Look again at your own ancestors compared with your present condition. You are much better off, and have much more scope to pursue Bildung. Admittedly you don’t own a seventy-five-foot yacht. Too bad. Being an adult person of sense, however, who reads books and thinks for herself, you know that such pleasures of the rich and famous exceed yours only by a little in actual human value-there’s the scientific truth in happiness studies, the truth that a pot-of-pleasure happiness has sharply diminishing marginal utility. “Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; / A man’s a man for a’ that.” As the historical anthropologist Alan Macfarlane puts it, “There has been a massive leveling…. There has recently [in the late twentieth century] been a tendency for the gap between rich and poor to open up again. At a wider view, however, there is no longer a vast gap between the 1-5 percent who have 1000 times the income of the average…. There is a more gradual gradient of wealth.”4 And if not of wealth, then surely of real comfort.
Deirdre N. McCloskey. Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (Kindle Locations 1050-1054). Kindle Edition.