Thursday, November 2, 2006

Do you have Affluenza?

I've just finished reading an interesting book: "Affluenza: When Too Much
is Never Enough" by a couple of Australians, Clive Hamilton and Richard

Warning: If you like spending money, you may find the concepts in this
book offensive :)

Affluenza can be defined as:
1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from
   efforts to keep up with the Joneses.
2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by
   dogged pursuit of the American Dream.
3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. (PBS)

A brief summary of the Australian book, from Wikipedia:
Hamilton and Denniss's book poses the question: "if the economy has been
doing so well, why are we not becoming happier?" (pvii). The authors note
that Australia's GDP doubled between 1980 and 2005 (p3), but that "it is
now well established that once income levels reach a particular threshold
further increases do not increase national happiness" (p63).
Their conclusion is as follows: "Since the early 1990s, Australia has
been infected by affluenza, a growing and unhealthy preoccupation with
money and material things. This illness is constantly reinforcing itself
at both the individual and the social levels, constraining us to derive
our identities and sense of place in the world through our consumption
activity." (p178) They argue that affluenza causes over-consumption,
"luxury fever", consumer debt, overwork, waste, and harm to the
environment. These pressures lead to "psychological disorders, alienation
and distress" (p179), causing people to "self-medicate with mood-altering
drugs and excessive alcohol consumption" (p180).

The book includes an amusing quote:
"In rich countries today, consumption consists of people spending money
 they don't have to buy goods they don't need to impress people they don't
 like." (anonymous)
I guess you could add they work long hours for this privilege.

I must admit the book made a lot of sense.  Does that make me a communist?
Or maybe I'm un-Australian.  Feel free to dob me in to John Howard or Peter
Costello :)