Researchers at the University of Bath, England, have found that the majority of the world’s population doesn’t want billions of dollars to live their dream life. However, they have found few people who want to become billionaires- which they feel is good for the world. The team stated that there had been a long-economic belief that unlimited desires motivate people on the planet. This keeps them running on a “consumerist treadmill” to earn more for their families. As society still revolves around this thought, researchers believe this affects the stability and health of the population. A never-ending economic growth may end up in more fortune, but at the cost of natural resource depletion and human health.
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About the survey
The research team wanted to see whether the population wanted to have things that society wanted them to have. They surveyed approximately 8000 people in 33 countries spanning six continents to know how much money people needed to achieve their goal of leading an ideal life. Interestingly, in 86 percent of the countries, most people said they could get this with less than the US $10 million. While in other countries, the US $1 million is more than enough.
The researchers collected statements on ideal wealth from people living in different countries, cultures, and societal psychologies, including Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Tunisia and Nicaragua. The team also discovered which country’s people find unlimited fortune as the ultimate goal of their lives. They found that city-dwellers and young populations of economically backward countries were most likely to have unlimited wants. These people tended to give more importance to power, independence and success. The wish of turning into a billionaire was also common in nations where inequality is a major societal concern and in nations that are more collectivistic. In such countries, groups are given more importance rather than individuals.
For instance, in Indonesia, which is a collectivistic nation and promotes inequalities, many people wanted to have a lavish life compared to people based in individual-centric countries like the UK. Contradictorily, in countries like China, people persisted the desire despite the inequality and high collectivism.
“The ideology of unlimited wants, when portrayed as human nature, can create social pressure for people to buy more than they actually want,” said Dr Paul Bain, a psychologist at the University of Bath. “Discovering that most people’s ideal lives are actually quite moderate could make it socially easier for people to behave in ways that are more aligned with what makes them genuinely happy and to support stronger policies to help safeguard the planet.”
“The findings are a stark reminder that the majority view is not necessarily reflected in policies that allow the accumulation of excessive amounts of wealth by a small number of individuals,” said Dr Renata Bongiorno, co-author of the study. “If most people are striving for wealth that is limited, policies that support people’s more limited wants, such as a wealth tax to fund sustainability initiatives, might be more popular than is often portrayed.”
The detailed survey has been published in the journal Nature Sustainability.
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