The relationship between relative income and relative status, which used to be straightforward, has gotten much more complex.

…A new generation of ethnographers has discovered an explosion of consumer lifestyles and product diversification in recent decades. From evangelical Christian Harley-Davidson owners, who huddle together around a motorcycle’s radio listening to a service on Sunday mornings, to lifestyles organized around musical tastes, from the solidarity of punk rockers to yoga gatherings, from meditation retreats to book clubs, we use products to create and experience community. These communities often represent a consumer micro-culture, a “brand community,” or tribe, with its own values and norms about status.

The article is very interesting throughout, hat tip goes to Claire Morgan.

Note that the closing bit of this piece is…this: “Money may not buy happiness in the long run, but consumer choice has gone a long way in keeping most Americans reasonably content, even if they shouldn’t be.”

1 Steve Sailer April 13, 2015 at 12:16 am

In the future, everyone will be famous to 15 people.

2 Mark Thorson April 13, 2015 at 12:39 am

Do you feel better making that comment? Good. Very good.

3 Judah Benjamin Hur April 13, 2015 at 10:55 am

I thought it was pretty clever, actually.

4 Dog April 13, 2015 at 3:54 am

Shouldn’t your comment be something like: Hispanics are happier than whites

5 dearieme April 13, 2015 at 6:50 am

“social status, which was once hierarchical and zero-sum … The relationship between relative income and relative status, which used to be straightforward …” Is that American exceptionalism? Come to that, does he have evidence for those statements? Whose view of the social status of others is he adopting?

6 Mark Thorson April 13, 2015 at 9:45 pm

Where do Filipinos rank on the happiness scale?

7 Dude Man April 13, 2015 at 10:33 am

Weirdly enough, I think this is an accurate description of you currently.

8 Turkey Vulture April 13, 2015 at 6:30 pm

A return to our roots. Everyone a comparatively big fish in their small pond.

9 HeyDay April 15, 2015 at 5:44 am

You are very famous for me becouse you have many comments on this website:)

10 Steve Sailer April 13, 2015 at 12:22 am

The problem is that the _basics_ of successful middle class multi-generational life, as defined by Franklin and Jefferson in the 18th Century in the original depictions of American exceptionalism — land ownership, marriage, the money to bring up your children to be middle class, etc. — are getting more expensive.

11 Doug April 13, 2015 at 12:57 am

I suspect that goes to why happiness inequality is actually down. Empirical research shows that having a lot of children and having them early in life leads to significant decreases in life satisfaction. Previous generations’ economies gave people just enough rope to hang themselves. Enough job security and cheap housing to have four or five kids starting at 22, but not enough material prosperity to make it a stress-free lifestyle as it might be in Downton Abbey. Nowadays diminished relative standing of young adults has made this life path immediately unappealing, rather than regrettably so.

12 Lord Action April 13, 2015 at 11:10 am

Have you actually looked at the happiness research? (1) It’s not terribly convincing, and (2) It doesn’t point to a particularly large effect from children. It may be statistically significant, but it’s small. Small enough that I’ve wondered if the 1 in 20 (made up number for argument’s sake) families with some kind of tragic outcome drive the numbers down. In any event, it’s hard to square the research with the apparent relative happiness of people with kids against people without kids. I realize that that intuition has the flaw that happy people tend to have kids and unhappy people don’t, but it’s hard to ignore what’s happening in front of your own eyes.

My guess is that happiness research is measuring what people think they’re supposed to report. Kids are supposed to be less fulfilling than office work, so people say that they are. Failing to have kids probably doesn’t make you unhappy until you hit about 40. Raising kids is hard, and doing things that are hard might look like unhappiness, depending on what you’re measuring. Occasionally, really bad outcomes like cancer or drug addiction happen to kids, and that’s pretty awful for happiness.

People have come away with a really simple picture of children and happiness that seems to miss a lot of complexity.

13 Go Kings Go! April 13, 2015 at 4:16 pm

I am very unhappy that the LA Kings missed the playoffs this year, but still happily thrilled about the last 4 years. Same with my kids: around bedtime

14 Floccina April 13, 2015 at 11:10 am

The problem is that the _basics_ of successful middle class multi-generational life, as defined by Franklin and Jefferson in the 18th Century in the original depictions of American exceptionalism — land ownership, marriage, the money to bring up your children to be middle class, etc. — are getting more expensive.

