262. "Voluntary Simplicity: Characterization, Select Psychological Implications, and Societal Consequences," Journal of Economic Psychology, No. 19, (1998), pp. 619-643.


I. Voluntary Simplicity Characterization

A. Introduction

The idea that the over-arching goal of capitalist economies needs to be changed and that achieving ever-higher levels of consumption of products and services is a vacuous goal, has been with us from the onset of industrialization. It often has taken the form of comparing the attractive life of the much poorer, pre-industrial artisan to that of the drudgeries of the more endowed industrial assembly-line worker.

In more recent times, criticism of consumerism was common among the followers of the counterculture. They sought a lifestyle that consumed and produced little, at least in terms of marketable objects, and sought to derive satisfaction, meaning, and a sense of purpose from contemplation, communion with nature, bonding, mood-altering substances, sex, and inexpensive products.(2) Over the years that followed, a significant number of members of Western societies embraced an attenuated version of the values and mores of the counterculture. For example, studies by Ronald Inglehart beginning in the early 1970s found that "The values of Western publics have been shifting from an overwhelming emphasis on material well-being and physical security toward greater emphasis on the quality of life."(3) These "quality of life" factors form what Inglehart calls "postmaterialist values", and include the desire for more freedom, a stronger sense of community, more say in government, and so on. The percentage of survey respondents with clear postmaterialist values doubled from 9 percent in 1972 to 18 percent in 1991, while those with clear materialist values fell more than half from 35 percent to 16 percent (those with mixed commitments moved more slowly, from 55 percent to 65 percent).(4) These trends were reported for most West European countries.(5)

Personal consumption, however, continued to grow. For example, in the USA, between 1980 and 1990, per capita consumer spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) rose by 21.4 percent. The portion of consumer spending devoted to dispensable ("luxury") items, such as jewelry, toys, video and audio equipment, rose in the same period from 6.78 percent to 8.63 percent.(6) Meanwhile, the personal savings rate of Americans fell from 7.9 percent in 1980 to 4.2 percent in 1990 and has remain near this level ever since.(7)

Still, the search for alternatives to consumerism as the goal of the capitalism continues to attract people. I focus here on one such alternative, referred to as "voluntary simplicity." Among those who have employed this term, or have done relevant studies are Robert Paehlke, a professor of environmental and resource studies at Trent University in Ontario, Canada; Juliet Schor, a professor of economics at Harvard University;(8) and Dorothy Leonard-Barton, of the Harvard University Business School.(9) Voluntary simplicity refers to the choice out of free will rather than by being coerced by poverty, government austerity programs, or being imprisoned, to limit expenditures on consumer goods and services, and to cultivate non-materialistic sources of satisfaction and meaning.

As I already have suggested, the criticism of consumerism and the quest for alternatives are as old as capitalism itself. However, the issue needs revisiting for several reasons. The collapse of non-capitalist economic systems has led many to assume that capitalism is the superior system and therefore to refrain from critically examining its goals, but capitalism does have defects of its own. Recent developments in former communist countries raise numerous concerns. Many in the East and West find that capitalism does not address spiritual concerns - the quest for transcendental connections and meanings - they believe all people have.(10) Furthermore, as so many societies with rapidly rising populations now seek affluence as their primary domestic goal, the environmental, psychological and other issues raised by consumerism are being faced on a scale not previously considered. For instance, the undesirable side effects of intensive consumerism that used to concern chiefly highly industrialized societies, are now faced by hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians, and Koreans, among others. Finally, the transition from consumption tied to satisfaction of what are perceived as basic needs (secure shelter, food, clothing and so on) to consumerism (the preoccupation with gaining ever higher level of consumption, including a considerable measure of conspicuous consumption of status-goods), seems to be more pronounced as societies become wealthier. Hence, a re-examination of this aspect of mature capitalism is particularly timely and needed. Indeed, the current environment of rising and spreading wealth might be particularly hospitable to moderate forms of voluntary simplicity.

This examination proceeds first by providing a description of voluntary simplicity, exploring its different manifestations and its relationship to competitiveness as the need and urge to gain higher levels of income is curbed (part I). It then considers whether higher income and the greater consumption it enables produces higher contentment. This is a crucial issue because it makes a world of difference to the sustainability of voluntary simplicity if it is deprivational and hence requires strong motivational forces if it is to spread and persevere, or if consumerism is found to be obsessive and maybe even addictive, in which case voluntary simplicity would be liberating and much more self-propelling and sustaining. The answer to the preceding question, and hence to the future of voluntary simplicity as a major cultural factor, is found in an application of Abraham Maslow's theory of human needs. It finds further reinforcement by examining the "consumption" of a sub-category of goods whose supply and demand is not governed by the condition of scarcity in the post-modern era (part II). The essay closes with a discussion of the societal consequences of voluntary simplicity.

B. Voluntary Simplicity: Three Variations

Voluntary simplicity is observable in different levels of intensity. It ranges from moderate levels (in which people downshift their consumptive rich lifestyle, but not necessarily into a low gear), to strong simplification (in which they significantly restructure their lives), to holistic simplification.

Downshifters. One, rather moderate, form of voluntary simplicity is practiced by economically well off and secure people who voluntarily give up some consumer goods (often considered luxuries) they could readily afford, but basically maintain their rather rich and consumption-oriented lifestyle. For example, they "dress down" in one way or another: wearing jeans and inexpensive loafers, t-shirts, and driving beat-up cars. (Asked "days per week I can dress casually at my job", 52% of Americans in 1997 answered "any day"; 18% at least one day a week and only 27% agreed with the statement "can't dress casually at work."(11) The difference should be noted between people who voluntarily tone down their consumption, as measured by the amounts they spend on current consumption or save for future consumption, and those who exchange one set of goods for another whose style is "simple" but is actually just as (or even more) costly.

Bruce Springsteen, for example, dresses in worn boots, faded jeans, and a battered leather jacket, and is said to drive a Ford.(12) Henry Urbach reports that,

...there has been a turn away from...the "overdesign" of the 1980s toward a world of "simple" things. Instead of snazzy plates designed by architects, we have white dinnerware from Pottery Barn. In place of Christian Lacroix poufs and Manolo Blahnik pumps, we want Gap t-shirts, and Prada penny loafers. We like sport-utility vehicles, stainless-steel Sub-Zero refrigerators, Venetian blinds, retro electric fans, sturdy wooden tables--anything plain. Extravagance has surrendered to a look that is straightforward, blunt, unadorned.(13)

And Pilar Viladas writes,

In architecture and design today, less is more again. Houses, rooms and furnishings are less ornate, less complicated and less ostentatious than they were 10 years ago. Rather than putting their money on display, people seem to be investing in a quieter brand of luxury, based on comfort and quality.(14)

Often this pattern is inconsistent and limited in scope, in that a person adhering to the norms of voluntary simplicity in some areas does not do so in many others. This moderate form of voluntary simplicity is symbolized by those who wear an expensive blazer with a pair of jeans, or drive a jalopy to their 50 foot yacht.

