“We define ourselves in relative terms, not absolute ones. More stuff, more power, less this or less that. Who’s up and who’s down?” – Seth Godin
Why do talks about equality so often equate to moving the top half of the ladder down towards the lowest common denominator rather than moving the bottom half of the ladder up towards the highest benchmark?
Human nature dictates that people would rather be worse off, in absolute terms than worse off in relative terms.
It’s all about improving your relative place on the ladder.
People who get half-million dollar bonuses when their colleagues get million dollar bonuses are less happy than people who get the same quarter million dollar bonuses as their co-workers – even though they are twice as well off in absolute terms.
There is a Russian parable that illustrates this disappointing side of human nature: A man is visited by a magical being who grants the man any wish he wants, with one condition, whatever he asked for, his neighbour will get double. The man asked for one of his eyes to be removed…
In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.
It’s all relative.