How can the money to bring up your children to be middle class change? Middle income is middle income no matter how high or high low. Even more so middle class is more behavior that income.

15 Lord Action April 13, 2015 at 11:16 am

Not that I’m completely convinced by the original argument, but I think he’s defining “middle class” as the achievement of traditional middle class objectives, which can most certainly become unrealistic for people in the middle income cohorts.

16 Brian Donohue April 13, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Yeah, in LA maybe. Not so much for folks in many parts of the country, though. People whom Mr. Sailer writes for and supports from afar.

17 Lord Action April 13, 2015 at 1:04 pm

It’s fair to say that college has become a pretty ridiculous expense, and that housing near cities is awfully expensive. Those are two pretty big parts of the middle-class experience, and they aren’t problems isolated to the 10 or so million near LA.

There are problems with marriage in America, but I’m not sure I’d summarize those with the word “expensive.”

18 Floccina April 13, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Here in Florida the state universities are still pretty cheap and the system encourages most students do their first 2 years in Community College. That enables most to live with their parents for the fist 2 years making that much less expensive.

And UF is highly ranked for a state school and many who go even there have done 2 years in CC. Much of the difference in cost compared to other states is because they spend less per student rather than the taxpayer contribution more.

This is one thing Florida has done much better that most states.

Also these days even middle class families get some financial aid.

19 8 April 13, 2015 at 12:29 am

This article is a sign of unhappy of NYTimes readers. Or another way, Americans are reasonably content at the peak of happiness for this cycle, The trough will be worse than 2008, even if it isn’t as bad economically.

20 Clover April 13, 2015 at 12:39 am

If I had to identify a reason I’d say better TV, the internet and video games. There’s a reason they take up so much of people’s time.

21 bobE April 13, 2015 at 1:04 am

Mostly they just have really low costs and better things have much higher costs in time and risk especially in areas with bad infrastructure.

22 ChrisA April 13, 2015 at 1:33 am

I do often wonder if TV and Internet offer a localized optimum trap. It’s easy to get sucked into an afternoon of surfing on a Sunday rather than engaging in some “real” activity, since the real activity is just so much more hassle to organize, especially if more than one person is involved.

23 Millian April 13, 2015 at 5:06 am

You’d have to demonstrate that the more self-sacrificial activity is better at generating net happiness.

24 Keith April 13, 2015 at 4:12 am

Better TV? I don’t think so.

25 FC April 13, 2015 at 6:04 am

I can choose from three different countries’ versions of MasterChef and The Bachelor. Louis XIV would weep with envy.

26 Lord Action April 13, 2015 at 11:23 am

Ever watch old TV? Do you realize there was an era when Knight Rider competed with The Dukes of Hazzard for can’t miss TV?

I do think binge watching has led to programs becoming more detailed and more intricate, rather than “better” as such.

27 JWatts April 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Add to that the run away hit comedies like “Three’s Company”, “The Brady Bunch”, “Happy Days”, “The Beverly Hillbillies”, etc. And of course,, most of America had 4 channels to chose from and no ability to time delay programming.

TV has gotten much better.

28 ChrisA April 13, 2015 at 1:57 am

One thing that has always bothered me about the inequality thing – is the assumption that everyone wants to be super-rich. Of course if it involved no trade offs, probably everyone would. But mature people know that in order to progress up the income ladder you have to make certain sacrifices, such as working long hours, or taking risks that are stressful, or even having to compromise on moral issues (like persuading someone to buy something they don’t really need). In a society where everyone has different preferences around these things then you are likely to see high inequality, as the more driven people earn more than the less driven people. But, in such a society, since people are satisfying their preferences then they will be happier than if everyone were forced to work hard. Another simpler way of putting this is, if you are happy on your 50k per year, why on earth would you try to earn more? That would be dumb.

29 prior_approval April 13, 2015 at 4:22 am

Well, as loyal readers of Prof. Cowen know, he recognizes this point – and has suggested the creation of favelas for those Americans content not to pursue wealth as a Selbstzweck. As noted in his most recent book – ‘What if someone proposed that in a few parts of the United States, in the warmer states, some city neighborhoods would be set aside for cheap living?’