David Brooks notes that, to those who are wealthy, rejecting the symbols of success is acceptable only "so long as you can display the objects of poverty in a way that makes it clear you are just rolling in dough."(15) This should not be surprising, for there are no widely recognized symbols of voluntary simplicity, and most people still desire to be recognized as successful by their community.

While downshifting is moderate in scope, and perhaps because it is moderate, it is not limited to the very wealthy. Some professionals and other members of the middle class are replacing elaborate dinner parties with simple meals, pot-luck dinners, take-out food, or social events built around deserts only. Some lawyers are reported to have cut back on the billing hours race that drives many of their colleagues to work late hours and on weekends, to gain more income and a higher year-end bonus, and to incur the favor of the firms for which they work.(16) Some businesses have encouraged limited degrees of voluntary simplicity. For instance, in several work places there is one day (often Friday) in which employees are expected to "dress down." In some work places, especially on the West coast, employees may dress down any workday of the week.

There seems to be no evidence that social scientists would find satisfactory to show that downshifting is widely practiced in some affluent societies or that it has risen. There are some scraps of data that can be said at best to point in these directions.

A study by the Merck Family Fund in 1995 found that 28 percent of a national sample of Americans (and 10 percent of the executives and professionals sampled)(17) reported having "downshifted," or voluntarily made life changes resulting in a lower income to reflect a change in their priorities, in the preceding five years. The most common changes were reducing work hours, switching to lower-paying jobs, and quitting work to stay at home,(18) which may but do not necessarily correlate with downshifting. The same survey also found that 82 percent of Americans felt that people buy and consume more than they need, suggesting that voluntary simplicity is viewed as commendable but not widely followed. Another survey, conducted in 1989, which also focused on sentiments rather than on changes in behavior, found that three out of four working Americans would like "to see our country to return to a simpler lifestyle, with less emphasis on material success."(19)

Strong simplifiers. This group includes people who have given up high-paying, high-stress jobs as lawyers, business people, investment bankers, and so on, to live on less, often much less income. These people give up high levels of income and socio-economic status - one former Wall Street analyst restricts his spending to $6,000 a year. In another case, both members of a couple quit their jobs as high-paid executives in the telecommunications industry, and now live only on their savings -about $25,000 per year, and spend their time writing and doing volunteer work.(20) The New York Times reports,

Choosing to buy and earn less--to give up income and fast-track success for more free time and a lower-stress life--involves a quiet revolt against the dominant culture of getting and spending. Enough small revolts are now taking place, researchers say, to make [the] phenomenon...a major and growing trend of the 90's.(21)

Strong simplifiers also include a large number of employees who voluntarily choose to retire before they are required to do so, and accepting less income and lower pension payouts in order to have more leisure. While it is clear that the aggregate number of people who retire early is increasing - some of this increase may well be involuntary as a result of forced retirement and downsizing - it is not known what the proportion of voluntary vs. involuntary retirement is.(22) Informal interviewing, including among the author's colleagues, suggests that a significant proportion of this increase is voluntary.

Ideas associated with voluntary simplicity are ideologically compelling, if not necessarily reflected in actual behavior. In 1989, a majority of working Americans rated "a happy family life" as a much more important indicator of success than "earning a lot of money" - by an unusually wide margin of 62 percent to 10 percent.(23) Also, numerous women and some men prefer part-time jobs or jobs that allow them to work at home, even if better paying full-time jobs are open to them, because they are willing to reconcile themselves with earning a lower income to be able to dedicate more time to their children and be at home when their children are there.(24) People who switch to new careers that are more personally meaningful but less lucrative also fall into this category. For instance, a 1997 source reports that "a growing wave of engineers, military officers, lawyers, and business people...are switching careers and becoming teachers."(25)

People who voluntarily and significantly curtail their income tend to be stronger simplifiers than those who only moderate their lifestyle, because a significant reduction of income often leads to a much more encompassing "simplification" of lifestyle than selective downshifting of select items of consumption. While it is possible for both an affluent person to cease working altogether and still lead an affluent lifestyle, and for someone who does not reduce his or her income to cut spending drastically, one must expect that those who significantly curtail their income will simplify more than those who only moderate their consumption. Once people reduce their income, unless they have large savings, a new inheritance or some other such non-work related income, they must adjust their consumption once they choose to cut their income-producing labor.

People who adjust their lifestyle only or mainly because of economic pressures (having lost their main or second job, or for any other reason) do not qualify as voluntary simplifiers on the simple ground that their shift is not voluntary. One can argue that some poor people freely choose not to earn more and keep their consumption level meager. To what extent such a choice is truly voluntary and how widespread this phenomena is are questions not addressed in this paper. The discussion here focuses on people who had an affluent life style and chose to give it up, for reasons that will become evident toward the end of the discussion.

In contrast, people who could earn more but are motivated by pressures such as time squeeze to reduce their income and consumption do qualify, because they could have responded to the said pressure in means other than simplifying (for instance, hiring more help).(26) Moreover, there seems to be some pent-up demand for voluntary simplicity among people who report they would prefer to embrace such a life style but feel that they cannot do so. Gallup Poll Monthly reports that 45 percent of Americans feel they have too little time for friends and other personal relationships, and 54 percent feel they have too little time to spend with their children.(27) Twenty-six percent of Americans polled said they would take a 20 percent pay cut if it meant they could work fewer hours.(28) Presumably, these people face, or least feel they face, only two choices: keep their current jobs or possibly face prolonged unemployment.

