Who wants to be a billionaire? Most don’t – which is good news for the planet Psychology and Psychiatry News

According to the authors of a new study, a founding economic principle that everyone is driven by “unlimited desires,” stuck on a consumerist treadmill and striving to accumulate as much wealth as possible, is wrong.

The long-held economic belief that people have unlimited desires has permeated economic thought and government policy and shaped much of modern society, including advertising and consumerism.

But the belief in this principle has also had disastrous consequences for the health of the planet. Striving to continually increase individual wealth and pursue endless economic growth has been very costly. As wealth has increased, resource use and pollution have also increased.

So far, researchers have struggled to find appropriate ways to decouple economic growth from harmful economic principles. However, a new study by psychologists from the Universities of Bath, Bath Spa and Exeter challenges the idea that unlimited desires are human nature, which could have significant implications for the planet.

Nearly 8000 people from 33 countries spread over six continents, they questioned how much money people wanted to achieve their “absolutely ideal life”. In 86% of countries, most people thought they could do it with US$10 million or less, and in some countries as little as US$1 million.

While these numbers may seem like a lot, when you consider that they represent a person’s ideal wealth through their together life they are relatively moderate. Expressed differently, the wealth of the richest person in the world, at more than $200 billion, is enough for more than two hundred thousand people to achieve their “absolutely ideal life.”

Researchers gathered answers about ideal wealth from individuals in countries on every inhabited continent, including countries rarely used in cross-cultural psychology such as Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Tunisia, Nicaragua, and Vietnam. . People with unlimited desires have been identified in all countries, but they have always been in the minority.

They found that those with unlimited desires tended to be younger and urban, who valued success, power and independence more. Unlimited desires were also more common in countries that were more accepting of inequality and in countries that were more collectivist: more focused on group responsibilities and outcomes than on individuals.

For example, Indonesia, which is seen as more collectivist and accepting of inequality, had the most people with unlimited needs, while the UK, which is more individualistic and equality-minded, had fewer. However, there were anomalies like China, where few people had unlimited desires despite high cultural collectivism and acceptance of inequality.

Lead researcher Dr Paul Bain from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath (UK) explained: “The ideology of unlimited desires, when portrayed as human nature, can create social pressure to make people buy more than they actually want.

“Finding that most people’s ideal life is actually quite moderate could help people socially behave in ways that are more aligned with what makes them truly happy and support stronger policies to help protect the planet.” »

Co-author Dr Renata Bongiorno from the University of Exeter and also from the University of Bath Spa (UK), added: “The results are a stark reminder that majority opinion is not reflected necessarily in policies that allow the accumulation of excessive amounts of wealth by a small number of individuals.

“While most people aspire to limited wealth, policies that support people’s more limited desires, such as a wealth tax to fund sustainability initiatives, may be more popular than often depicted. »

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Who wants to be a billionaire? Most don’t – which is good news for the planet Psychology and Psychiatry News

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