When we graph happiness as a function of economic output, we notice a positive but weakening relationship (imagine a line of best fit going through the points below):
Looking at this, we might very crudely conclude that as output per person increases from 0 to 5000, happiness increases tremendously. I’m sure there have been books written about this first part of the curve, so the most I’ll try to say is this. Economic expansion/develpment is tremendously valuable to low-output economies as it represents, for a majority of these economies’ participants, the difference between life and starvation, health and sickness, no education and some education, instability and peace, and lifelong shame and pride.
But of course every macroeconomist and cosmopolitan utilitarian is aware of this. Both groups have expressed tremendous support for efforts aimed at raising that first part of the curve. For people interested in maximizing the amount of good they ‘do’ during their lifetimes, this seems to be very promising territory.
What’s a little bit ironic, then, at least in my mind, is that an overwhelming number of very intelligent and creative people are focusing their lives on that other part of the graph - the approaching-horizontal flat bit - despite the fact that every problem inherent to raising the first bit will require an intelligent and creative solution (regardless of what you think the problem(s) is/are.) The only excuse provided by this group (namely, authors and philosophers) that I find mildly convincing is that the upper half, though more conducive to natural health and well-being, is no more healthy, mentally speaking, than the bottom half. The people that are saying this are obviously magnitudes more insighful than I am, so the most I can respond with might be: let the first part of the curve - who, by the way, thanks the current members of the 5000+ club for the social, political, philosophical, economic, entrepreneurial and financial lessons they’ve provided - figure that out on its own.