The Simple Living Movement. The most dedicated, holistic simplifiers adjust their whole life patterns according to the ethos of voluntary simplicity. They often move from affluent suburbs or gentrified parts of major cities to smaller towns, the countryside, farms and less affluent or urbanized parts of the country -- the Pacific North West is especially popular -- with the explicit goal of leading a "simpler" life. A small, loosely connected social movement, sometimes called the "simple living" movement, has developed -- complete with its own how-to books, nine-step programs, and newsletters, though reports suggest that "many persons experimenting with simpler ways of living said they did not view themselves as part of a conscious social movement."(29)

This group differs from the downshifters and even strong simplifiers not only in the scope of change in their conduct but also in that it is motivated by a coherently articulated philosophy. One source of inspiration is Voluntary Simplicity, written in 1981 by Duane Elgin, which draws on the traditions of the Quakers, the Puritans, transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau, and various world religions to provide philosophical underpinnings to living a simple life.(30) This philosophy is often explicitly anti-consumerist. Elgin, for example, calls for "dramatic changes in the overall levels and patterns of consumption in developed nations," adding that "this will require dramatic changes in the consumerist messages we give ourselves through the mass media."(31) In 1997, Public Broadcasting Corporation run a special in called "Affuenza." It was said to provide a treatment for an "epidemic" whose symptoms are "shopping fever, a rash of personal debt, chronic stress, overwork and exhaustion of natural resources." It promised a follow-up on "better living for less". The Center for a New American Dream publishes a quarterly report on the same issues called simply "Enough!".

While one can readily profile the various kinds of simplifiers, there are no reliable measurements that enable one to establish the number of simplifiers of the three kinds or to determine whether their ranks are growing. One recent publication, though, estimates that nearly one out of four adult Americans, 44 millions, are "Cultural Creatives," who rank voluntary simplicity high among their values.(32)

C. A Comparative Note

Voluntary simplicity is not a phenomena limited to the contemporary American society. Indeed, while there seem to be no relevant comparative quantitative data, voluntary simplicity is somewhat more widespread in Western Europe, especially on the continent, than in the United States. (Britain in this sense is somewhere between Western Europe and the United States.) Many Europeans seem to be more inclined than Americans to sacrifice some income for more leisure time, longer vacations, visits to spas, coffee shops, and pubs. This is reflected in these countries' labor laws (which in turn reflect not merely power politics but are also an expression of widely held values), which provide for extensive paid vacation times, early closing hours for shops, closing of shops on Sundays and parts of Saturdays, subsidies allowing thousands to hang on to student life for many years, as well as extensive support for cultural activities.(33) The collective result is that Western European societies produce less and consume less per capita than the American society in terms of typical consumer goods and services, but have more time for leisure and educational and cultural activities that are more compatible with voluntary simplicity than American society.

By contrast, consumerism seems to be powerful and gaining in many developing countries and former communist societies where consumerism is a much more recent phenomenon. In these societies the pursuit of washing machines, sexy lingerie, and other luxury goods seem to be all the rage. From China, we hear that "Westernization and consumerism are rushing in so rapidly that even the Chinese...are amazed.... American democracy is nowhere present, but American consumerism is everywhere."(34) In Russia, it is reported that "a new wave of commercialism [is] sweeping the Russian capital;" one popular store in Moscow has brisk sales of $1,290 gold and silver seraphim, $529 music boxes, and $1,590 plastic yule trees during the Christmas shopping season.(35) "Consumerism Is Thriving in Vietnam," where Honda motorbikes, mobile phones, fax machines, and TVS are now popular in the cities.(36) "You can buy and rent laser discs..., young people drive sports cars, jewelry shops are bustling," these days in the once backward country of Burma.(37) And "Despite their obvious affinity for Americana...Israelis increasingly are questioning whether the dizzying construction of U.S.-style shopping malls and American franchise shops is right for Israel,"(38) though they have long lost most of their pioneering spirit and have picked consumerism with vengeance. In short, there seems to be very strong differences in the extent to which voluntary simplicity is embraced in various societies, affected by myriad of economic, cultural and social factors not explored here.

II. Psychological Implications:

Whatever the cultural differences, the ultimate question of whether or not voluntary simplicity can be sustained, and, moreover, greatly expand its reach among the citizens of various societies depends to a significant extent on the question of whether voluntary simplicity constitutes a sacrifice that people must be constantly motivated to make, or is in itself a major source of satisfaction, and hence is self-motivating. To examine this issue the discussion next examines to what extent the opposite of voluntary simplicity -- higher income and consumption -- is a source of contentment. It then expands the answer by drawing on Maslow's observations about the hierarchy of needs.

A. Income and Contentment

Consumerism is justified largely in terms of the notion that the more goods and services a person uses, the more satisfied a person will be. Early economists thought that people had a fixed set of needs, and they worried what would motivate people to work and save once their income allowed them to satisfy their needs. Subsequently, however, it was widely agreed that people's needs can be artificially enhanced through advertising and social pressures, and hence they are said to have, if not unlimited, at least very expandable consumeristic needs.

In contrast, critics have argued that the cult of consumer goods -- of objects -- has become a fetish that stands between people and contentment, one that prevents people from experiencing authentic expressions of affection and appreciation by others. Western popular culture is replete with narratives about fathers (in early ages), and recently of mothers as well, who slaved to bring home consumer goods -- but far from being appreciated by their children and spouses found, often only late in their life, that their families would have preferred if the "bread" winners would have spend more time with them and granted them affection and appreciation (or expressed their affection and appreciation directly, through attention and attendance, hugs and pats on the back, rather mediate that expression by working hard and long to buy things). Arthur Miller's The Death of a Salesman is a telling example of this genre. In 1997, Neil Simon was still belaboring this story in his play Proposals.

Social science findings, which do not all run in the same direction and have other well-known limitations, in toto seem to support the notion that income does not significantly affect people's contentment, with the important exception of the poor. For instance, Frank M. Andrews and Stephen B. Withey found that the level of one's socio-economic status had meager effects on one's "sense of well-being" and no significant effect on "satisfaction with life-as-a-whole."(39) And Jonathan Freedman discovered that levels of reported happiness did not vary greatly among the members of different economic classes, with the exception of the very poor who tended to be less happy than others.(40) Figures 1 and 2 show the results of a longitudinal study of the correlation between income and happiness.(41) Figure 1 represents the results of interviews conducted 1971-1975, figure 2 interviews of the same individuals conducted 1981-1984. These figures demonstrate two things: First, that at low incomes the amount of income does correlate strongly with happiness, but this correlation levels off soon after a comfortable level of income is attained. Second, that during the decade that passed between the interviews, the individual's income rose dramatically (note the change in the x-axis categories) but the levels of happiness did not (the y-axis categories are nearly the same). These figures are included to emphasize the point that voluntary simplicity is an issue for those whose basic needs are met, and not for the poor or near poor.

