The answers so far have always referred to the individual’s question “How much is enough?” to the individual: How much money, choice and material goods do we need to be happy?
When I read the question, I thought about our society instead and wondered: How much progress and growth do we need overall?
In my opinion, it is never “enough”.We want more and more knowledge, more or more better technologies, more health and more (sustainable) growth. This total social output is the sum of our individual contributions, and our economic system works so well because it reconciles social benefits with personal benefits.
When someone successfully offers a new product, service or even his own work performance on the market, he creates a benefit for his customers or his employer.A good pizza baker provides culinary highlights that his customers enjoy, a gifted heart surgeon saves the lives of his patients and ingenious entrepreneurs design new products (e.g. market launch of the smartphone) or make old ones more efficient (e.g. SpaceX: recyclable rockets). All these services generate a benefit (Y).
The pizza baker, doctor or entrepreneur does not have to be an altruist in our economic system in order to provide these services.From this benefit Y he can secure a part (X=a/100*Y with 0<a<100) because he is paid for his work or sets a price for its product.
Unfortunately, our whole economy does not work in this way.
Instead, some of the world’s economic output is based on a form of “rent-seeking.” Rent-seeking means generating an income (X) without creating a benefit that would justify that income (X>Y; Y is often (unlike in the graph) negative).
Examples include illegal activities such as fraud or corruption, but also lobbying and subsidies for non-profit companies or sectors.Entrepreneurs with clever marketing and disappointing products, who have to move from industry to industry and from place to place due to the loss of reputation, are also part of this.
No one knows what proportion of our economic output generates “real” value and how much is due to unfair and harmful rent-seeking.Is it 1%, 5% or 20%?
Such behaviour creates resentment, resentment and envy in our society and could lead to a erode in the medium to long term of trust in equal opportunities and our economic system as a whole.
More growth and production is then (partly rightly) not associated with progress, new technologies, better health and a higher standard of living, but with greed, excess, boasting, and excessiveness.