Leading, in that ever so typical Marginal Revolution way of taking small steps to a much better world, to this – ‘We also would build some makeshift structures there, similar to the better dwellings you might find in a Rio de Janeiro Favela. The quality of the water and electrical infrastructure might be low by American standards, though we could supplement the neighborhood with free municipal wireless. Hulu and other web-based TV services would replace more expensive cable connections for those residents. Then we would allow people to move there if they desired. In essence, we would be recreating a Mexico-like or Brazil-like environment in part of the United States, although with some technological add-ons and most likely greater safety.’

(Sadly, this piece in the notably socialist WSJ commenting on the above seems to miss the fact of what a fantastic satirist Prof. Cowen is, actually taking such writing seriously – ‘If this were Swiftian satire, Mr. Cowen could retire the Best Deadpan Award. But it isn’t. It’s a prediction coupled with the injunction that resistance is futile. There’s nothing we can do, says Mr. Cowen, to avert a future in which 10% to 15% of Americans enjoy fantastically wealthy and interesting lives while the rest slog along without hope of a better life, tranquilized by free Internet and canned beans.

Bread and circuses is not the policy of a republic, but rather of an empire entering moral senescence. Nonetheless, Mr. Cowen seems untroubled by his hyperpolarized vision.

The kindest description of his stance is moral indifference: “It will become increasingly common to invoke ‘meritocracy’ as a response to income equality,” he writes, “and whether you call it an explanation, a justification, or an excuse is up to you.”‘ http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303918804579107754099736882 )

30 Art Deco April 13, 2015 at 12:37 pm

If it was 25 years ago they gave you those sealed letters of reference you won’t look at, I’d say it’s time you got over it.

31 Keith April 13, 2015 at 4:25 am

Yes! Plus there are a lot of negatives that can come from being rich such as a screwed up family life, drugs and other vices that seem to proliferate along with money. I honestly don’t know if I could handle great wealth but most people, including me, would gladly take the money if offered.

32 Lord Action April 13, 2015 at 11:25 am

Is there any data showing these phenomena are actually more common among the wealthy, or do we just notice them more? Poor folks get divorces and have kids addicted to painkillers, too. But that doesn’t make the news.

33 BC April 13, 2015 at 5:50 am

“One thing that has always bothered me about the inequality thing – is the assumption that everyone wants to be super-rich.”

Actually, the assumption of those that focus on inequality today is that no one wants anyone else to be super rich. The reason Americans are happy despite the inequality is that, like you, most Americans care more about pursuing their own Happiness rather than preventing others from pursuing theirs.

34 TMC April 13, 2015 at 11:56 am

Good comment. It’s about building up people rather than tearing them down.

35 Pshrnk April 13, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Or with more gated communities, more private schools, etcetera the envious less often see the very rich.

36 Jay April 14, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Ever turn on a television? If anyone you can’t help but see them.

37 carlolspln April 13, 2015 at 2:04 am

“..(though a recent Gallup poll did find that 67 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the current income distribution)” [snip]

Talk about burying the lede.

38 dan1111 April 13, 2015 at 2:39 am

Yet, if people actually cared about it all that much, you would expect increasing inequality to be driving increasing unhappiness. The fact that it is not is kind of the point. Conveniently, you have omitted the first part of the quoted sentence: “In a 2013 poll asking Americans to name the most important problems facing the country, only 5 percent cited income equality or concerns about the poor or middle class…”.

It is unsurprising that most people would disapprove of the rich having tons of money when asked about it. But that is not sufficient to show that this is an important issue to most people.

39 carlospln April 13, 2015 at 3:02 am

“Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes!”

40 dan1111 April 13, 2015 at 3:43 am

Don’t confuse people not caring about the issue you care about with complacency regarding the status quo.

41 KPres April 13, 2015 at 9:03 am

Yeah, because the inequality is an abstraction. Most people are satisfied with what they have, but have been led by the intelligentsia to believe EVERYONE ELSE is poor and miserable.

42 Pshrnk April 13, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Yep. I’m poor compared to a Romney, but I cann afford many more calories than I should eat, more clothes than I need to be comfortably protected from the elements, and more books than I can read in the 30 or 40 years I probably have left to live.

43 carlolspln April 13, 2015 at 3:10 am

“Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes!”