Studies of the collective well-being of a country show that economic growth does not significantly affect happiness (though at any given time the people of poor countries are generally less happy than those of wealthy ones). David G. Myers reports that in spite of the persistent belief among many Americans that more income will make them happier, this does not appear to be the case: while per capita disposable (after-tax) income in inflation-adjusted dollars almost exactly doubled between 1960 and 1990, 32 percent of Americans reported that they were "very happy" in 1993, almost the same proportion as did in 1957 (35 percent). Although economic growth slowed since the mid-1970s, Americans' reported happiness was remarkably stable (nearly always between 30 and 35 percent) across both high-growth and low- growth periods. Moreover, in the same period rates of depression, violent crime, divorce, and teen suicide have all risen dramatically.(42)

Recent psychological studies have made even stronger claims: that the more concerned people are with their financial well being, the less likely they are to be happy. One group of researchers found that "Highly central financial success aspirations...were associated with less self-actualization, less vitality, more depression, and more anxiety."(43)

Robert Lane summarizes the results of several studies as follows:

...[M]ost studies agree that a satisfying family life is the most important contributor to well-being.... [T]he joys of friendship often rank second. Indeed, according to one study, an individual's number of friends is a better predictor of his well-being than is the size of his income. Satisfying work and leisure often rank third or fourth but, strangely, neither is closely related to actual income.(44)

Lane reports that increases in individual income briefly boost happiness, but the additional happiness is not sustainable because higher income level becomes the standard against which people measure their future achievements.(45)

These and other such findings raise the following question: If higher levels of income do not buy happiness, why do people work hard to gain higher income? The answer is complex. In part high income in capitalistic consumeristic societies "buys" prestige; others find purpose and meaning and contentment in the income-producing work per se. There is, however, also good reason to suggest that the combination of artificial fanning of needs and cultural pressures maintain people in consumeristic roles when these are not truly or deeply satisfying.

Voluntary simplicity works precisely because consuming less, once one's basic creature-comfort needs are taken care of, is not a source of deprivation, so long as one is freed from the culture of consumerism. Voluntary simplicity represents a new culture, one that respects work (even if it generates only low or moderate income) and appreciates modest rather than conspicuous or lavish consumption, but does not advocate a life of sacrifice or service (and in this sense is rather different from ascetic religious orders or some socialist expressions as in Kibbutzim). Voluntary simplicity suggests that there is a declining marginal satisfaction in the pursuit of ever higher levels of consumption. And it points to sources of satisfaction in deliberately and voluntarily avoiding the quest for ever higher levels of affluence and consumption and making one's personal and social project the pursuit of other purposes. These purposes are not specifically defined other than that they are not materialistic. Indeed, just as some intrinsically find satisfaction in work and savings rather than in purchasing power, so some voluntary simplicity followers find satisfaction in the very fact that they chose (and have not been forced to choose) a simpler lifestyle, and are proud of their choice. Moreover, as they learn to cultivate other pursuits, simplifiers gain more satisfaction out of life-long learning, public life, volunteering, community participation, surfing the Internet, sports, cultural activities, and observing or communing with nature. Often, as Elgin puts it: "Voluntary simplicity [is] a manner of living that is more outwardly simple and inwardly rich."(46)

In each of these areas, some downshifters and even full-blown simplifiers slip back into consumerism, forever promoted by marketeers. Thus, Internet surfers may feel that they "need" to update their computer every other year or purchase various bells and whistles; and those engaged in sports feel they "need" a large variety of expensive, ever-changing, fashionable clothing and equipment to enjoy their sport of choice. But a considerable number of members of the affluent classes in affluent societies

-- especially, it seems, societies that have been affluent for a while -- find that they can keep consumerism under control and truly learn to cultivate lower cost sources of contentment and meaning. They enjoy touch football, a well-worn pair of sneakers, or take pride in their beat-up car.

An area that needs further study is the tendency of consumerism, when restrained, to leave a psychological vacuum which needs to be filled.(47) Those who try to wean themselves off consumerism often need support, mainly in the form of approval of significant others and membership in voluntary simplicity groups and sub-cultures. For instance, they may need to learn gradually to replace shopping with other activities that are more satisfying and meaningful. While some find shopping a chore, among the affluent, shopping is a major recreational activity, often done with peers (if not for actual consumption but for collection and display purposes, anywhere from expensive knickknacks to antiques). Numerous teenagers and many tourists also shop as a major recreational activity. Indeed, one must expect that for people who draw satisfaction from shopping per se, to curtail this activity may initially evoke an anxiety of unoccupied time that needs to be treated by developing a taste for and commitment to other activities.

The obsessive nature of at least some consumerism is evident in that people who seek to curb it find it difficult to do so. Many people purchase things they later realize they neither need nor desire, or stop shopping only after they have exhausted all their sources of credit. (Reference is not the poor, but to those who have several credit cards and who constantly "max" them out). In short, one expects that to convert a large number of people to voluntary simplicity requires taking into account that constant consumption cannot be simply stopped, that transitional help may be required, and that conversion is best achieved when consumerism it replaced with other sources of satisfaction and meaning.

B. Maslow, the Haves and the Have Nots, and Voluntary Simplicity

Thus far, I asked how difficult it is to sustain voluntary simplicity, given that it is common to assume that a high level of materialistic consumption is the main source of satisfaction driving people to work in capitalist societies. I suggested that evidence, while not all of one kind, tends to suggest that higher income does not lead to higher levels of satisfaction. Indeed, there is reason to suggest that the continued psychological investment in ever-higher levels of consumption has an addictive quality. People seek to purchase and amass ever more goods whether they need them (in any sense of the term) or not. It follows that voluntary simplicity, far from being a source of stress, is a source of a more profound satisfaction. This point is further supported by examining the implications of Maslow's theory to these points.

The rise of voluntary simplicity in advanced (or late) stages of capitalism, and for the privileged members of these societies, is explainable by a psychological theory of Abraham Maslow,(48) who suggests that human needs are organized in a hierarchy. At the base of the hierarchy are basic creature comforts, such as the need for food, shelter and clothing. Higher up are the need for love and esteem. The hierarchy is crowned with self-expression. Maslow theorized that people seek to satisfy lower needs before they turn to higher ones, although he does not deal with the question of the extent to which lower needs have to be satiated before people move to deal with higher- level needs, or the extent to which they can become fixated on lower-level needs.(49) Some suggest that Maslow's theory has been disproven because people seek to satisfy their needs not in the sequence he stipulated or even all at once. This may well be the case, but the only issue relevant here is if people continue to heavily invest themselves in the quest for "creature comforts" long after they are quite richly endowed in such goods, and if in the process their other needs are not well stated (even if they are not completely ignored). Western culture leaves little doubt that Maslow's thesis, if formulated in this way, is a valid one.

