Thursday, February 11, 2010

More Is What We Do

Have you heard about GMC's new, smaller SUV? It's called the Terrain, and it's being marketed with this slogan:

Because more is what we do.

It sounds like the vehicle itself is a bit of a dog. No offense to my dog friends, but a A Los Angeles Times reviewer said it "confronts all the bad old ways of GM -- the badge engineering where vehicle clones are sold under several brands, the redundant product planning, the weird fascination with shiny objects, the wheedling of customers -- and embraces them with open paws."

I don't care so much about the vehicle. It's the slogan itself that caught my attention: a perfect statement about the current state of American culture. (Remember that old Gary Hart campaign line, "More isn't better, better is better"? I always liked that, but it didn't seem to go far with the American people. Or maybe with Hart himself, given the problems he encountered.)

"More is what we do" reminds me of a tag line I used to hear from one of NPR's sponsors -- "Produce More, Consumer More." I never managed to catch what company was using those words because each time I heard it, I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor, unable to fathom the utter stupidity of the phrase.

This assumption -- that there is unlimited raw material to make unlimited finished goods for an unlimited number of people -- flies in the face of everything we know about our planet's ability to sustain human (and many other types of) life. And it's not even as though having "more" will make those who already have enough happier. There's lots of research showing that beyond a basic level of material need for food and shelter, people do not get happier when they have more money, or more stuff.

A recent study reported in the London Telegraph showed that more money didn't make people happy, but therapy did -- having someone who listens to your everyday problems made a much bigger difference than increased income. "The boost to personal happiness triggered by an £800 course of therapy is equivalent to a pay rise of over £25,000, [the Warwick University researchers'] findings show."

Researchers like Barry Schwartz have found that having more choices does not bring happiness. Schwartz's book is actually called The Paradox of Happiness: Why More Is Less. The things that create happiness are relations with other people, physical health and satisfying work. Money matters less than those things, once you are above a subsistence level.

As Schwartz confirms, the secret of happiness is wanting what you have, not having what you want.

1 comment:

elena said...

I was just reading a magazine with articles about people with 10,000 square foot houses..families who seem to be raising children who will never be "without" anything, except the experience of wanting something before it is magically supplied for them. I think they will probably want therapy, too.