44 chuck martel April 13, 2015 at 6:10 am

“For most of human history, inequality of wealth meant inequality of happiness. Status, and its related activities, envy and emulation, drove consumption.”

These two can not only use the interpretation of poll results to measure the happiness of current humans, they can measure the happiness of those in previous generations.

“While the top 1 percent of songs each year account for something like 75 percent of all artist revenues, there are 43 million songs are for sale currently in the iTunes store.”

There’ll also be more songs next year, and since songs aren’t erased from their culture, the number for sale will continue to increase regardless of what “tribe” listens to them.

“The neuroscience of consumerism doesn’t exonerate our political and economic systems for the chasm of inequality that defines contemporary America.”

We’re falling into the “chasm of inequality”.

45 Ted Craig April 13, 2015 at 6:39 am

People are happier today because they have better stuff. A used Kia Optima today is better than a new luxury car from 40 years ago. All the trappings of wealth from that time – a color TV, a stereo, a camera, a car phone – are available in a smartphone. It’s all about the purchasing power, people.

46 She Jean peeing April 13, 2015 at 6:46 am

Why shouldn’t Americans be reasonably content?

47 Urso April 13, 2015 at 9:40 am

And to take that question to the next step, why do Americans spend so much time and effort convincing themselves (and others!) not to be content?

48 Art Deco April 13, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Because they’ve just been sued for divorce a propos of nothing in particular, ejected from their home, cut off from their children, and had their wages garnished?

49 rayward April 13, 2015 at 6:47 am

Status often depends on having the latest smart phone, or on keeping up with friends on the latest social media website, or on familiarity with the latest popular music band, none of which costs much. Indeed, looking at the hottest companies over the past decade or so, those which produce a product or services with little or no cost to the consumer, companies that thrive in the world of bits, stand out the most. I’m not sure which adapted first to the unshared economy, consumer or business. My question is how does this work over the long term, since the hot companies in the world of bits derive most of the their incomes advertising products made in the world of atoms. The tech gurus who create today’s hottest companies are essentially the Mad Men of today.

50 Slocum April 13, 2015 at 7:22 am

“This is puzzling. It does not conform with economic theories that compare happiness to envy…”

Not really. Income inequality has increased, but consumption inequality (in terms of utility) has gone in the other direction. The middle classes have all the appliances and gadgets. They have safe, comfortable, reliable cars. They’ve flown with their families on vacation. They eat out often. What the rich have that they don’t just doesn’t look particularly compelling. Nobody’s going to start a revolution (or even feel particularly put-upon) over having to ‘put up with’ a $60 phone like this rather than a $800 iPhone 6 plus (not when they can get nearly all the utility at a small fraction of the cost). And the middle class folks who really, really want an iPhone 6? They can afford it — it’s not an unobtainable luxury they can only stare at longingly in the Apple store window.

51 Lord Action April 13, 2015 at 11:44 am

+1

Everybody has the same damn phone. It costs so much to develop stuff that it doesn’t make sense to develop two versions, one for the rich and one for the poor. I remember once the wealthy had visibly nicer clothing, which is scarcely the case anymore.

52 Slocum April 13, 2015 at 11:47 am

What the wealthy have now, by and large, are the same quality clothes with visibly nicer logos.

53 Urso April 13, 2015 at 12:27 pm

This weekend I bought a fish from a guy with a mullet, holes in his jeans, and a Marlboro t-shirt (also full of holes). I was not dressed to the nines but I would like to think that my clothes were visibly nicer.

54 Lord Action April 13, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Maybe he was wearing that because he was handling fish? Do you think you could pick him out if you saw him in a bar?

55 Urso April 13, 2015 at 2:07 pm

The fact that you’d ask that question makes me suspect you don’t spend much time in working class bars in the rural south.

56 Lord Action April 13, 2015 at 2:44 pm

You are correct, sir.

Mass, NYC, and California, mostly. I can’t tell if you make $40k or $400k from looking.

57 Lord Action April 13, 2015 at 2:47 pm

I grew up somewhere rural, so maybe what I’m remembering is a rural/urban difference and not something to do with the passage of time.

