Thursday, May 19, 2005

Class, Status and Prada?

Some great nuggets can be taken from Brad Delong's recent post and associated commentary on Class, Status and Prada.

Delong states:

"Happiness is attained when you achieve your dreams and solve your problems. Material abundance helps you do so, but it also teaches you to dream bigger dreams and pose yourself more complicated problems...

"On the other hand, it may not be a very big mistake to think that human happiness consists in expanding our powers and capabilities to accomplish things (not the least of which are maintaining our comfort and satisfying our curiosity), and that wealth is a powerful tool to those ends."

What's the impetus for all this discussion? The recent New York Times series on class and class mobility or lack thereof.

Carol argues that:

"Most "class" structure is about power relations, and the feeling that you have more power than someone else. Power symbols (cars, clothes, etc) are used to signal that the owner thereof has power (in our society lots and lots of money)."

Is that really true though? Is class simply based on money and power? I sort of thought that the desire for money was more related to the desire for a feeling of social security and well-being. Having the ability and yes, maybe the power, to feed loved ones and take care of material concerns. But is this class?

Schweitzer commented:

"Happiness (in the material sense) does not depend on the size of real disposable income; it depends on the real disposable income you receive, compared to the one you expected. But expectations get revised on the basis of past experience. Therefore permanent Happiness is not possible."

And this sort of leads us to the concept of choosing the right pond. How have your experiences defined for you what it means to better or worse off? Is it all just relative? Are we simply happier being large fish in small ponds?

Another interesting comment made by Jim S. was:

"In spite of the fact that every member of this society would be equally qualified for any position in it, there would still be only so many spots in middle management, fewer spots in upper management and so many CEO, CIO and CFO spots. The structure of virtually all businesses necessarily limits how many people can move up the ladder. There is no way to eliminate this fact given the structure of our businesses."

This is very true. There is simply a structural limitation on the number of people who can be at the "top" and make a large number of decisions -- decisions with impacts that will affect the masses. Does decision-making by consensus work?

Hearing out multiple points of views is important, but this sort of organizational structure also results in indecision and dissent. When there are so many opinions, its hard to shift direction or even know which direction to go in.

To finish off, one last quote from John C. Halasz and ultimately from another far older source:

"The poor will always be with us, because we ourselves are the poor"