Maslow's thesis is compatible with the suggestion that voluntary simplicity may appeal to people after their basic needs are well satisfied: once they feel secure that these needs will be attended to in the future, and as they objectively feel ready to turn more attention to their higher needs -- even if their consumeristic addiction prevents them from noting that they may shift upwards, so to speak. Voluntary simplicity is thus a choice a successful corporate lawyer, not a homeless person, faces; Singapore, not Rwanda. Indeed, to urge the poor or near poor to draw satisfaction from consuming less is to ignore the profound connection between the hierarchy of human needs and consumption. It becomes an obsession that can be overcome only after basic creature comfort needs are sated.

Consumerism has one, often observed, feature that is particularly relevant here. Consumerism sustains in itself, in part, because it is visible. People who are "successful" in traditional capitalist terms need to signal their achievements in ways that are readily visible to others in order to gain their appreciation, approval, and respect. They do so by displaying their income by buying for themselves (or, in earlier days, for their wives) expensive status goods, as Vance Packard demonstrated several decades ago.

People who are well socialized into the capitalistic system often believe that they need income to buy things they "need". (Or-- that without additional income they "cannot make ends meet".) But examinations of the purchases of those who are not poor or near poor shows purchases of numerous items not needed in the strict sense ("could not survive", "would end up in the street", "would starve") but needed to meet status needs ("could not show my face"). This is the sociological role of Nike sneakers, leather jackets, fur coats, jewelry, fancy watches, expensive cars, and numerous other such goods, all items that are highly visible to people who are not members of one's community, who do not know one personally. These goods allow people to display the size of their income and wealth without attaching their accountant's statement to their lapels.

In such a culture if people choose a job or career pattern that is not income-maximizing and voluntarily simplistic, they have no established means of signaling that they have chosen such a course rather than having been forced into it, and that they have not failed by the mores of the capitalist society. There are no lapel pins stating "I could have, but preferred not to." Voluntary simplicity responds to this need for status recognition without expensive conspicuous consumption by choosing lower-cost but visible consumer goods that enable one to signal that one has chosen, rather than been coerced into, a less affluent lifestyle.

This is achieved by using select consumer goods that are clearly associated with a simpler life pattern and are as visible as the traditional status symbols and/or cannot be afforded by those who reduced consumption merely because their income fell. For instance, those who dress-down as part of their voluntary simplicity, often wear some expensive items (a costly blazer with jeans and sneakers) or stylistic and far from inexpensive dress-down items (designer jeans), as if to broadcast their voluntary choice of this life-style. (Which specific consumption items signal voluntary simplicity versus coerced simplicity changes over time and from one sub-culture to another.) Brooks refers to this practice as "conspicuous non-consumption".(50) In this way, voluntary simplifiers can satisfy what Maslow considers another basic human need, that of gaining the appreciation of others, without using a high -- and ever escalating -- level of consumption as their principle means of gaining positive feedback.

This idea is of considerable import when voluntary simplicity is examined not merely as an empirical phenomenon, as a pattern for social science to observe and dissect, but also as a set of values that has advocates and that may be judged in terms of the values' moral appropriateness. As I see it, the advocacy of voluntary simplicity addresses those who are in the higher reaches of income, those who are privileged but who are fixated on the creature-comfort level; it may help them free themselves from the artificial fanning of these basic needs and assist them in moving to higher levels of satisfaction. The same advocacy addressed to the poor or near poor (or disadvantaged groups or the "have not" countries) might correctly be seen as an attempt to deny them the satisfaction of basic human needs. Consumerism, not consumption, is the target for voluntary simplicity.

Oddly, a major development being brought about by technological innovations makes it more likely that voluntary simplicity may be expanded, and that the less privileged and have-nots may gain in the process. In considering this development, I first discuss the nature of non-scarce objects and then turn to their implications for the reallocation of wealth.

C. Voluntary Simplicity in the Age of Knowledge

Developed societies, it has been argued for decades, are moving from economies that rely heavily on the industrial sector to economies that increasingly draw upon the knowledge industry.(51) The scope of this transition and its implications are often compared to that which those societies experienced as they moved from farming to manufacturing. One should note that there is a measure of overblown rhetoric in such generalizations. Computers are, for instance, classified as a major item of the rising knowledge industry rather than traditional manufacturing. However, once a specific computer is programmed and designed, a prototype tested and debugged, the routine fastening of millions of chip-boards into millions of boxes to make PCS is not significantly different from, say, the manufacturing of toasters. And while publishers of books are now often classified as part of the knowledge industry and computers are widely used to manufacture books, books are still objects that are made, shipped, and sold like other non-knowledge industry products. Acknowledging these examples of overblown claims is not to deny that a major transformation is taking place, only that its growth and scope are much slower and less dramatic than was originally expected. Indeed, given this slower rate of change, societies are able to face the ramifications in a more orderly manner.

The main significance of the rise of the knowledge age is that the resulting shrinking of scarcity enhances the possibility for the expansion of voluntary simplicity. This particularly important point is surprisingly rarely noted. Unlike the consumer objects that dominated the manufacturing age -- cars, washers, bikes, televisions, houses (and computers) -- many knowledge "objects" can be consumed, possessed, and still be had by numerous others, that is shared, at minimal loss or cost. Hence, in this basic sense, knowledge defies scarcity, thus reducing scarcity, which is a major driving principle behind industrial capitalist economies. Compare, for instance, a Porsche to Beethoven's Ninth (or a minivan to a folk song). If an affluent citizen buys a particular Porsche (and all other billions of traditional consumer objects), this Porsche -- and the resources that were invested in making it -- are unavailable to any others (if one disregards friends and family). Once the Porsche is "consumed," little of value remains. By contrast, the Ninth (and a rising number of other such knowledge objects) can be copied millions of times, enjoyed by millions at one and the same time, and it is still available in its full, original glory.

A commentator on a previous draft of this essay suggested that there is a measure of snobbism in showing a preference for the Ninth over a Porsche. But this is hardly the issue here; the same advantage is found when one compares an obscene rap song over a Volkswagen Beetle, or pornographic image on the Internet to a low income housing project. The criterion at issue is the difference between the resources that go into making each item and the extent to which it can be copied, consumed, and still be "possessed" and shared.

True, even knowledge -- objects have some minimal costs, because they need some non-knowledge "carrier," have some limited material base, a disk, a tape or some paper, and most need an instrument -- a radio for instance -- to access them. However, typically the costs of these material carriers are minimal compared to those of most consumer goods. While many perishable goods (consumer objects such as food or gasoline) are low in cost per item, one needs to buy many of them repeatedly to keep consuming them. In contrast, "knowledge" objects such music tapes or movie CDs can be enjoyed numerous times and are not "consumed" (eaten up so to speak). In that sense, knowledge objects have the miraculous quality of the bush Moses saw in Sinai: it burned but was not consumed.