58 Todd April 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm
59 JWatts April 13, 2015 at 6:05 pm

“This weekend I bought a fish from a guy with a mullet, holes in his jeans, and a Marlboro t-shirt (also full of holes). I was not dressed to the nines but I would like to think that my clothes were visibly nicer.”

That was almost certainly a personal choice in clothing and not caused by significant budgetary constraint. If he smokes cigarettes (probable since he was wearing a Marlboro t-shirt) he probably pays more per year on his smoking habit that you do on clothes.

60 TMC April 13, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Well when reality does not conform to theory, demonize reality.

You theory-deniers out there watch out!

61 carlolspln April 13, 2015 at 7:56 am
62 Diana April 13, 2015 at 8:12 am

LOL. Is that really Commentary or the Onion?

I know a very accomplished young person whose only sister has had several DUIs, lives in her home town, 3 kids out of wedlock, works in a convenience store. (For now. I expect she’ll have another kid w/her new boyfriend and quit the job. The BF himself has two kids who stay with him sometimes.

Who is happy? The one with the 3 kids out of wedlock. They are a happy blended family. For how long? Who knows? They’ll shack up with more people before they are done, but for now, they don’t ask for much.

Maybe family breakdown upsets and concerns US, but the people who are having kids out of wedlock don’t give a damn. They are fine with it.

63 carlolspln April 13, 2015 at 8:50 am

Diana from Little Rock:

Its Commentary.

64 ladderff April 13, 2015 at 9:13 am

Perhaps many generations of transfers of status and wealth from the former to the latter have something to do with this imbalance. Perhaps, too, ignorance/debauchery really is bliss—which does not imply that thinking people must praise it.

65 Diana April 13, 2015 at 8:23 am

You economists are funny. Further to my description above, the working class girl wih the 3 kids doesn’t compare herself with college educated women. If anything she feels sorry for her accomplished sister, who is a childless workaholic.

“Despite soaring inequality, worsened by the Great Recession, and recent grumbling about the 1 percent, Americans remain fairly happy.

Because people aren’t starving and they are not dying of epidemic diseases. They’ve got enough to eat (actually, more than enough, we have an obesity epidemic), homes, water, toilets, cheap clothes, and gadgets. Who cares about the 1%?

“Money may not buy happiness in the long run, but consumer choice has gone a long way in keeping most Americans reasonably content, even if they shouldn’t be.”

Shouldn’t be? Jesus.

66 KPres April 13, 2015 at 8:58 am

Only the intellectual elite could find a way to decry widespread happiness. Not surprising, though, their power and influence is dependent on people being miserable and looking for answers.

67 Hopaulius April 13, 2015 at 10:42 pm

@Diana: This is the finest comment I’ve seen on this blog. Common sense invades the intelligentsia, caught arguing that people shouldn’t be happy.

68 Diana April 13, 2015 at 10:53 pm

“This is the finest comment I’ve seen on this blog.”

Ditto – yours is the finest comment I’ve seen on this blog!

69 Diana April 13, 2015 at 11:20 pm

PS To be clear, I think having 3 kids OOW really sucks. Just saying that the lady herself doesn’t think it’s so bad, and that they (for the moment) fill up her otherwise empty life. While her frantically busy sister “doesn’t have time” for kids. In short, Idiocracy. The idiots are the happy ones. This is something some people have a hard time understanding, which I find hard to understand.

70 josh April 13, 2015 at 8:43 am

There seems to be a widespread misconception that giving people more of whatever they want will make them happier regardless of what it is that they want.

71 mobile April 13, 2015 at 9:48 am

Lost me at the second sentence of the excerpt. Income inequality improved during the Great Recession.

72 Erik April 13, 2015 at 10:16 am

In terms of measuring happiness, we seem to have a timing problem. The real question is how many people are or WILL BE unhappy due to economic inequality.

It’s true that material differences have diminished significantly. the majority of those in the bottom 80% of income distribution may indeed be materially happy based on the consumption choices available to them. However the thing about inequality is that it is no longer about consumption choices but security. The unhappy ones are bankrupt due to an unexpected health issue or unable to ever retire due to the failure of the 401(k) experiment. Their children may be worse off than them due to crushing student loan debt or foregoing college. When you line up all these issues of security, almost the entire population of that lower 80% will some day be extremely unhappy from one or more of them, even though a snapshot in time shows people being materially content. The thing about this type of unhappiness due to income inequality is that it will only get worse. The population is getting older and sicker, on average. Once you lose your health and/or financial security, it’s nearly impossible to bounce back, and an iphone is a poor replacement for either.

