The New York Times

Why Prosperity Has Increased but Happiness Has Not

OUR WELL-BEING IS LOCAL AND RELATIVE — IF YOU LIVE IN A STRUGGLING AREA AND YOUR STATUS IS SLIPPING, EVEN IF YOU ARE RELATIVELY COMFORTABLE, YOU ARE PROBABLY AT LEAST A BIT MISERABLE.

In 1990, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain was challenged in Parliament by a Labour member of Parliament on the subject of growing inequality. “All levels of income are better off than they were in 1979,” she retorted. “The honorable member is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided the rich were less rich. ... What a policy!”

That slap-down was an iconic formulation of a premise of the Thatcher-Reagan conservative revolution: Poverty is a social problem, but inequality, as such, is

This article originally appeared in .

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