What is said for music also holds for books and art. Shakespeare, in a 99-cent paperback edition issued in India is no less Shakespeare than in an expensive leather-bound edition, and above all, millions can read Shakespeare, and his writings are still available, undiminished, for millions of others. Millions of students can read Kafka's short stories, solve geographical puzzles, and study Plato, without any diminution of these items. That is, these sources of satiation are governed by laws that are the mirror opposite of those laws of economics that govern oil, steel, and other traditional consumer objects from cellular phones to lasers.

Numerous games but not all are based on symbolic patterns and hence like knowledge objects are learned but not consumed and have only minimal costs. Children play checkers (and other games) with discarded bottle caps. Chess played by inmates, using figures made of stale bread, is not less enjoyable than a game played with rare, ivory hand-carved pieces. (One may gain a secondary satisfaction from the ecstatic beauty of the set and from owning such an expensive set, but these satisfactions have nothing to do with the game of chess per se).

Similarly, bonding, love, intimacy, friendship, contemplation, communion with nature, certain forms of exercise (Tai Chi for instance, as distinct from the Stair Master), all can free one, to a large extent, from key laws of capitalistic economies. In effect, these sources of satisfaction, relationship based, are superior from this viewpoint to knowledge objects, because in the kind of relationships just enumerated, when one gives more, one often receives more and thus both sides (or, in larger social entities such as communities, all sides) are "enriched" by the same "transactions." Thus, when two individuals who are learning to know one another as persons and become "invested" in one another during the ritual known as dating, neither is lacking as a result and often both are richer for it. (This important point is often overlooked by those who coined the term "social capital" to claim that relations are akin to transactions.) Similarly, parents who are more involved with their children often (although by no means always) find that their children are more involved with their parents, and both draw more satisfaction from the relationship. Excesses are far from unknown -- for example, when some parents attempt to draw most of their satisfaction from their children, and sharply asymmetrical relations are also known in which one side exploits the other's dedication or love. Nonetheless, mutual "enrichment" seems much more common.

The various sources of non-materialistic satisfaction listed here were celebrated by the counterculture. However, voluntary simplicity differs from the counterculture in that voluntary simplicity, even by those highly dedicated to it, seeks to combine a reasonable level of work and consumption to attend to creature comfort needs, with satisfaction from higher sources. The counterculture tried to minimize work and consumption, denying attention to basic needs, and hence became unsustainable. To put it more charitably, it provided an extreme, path-blazing version for the voluntary simplicity that followed. While much more moderate than the lifestyle advocated by the counterculture voluntary simplicity, as a result of fostering satisfaction from knowledge rather than consumer objects, the need to work and shop is reduced. As a result, it frees time and other scarce resources for further cultivation of non-materialistic sources of satisfaction, from acquiring music appreciation to visiting museums, from slowing down to enjoy nature to relearning the reading of challenging books to watching a rerun of a classical movie on television.

One should note that none of the specific sources of non-materialistic satisfaction are necessarily tied to voluntary simplicity. One can engage in a voluntarily simple life without enjoying music or nature, being a bonding person or a consumed chess player, an Internet buff or a domino aficionado. However, voluntary simplicity does point to the quest for some sources of satisfaction other than the consumption of goods and services. This statement is based on the elementary assumption that people prefer higher levels of satisfaction over lower ones; hence if higher satisfaction is not derived from ever higher levels of consumption, their "excess" quest, that which is not to be invested in pursuit unnecessary of creature comforts, seeks to be invested elsewhere. It follows that while the specific activities that serve as the sources of non-materialistic satisfaction will vary, some such must be cultivated or voluntary simplicity may not be sustainable.

III. Social Consequences of Voluntary Simplicity

The shift to voluntary simplicity has significant consequences for society at large, above and beyond the lives of the individuals that are involved. A promising way to think about them as to ask what the societal consequences would be if more and more members of society, possible an overwhelming majority, engage in one kind or another of voluntary simplicity. These consequences are quite self-evident for environmental concerns and hence need to be only briefly indicated; they are much less self-evident for social justice and thus warrant further attention.

A. Voluntary Simplicity and Environmentalism

There can be little doubt that voluntary simplicity, if constituted on a large scale, would significantly enhance society's ability to protect the environment. Moreover, if a significant number of people recast their lives according to the tenets of voluntary simplicity, even if they merely downshift rather than deeply recast their consumption, they are still likely to conduct themselves in ways that are more congenial to their environment than they were when they followed a life of conspicuous consumption.

First of all, voluntary simplifiers use far fewer resources than individuals engaged in conspicuous consumption. Simple means of transportation, such as bicycles, walking, public transportation, and even cars that are functional but not ostentatious, use significantly less energy, steel, rubber and other scarce resources than the cars that are currently often favored. People who choose to restore old buildings or move to the countryside, tend, with notable exceptions, to use fewer scarce resources than those who build for themselves ostentatious residences, with expansive living rooms, extensive gardens even in hostile environments (for instance, green lawns next to the sea) and so on. And, of course, the more one purchases fashionable clothing, the more often it is discarded while still fully functional, which again "burns up" scarce resources. From using fewer wrappings to simplifying gifts (especially during the Christmas season), simplifiers act in ways that are environment-friendly, on the face of it.

In addition, voluntary simplifiers are more likely than others to recycle, build compost heaps, and engage in other civic activities that indicate stewardship toward the environment because simplifiers draw more of their satisfaction out of such activities than out of conspicuous consumption. Indeed, studies show that being committed to voluntary simplicity strongly correlates with being most apt to install insulation, buy solar heating equipment, and engage in other energy-saving behaviors.(52)

Elgin's Voluntary Simplicity is rife with environmental concerns; frequently he uses the terms "voluntary simplicity" and "ecological living" interchangeably.(53) Other books on simple living also stress the connection between cutting back on consumption and helping the environment including Alan Durning's How Much is Enough?, and Lester W. Milbrath's Envisioning a Sustainable Society.(54)

The converse correlation holds as well. As people become more environmentally conscious and committed, they are more likely to find voluntary simplicity a lifestyle and ideology compatible with their environmental concerns. It should be noted, though, that while the values and motives of environmentalists and voluntary simplifiers are highly compatible, they are not identical. Voluntary simplifiers bow out of conspicuous consumption because they find other pursuits more compatible with their psychological needs, so long as their basic creature comfort needs are well sated. Environmentalists are motivated by concerns for nature and the ill effects of growing use of scarce resources. Despite these different motivational and ideological profiles, often one and the same person is both a simplifier and an environmentalist. At least, those who have one inclination are supportive of those who have the other.