73 dan1111 April 13, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Those would all be symptoms of absolute need, not inequality. But income in absolute terms hasn’t gone down over the period in question.

74 JWatts April 13, 2015 at 6:15 pm

“The unhappy ones are bankrupt due to an unexpected health issue…”

Plenty of people declare bankruptcy. It keeps you from getting additional credit for about a decade. So they have to pay for everything out of current earnings. It’s hardly a life ending experience.

“or unable to ever retire due to the failure of the 401(k) experiment.”

Everybody still qualifies for Social Security and many middle to lower class people do just fine living off of Social Security.

75 wiki April 13, 2015 at 10:31 am

Inequality is felt most keenly by those who want more positional goods and can’t have them. Inequality is least troublesome to those who simply want a nice, middle class life and don’t mind being uncool, unfashionable, or far away from the coasts. Inequality stings worst for someone who lives in a cramped flat in a city like New York of San Francisco, works with people in heavily winner take all industries (like law, journalism, academia, internet start-ups, Hollywood, and fashion), has a taste for expensive culture, private schools, and fine restaurants, and is especially prone to envy and comparison with peers. It also matches the geographic patterns of which areas most heavily consumed the work of Piketty and others like him.

76 Hadur April 13, 2015 at 10:50 am

I don’t think this is wrong, but one caveat: a lot of people who live uncomfortably in wealthy areas get over this by adopting a sense of superiority over their wealthier neighbors. How many “artists” living in New York City feel smugly superior to bankers and corporate lawyers, for example?

77 Brian Donohue April 13, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Yes, but it still grates.

78 Anonymous April 13, 2015 at 10:36 am

“…A new generation of ethnographers has discovered an explosion of consumer lifestyles and product diversification in recent decades. From evangelical Christian Harley-Davidson owners, who huddle together around a motorcycle’s radio listening to a service on Sunday mornings, to lifestyles organized around musical tastes, from the solidarity of punk rockers to yoga gatherings, from meditation retreats to book clubs, we use products to create and experience community. These communities often represent a consumer micro-culture, a ‘brand community,’ or tribe, with its own values and norms about status.”

So, our culture is fragmenting? I think this is an apt description of what leftists complained consumerism might turn into.

79 msgkings April 13, 2015 at 2:25 pm

The culture is fragmenting but it might also be delivering more happiness to more people because of it…

80 Floccina April 13, 2015 at 11:14 am

Music and sports are very important to people in the USA and youtube, Pandora and ESPN make them much more available. For years some have wondered at the desire for entertainment telling stories about shacks with cable TV. Now entertainment is cheaper and more available and better.

81 TMC April 13, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Quite right. I have several rental properties. In the single family homes, every single renter has a nices TV than I do. Often their second best is better than my first. (Same goes for cars.)

82 todd April 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm

So, that’s like what, $100 difference? Or, they bought one a year after you did?

83 TMC April 13, 2015 at 2:19 pm

That reference may be dated, I guess. It was when they were >$1000 starting cost.

Cars still cost a buck or two though.

84 Floccina April 13, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Cars still cost a buck or two though.

Yes but they last 20 years and go 250,000 miles without too much trouble now so you can get a good 10 year old car now and drive it 10 years.

85 TMC April 13, 2015 at 8:59 pm

True. My last truck had 285k miles on it.
My tenant’s lexus was exchanged for a (low tier) mercedes after two years.

86 Brian Donohue April 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm

So… No revolution then? That’s what I thought.

87 Liberty April 13, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Only the NYT could show capitalism making people happy as a negative.

Last line “shouldn’t be” pure editorial agitprop crap. This socialist NYT thug knows what “should be.”

Typical.

88 Theist Reactionary April 13, 2015 at 4:29 pm

we use products to create and experience community

Speak for yourself, pagan.

89 bobE April 13, 2015 at 8:55 pm

inequality doesn’t bother me except for the degree that it leads to malinvestment and other misallocations. If money is supposed to be going to the most productive things I think inequality accompanied by low growth can be a signal it isn’t.

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