Sunday, August 05, 2007

Rat Race on Steroids

This article is blowing up on the NY Times right now. It's about how people with up to $10 million Silicon Valley still don't feel rich and aren't satisfied.

“Everyone around here looks at the people above them,” said Gary Kremen, the 43-year-old founder of, a popular online dating service. “It’s just like Wall Street, where there are all these financial guys worth $7 million wondering what’s so special about them when there are all these guys worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Mr. Kremen estimated his net worth at $10 million. That puts him firmly in the top half of 1 percent among Americans, according to wealth data from the Federal Reserve, but barely in the top echelons in affluent towns like Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton. So he logs 60- to 80-hour workweeks because, he said, he does not think he has nearly enough money to ease up.

“You’re nobody here at $10 million,” Mr. Kremen said earnestly over a glass of pinot noir at an upscale wine bar here.

This shouldn't be surprising at all. This is the outcome of the sad reality that one of the main reasons people want a lot of money is to distinguish themselves from others. In other words, it's not that they want to live a good life, it's that they want to live a better life than everyone else.

In that sense this article is just an extension of previous happiness research. The economist Robert Frank stated it simply.
To the extent money influences measured happiness levels, then, it is relative, not absolute, income that seems to matter.
These people will money in Silicon Valley it seems to me have a couple good options. They can move to a cheaper part of the country and live like a king, or they can stop trying to be better than everyone else. Alas, I'm willing to be there's something hard-wired into human brains to make this unlikely on a large scale.


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