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July 11, 2005

Affluenza

The Australian writer Clive Hamilton is a terrific critic of consumerism. His books Growth Fetish and a new one called Affluenza describe a Western world "in the grip of a consumption binge that is unique in human history. We aspire to the lifestyles of the rich and famous at the cost of family, friends and personal fulfilment. Rates of stress, depression and obesity are up as we wrestle with the emptiness and endless disappointments of the consumer life". Australians, for example, are three times richer than their parents and grandparents were in the 1950s - but they are no happier. When asked whether they can afford to buy everything they really need, nearly two-thirds of Australians say ‘no’. Hamilton, arguing that "happiness comes from being content with what we have" suggests that governments should start to measure more of what really matters. In a Wellbeing Manifesto published out of the Australia Institute, which he runs, Hamilton argues that "we need a set of national wellbeing accounts that report on the quality of work, the state of our communities, crime rates, our health, the strength of our relationships, and the state of the environment. Governments should be judged by how much our wellbeing improves, not by how much the economy expands".

Posted by John Thackara at July 11, 2005 06:27 PM

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