Fill the gaps
If we can just be honest with ourselves and consistent with reality for a moment, there is something quite obvious that needs to be said. The paradigm under which we live is currently fucked and on its last legs. It is the end of an era and, sigh, it is about time. Our fundamental assumptions about ...well, everything...are now quaint and laughable.
Fuck Adam Smith and fuck economics. Economics are the modern day equivalent of 1 + 1. Yeah, it equals 2, but so what? Let's move on. OK I lost you with that. I only wanted to open a crack in your mind on this dark corner of cyberspace in which you, yourself, are surprised you ended up and are already becoming suspicious about.
Greater material wealth -- economic growth -- does not equal happiness and is obviously not the goal, nor the answer. We need to adopt a paradigm for our own lives that says: fill the gaps. In which area is your life lacking? Are you lacking friends? Make some. Are you lacking sex? Get some. Lacking time? Make some. Are you lacking art? Go to a museum. Are you lacking money? Make some. Are you lacking good food? Cook some. Get it? It's so simple and yet we have become so lobotomized. Don't have any decent clothes? Buy some. Don't have a comfortable place to live? Work toward it. That's balance.
Economics says we can find happiness through more money and more stuff. But the simple and obvious fact is: anybody with so much money and so much stuff that they don't know what to do with isn't any happier. They still have gaps.
More stuff means more pain in the ass. I have to figure out how to use it or where to put it. I have to throw away the packaging. It's a pain in the ass. And more money, at this point, adds more pressure with respect to where to invest it. So, over the past few years, I've been more focused on the gaps in my life: friendship, romance, art, sleep, doing absolutely nothing on a Monday morning. By filling those gaps I have climbed the ladder of happiness. I could have made more money than I do. I certainly could have bought more than I have. But I don't want it.
So let's extend this to the macro. What we, the human race, need is certainly not the effects of more economic growth. We need to start conceptualizing the idea of balance (but not in a fluffy liberal way). We need to selfishly start filling the obvious gaps. The good news is: you know what they are.