B. Voluntary Simplicity and Equality

The more broadly and deeply voluntary simplicity is embraced as a lifestyle by a given population, the greater the potential for realization of a basic element of social justice, that of basic socio-economic equality. Before this claim is justified, a few words are needed on the meaning of the term equality, a complex and much-contested notion.

While conservatives tend to favor limiting equality to legal and political statutes, both those who are politically left and liberal favor various degrees of redistribution of wealth in ways that would enhance socio-economic equality. Various members of the left-liberal camp differ significantly in the extent of equality they seek. Some favor far-reaching, if not total, socio-economic equality in which all persons would share alike in whatever assets, income, and consumption are available, an idea championed by the early Kibbutz movements. Others limit their quest for equality to ensuring that all members of society will at least have their basic creature comforts equally provided, a position championed by many liberals. The following discussion focuses on this quest for socio-economic and not just legal and political equality, but on basic, creature comfort equality rather than on a more comprehensive equality. (The debate about whether or not holistic equality is virtuous, and if it entails undercutting both liberty and the level of economic performance on which the provision of creature comforts depends is an important subject. However, this subject need not be addressed until basic socio-economic equality is achieved, and this has proven so far to be an elusive goal.)

If one seeks to advance basic socio-economic equality, one must identify sources that will propel the desired change. Social science findings and recent historical experience leave little doubt that ideological arguments (such as pointing to the injustices of inequalities, fanning guilt, introducing various other liberal and socialist arguments that favor greater economic equality), organizing labor unions and left-leaning political parties, and introducing various items of legislation (such as estate taxes and progressive income tax), ultimately do not have the desired result--namely significant wealth redistribution--in democratic societies. The most that can said for them is that in the past they helped prevent inequality from growing bigger.(55) Moreover, in recent years, many of the measures, arguments, and organizations that championed these limited, rather ineffectual efforts to advance equality could not be sustained, or have been successful only after they have been greatly scaled back.(56) Moreover, for these and other reasons that need not be explored here, economic inequalities seem to have increased in many parts of the world. The former communist countries, including the USSR and China, where once a sacrifice of liberties was associated with a minimal but usually reliable provision of creature comforts, has moved to a socio-economic system that tolerates, indeed is built upon, a much higher level of inequality, one in which millions have no reliable source of creature comforts. Numerous other countries, which had measures of socialist policies, from India to Mexico, have been moving in the same direction. And in many Western countries social safety nets are under attack, being shredded in some countries and merely lowered in others. All said and done, it seems clear that if basic socio-economic equality is to be significantly advanced, it will need to be helped by some new or additional force.

Voluntary simplicity, if more widely embraced, might well be the best new source to help create the societal conditions under which the limited reallocation of wealth needed to ensure the basic needs of all could become politically possible. The reason is as basic and simple as it is essential: To the extent that the privileged (those whose basic creature comforts are well sated and who are engaging in conspicuous consumption) will find value, meaning and satisfaction in other pursuits, in those that are not labor or capital intensive, they can be expected to be more willing to give up some consumer goods and some income. The "freed" resources, in turn, can be shifted to those who basic needs have not been sated, without undue political resistance or backlash.

The merit of enhancing basic equality in a society in which voluntary simplicity is spreading diverges from those that are based on one measure or another of coercion in several ways. First, those who are economically privileged are often those who are in power, who command political skills, or who can afford buying support. Hence, to force them to yield significant parts of their wealth has often proven impractical, whether or not it is just or theoretically correct. Second, even if the privileged can somehow be made to yield significant part of their wealth, such forced concessions leaves in their wake strong feelings of resentment that have often lead those wealthy to act to nullify or circumvent programs such as progressive income taxes and inheritance taxes, or to support political parties or regimes that oppose wealth re-allocation.

Finally, the record shows that when people are strongly and positively motivated by non-consumeristic values and sources of satisfaction, they are less inclined to exceed their basic consumption needs and more willing to share their "excess" resources. Voluntary simplicity provides a culturally fashioned expression for such inclinations and helps enforce them, and it provides a socially approved and supported lifestyle that is both psychologically sustainable and compatible with basic socio-economic equality.

A variety of public policies, that seek to transfer some wealth and income from the privileged to those who do not have the resources needed to meet their basic needs, have been recently introduced. A major category of such policies are those that concerns the distribution of labor, especially in countries in which unemployment is high, by curbing overtime, shortening the workweek, and allowing more part-time work.

Another batch of policies seeks to ensure that all members of society will have sufficient income to be able to satisfy at least some of their basic needs , approach the matter from the income rather than the work side. These include increases in the minimum wage, the introduction of the earned income tax credit, and attempts at establishing universal health insurance, as well as housing allowances for the deserving poor.

In short, if voluntary simplicity is more and more extensively embraced as a combined result of changes in culture and public policies, by those whose basic creature comforts have been sated, it might provide the foundations for a society that accommodates basic socio-economic equality much more readily than societies in which conspicuous consumption is rampant.

Amitai Etzioni © 1998


1. 1. The author would like to acknowledge Frank Lovett for his help with the research for this paper, and David Karp and Barbara Fusco for their editorial comments. I am particularly indebted to comments by Professor Edward F. Diener and David G. Myers.

2. 2. See Frank Musgrove: Ecstasy and Holiness: Counter Culture and the Open Society, Bloomington (Indiana University Press) 1974, p. 17-18, 40-41, 198. Musgrove notes the paradox that although the counter culture is "marked by frugality and low consumption," it arises specifically in wealthy societies: p. 17.

3. 3. Ronald Inglehart: The Silent Revolution: Changing Values and Political Styles Among Western Publics, Princeton (Princeton University Press) 1977, p. 3.

4. 4. Paul R. Abramson and Ronald Inglehart: Value Change in Global Perspective, Ann Arbor (University of Michigan Press) 1995, p. 19. Similar shifts occurred in most developed nations: p. 12-15.

5. 5. Ibid., p. 12-15.

6. 6. Stanley Lebergott: Pursuing Happiness: American Consumers in the Twentieth Century, Princeton (Princeton University Press) 1993, appendix A, p. 147-163.

7. 7. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1994, table 695.

