A deficit of the soul or why being rich won’t make Australia happier

Decent people take comfort in the idea that money is not profoundly connected with happiness.

There are statistics that suggest that as income increases happiness does not rise to an equal degree; and that beyond a modest threshold, money does not make a big difference to one’s happiness.

It’s a likeable thesis: it cheers for the underdog. It spits in the eye of money – and most people have been humiliated or disappointed by money at some time or other; there is a pleasure of revenge.

Deep down we know that it would be too terrible if money could – by itself – cause happiness, with the clean causal power by which, for instance, alcohol makes us drunk.

If money were a sufficient cause of happiness, the world would be truly hellish. If money, gained in whatever way (by undetected fraud, by sheer luck, by being above the law) and spent in whatever way (on tinsel, on securing flattery, on satisfying one’s most irresponsible and transient wishes) reliably produced happiness (the most desirable of all human conditions, the proper objective of our striving), how could one explain such an arrangement? Only a malevolent designer could create such a hideous order of things.

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