Pair an innate drive to own things with a bunch of brands precision-engineered to press the pleasure button, and you have to question just how freely we buy.

If you’re aiming to get what you want and be happy, freedom is hard to beat. It could be rolling out a vaccination program on the Zambezi, building your own Trump Tower, or toiling as an IT geek to bankroll your gaming obsession. Liberal society pledges to make way for your passion, and may kick in a few dollars to get you started.

In fact, the Bank of England just announced that interest rates are the lowest ever, and for any doubters they’ve graphed it right back to the Babylonian Empire. All that cheap
money means cashed-up Westerners can wield freedom as only we know how: at the checkout.

I’m inclined to celebrate with an Aristotelian syllogism: freedom makes you happy; free people buy stuff; buying stuff makes you happy.

Actually, and I’m hardly the first, I’m going to argue that money doesn’t buy happiness after all. The economist Richard Layard got those ducks in a neat row in his 2005 book Happiness. Rich countries are no happier than poor ones – real US incomes more than doubled after 1950 while happiness flatlined – and across the chequerboard of nations happiness goes up barely a jot beyond a per capita income of $20,000.

So why do we buy?

Read the full article in New Philosopher magazine here