8. See Robert Paehlke, Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics, New Haven (Yale University Press) 1989 and Juliet Schor, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, New York (Basic Books) 1991.

9. Victor Irwin, "Living Lightly Can Mean Greater Independence, Richer Lives", The Christian Science Monitor, (October 21, 1980), p. 20.

10. See, for instance, Charles Handy: The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism: A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World, New York (Broadway Books) 1998.

11. The Public Perspective (August/September 1997), p. 59.

12. 12. "The Pop Populist", New York Times Magazine, (January 26, 1996), p. 28.

13. 13. Henry Urbach: "Hide the Money!" New York Times Magazine, (April 13, 1997), p. 8.

14. 14. Pilar Viladas: "Inconspicuous Consumption", New York Times Magazine, (April 13, 1997), p. 25.

15. 15. Ibid., p. 25.

16. 16. Rita Henley Jensen: "Recycling the American Dream", ABA Journal 82 (April, 1996), p. 68-72.

17. 17. "Voluntary Simplicity", NPR: Morning Edition, (February 25, 1997).

18. 18. "Choosing the Joys of a Simplified Life", New York Times, (September 21, 1995), p. C:1; Yearning for a Balance: Views of Americans on Consumption, Materialism, and the Environment, Executive Summary from the Merck Family Fund.

19. 19. "Is Greed Dead?" Fortune, (August 14, 1989), p. 41.

20. 20. "Voluntary Simplicity", NPR: Morning Edition, (February 26, 1997).

21. 21. "Choosing the Joys of a Simplified Life", New York Times, (September 21, 1995), p. C:1.

22. 22. Among men between fifty-five and sixty-four, 85.2 percent were employed in 1960, while by 1990 only 67.7 percent were: U.S. Department of Commerce, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1975 table 559, and 1994 tables 615 and 619. The number of persons who had retired by sixty-three doubled between 1960 and 1990 from one quarter to a half: "To Many, Early Retirement Only a Dream", Boston Globe, (October 29, 1995), p. 41.

23. 23. "Is Greed Dead?" p. 41.

24. 24. "More Mothers Staying At Home", Boston Globe, (December 18, 1994), p. NW:1.

25. 25. "More Career-Switchers Declare, 'Those Who Can, Teach", Wall Street Journal, (April 8, 1997), p. B:1.

26. 26. The rising pressures on American workers are detailed by Juliet B. Schor: The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, New York (BasicBooks) 1991.

27. Lydia Saad: "Children, Hard Work Taking Their Toll on Baby Boomers", Gallup Poll Monthly (April 1995), p. 22.

28. 28. Telephone survey of 1011 Americans by the Gallup Organization, January 19-30, 1994.

29. 29. Duane Elgin: Voluntary Simplicity, New York (William Morrow) 1993, p. 66.

30. 30. Elgin: (1993), especially p. 46-53.

31. 31. Elgin: p. 201.

32. Paul H. Ray: "The Emerging Culture", American Demographics (February 1997), p. 29 and 31.

33. 33. Schor: op cit., p. 81-82.

34. 34. "West Meets East, With A Vengeance", Chicago Tribune, (Sep 25, 1994), p. 13:2; see also, "A Great Leap Forward in Shopping", Los Angeles Times, (Jan 29, 1996), p. D:1.

35. 35. "Tinsel? Moscow Buys That", Boston Globe, (Dec 25, 1996), p. A:2.

36. 36. "Consumerism Is Thriving in Vietnam, Luring U.S. Companies Despite Poverty", Wall Street Journal, (May, 13, 1994), p. A:7.

37. 37. "Burma Ha Healthy, Up-to-Date Taste for Consumer Goods, Survey Shows", Wall Street Journal, (Aug 2, 1996), p. A:11A.

38. 38. "Ugly Americanization?" Los Angeles Times, (Sep 2, 1995), p. E:1.

39. 39. Frank M. Andrews and Stephen B. Withey: Social Indicators of Well-Being: Americans' Perceptions of Life Quality, New York (Plenum Press) 1976, p. 254-255.

40. 40. Jonathan L. Freedman: Happy People: What Happiness Is, Who Has It, and Why, New York (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) 1978.

41. 41. Ed Diener, Ed Sandvik, Larry Seidlitz, and Marissa Diener: "The Relationship Between Income and Subjective Well-Being: Relative or Absolute?" Social Indicators Research, 28 (1993), 195-223.

42. 42. David G. Myers and Ed Diener: "Who Is Happy?" Psychological Science, 6 (January 1995), p. 12-13; see also, Ed Diener, E. Sandvik, L. Seidlitz, and M. Diener: "The Relationship Between Income and Subjective Well-Being: Relative or Absolute?" Social Indicators Research, 28 (1993), p. 208.

43. 43. Tim Kasser and Richard M. Ryan: "A Dark Side of the American Dream: Correlates of Financial Success as a Central Life Aspiration", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65 (1993), pp. 420.

44. 44. Robert E. Lane: "Does Money Buy Happiness?" Public Interest (Fall 1993), p.58.

45. 45. Ibid., p. 56-65.

46. 46. Elgin: op cit., p. 25.

47. 47. The addiction of consumption is discussed, however, by Tibor Scitovsky: The Joyless Economy: The Psychology of Human Satisfaction, New York (Oxford University Press) 1992. See also, Barry Schwartz: The Costs of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life, New York (W.W. Norton and Company) 1994, p. 154-162.

48. 48. Abraham H. Maslow: Toward A Psychology of Being, Princeton (Von Nostrand) 1986. I should note that Maslow's writings are rather opaque and discursive. What follows is an interpretation of Maslow rather than a direct derivation.

49. 49. He also does not draw a distinction between pro-social self-expression, for example arts, and anti-social, for instance abuse of narcotics.

50. 50. Brooks: op cot., p. 25.

51. 51. Alvin Toffler: Future Shock, New York (Random House) 1970. Daniel Bell: The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting, New York (Basic Books) 1973.

52. 52. Paul Stern: Energy Use: The Human Dimension, New York (W.H. Freeman and Company) 1984, p. 71-72.

53. 53. Elgin: op cit.

54. 54. Alan Durning: How Much Is Enough?: The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth, New York (W.W. Norton) 1992; Lester W. Milbrath: Envisioning a Sustainable Society: Learning Our Way Out Albany (State University of New York Press) 1989.

55. 55. Joseph A. Pechman: Federal Tax Policy, Washington, DC (The Brookings Institution) 1987, p. 6.

56. 56. For instance, note the changes in the Labor Party in the United Kingdom and the Democratic Party in United States in the mid-1990s.

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