Standard of Living Pop Quiz Results Quote of the Day "Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly."
Preface During a recent email exchange with an old friend (Mel), he commented about a quiz he had seen in the past that posed a question about desired relative standard of living. Mel suggested that the results of this quiz would divide roughly along ideological lines. I felt this result was not obvious and decided to put it to a small test. I emailed the quiz to 50 relatives and friends chosen to form a heterogeneous group with respect to ideology (my assessment). I did not fine tune Mel’s wording. There is some ambiguity in the question but experience has shown me that tweaking generally just results in different ambiguity. About 60% replied rather promptly and many wanted to see the results so here they are. I have included a few of the specific comments – without names of course. You will probably recognize your own! Paul
Quiz on Standard of Living Here is a very brief (one question) pop quiz I’d like you to answer without any deep thinking. Would you rather have a personal standard of living of (say) 8 when everyone else has a standard of living of 10, or would you rather have a personal standard of living of (say) 6 when everyone else has a standard of living of (say) 5. So would you prefer 8/10 or 6/5? You can comment further if you like. I will keep your personal answer in confidence. Thanks Paul
The results do not appear divided in accordance with political ideology.
The ambiguity allowed plenty of room for creative thinking.
I believe people’s choices were a result of very personal feelings and attitudes only very loosely coupled to political affiliation.
I am a Libertarian and chose 6/5
Responder’s Comments Definitely 8/10…I would rather have the cheapest home in a super nice neighborhood then have the best house in an average neighborhood. This is classic human psychology. I’m certain if you run an experiment to test this without informing your subjects of the purpose of the experiment, the outcome is 6/5 for a strong majority. Knowing this about us, I say 8/10. There’s always hope… I will attempt to answer this as best I can. Given: I assume that a standard of living of ten is greater than one. I also assume the higher the standard of living means that I have a higher income to expenses ratio. Given the above I would naturally pick the 8/10 because that would translate to the highest possible standard of living. I would be OK with being the low man on the totem pole given the fact that I do not compete with the Jones. Hope this helps,
Responder’s Comments Since 8 is better than 6, I’ll go with 8/10. It would not contribute to my feelings of inadequacy. For me this is an easy choice. It's 8/10 hands down. Why? Because... I would rather be around smarter, better, richer, or whatever - than I am. I would rather look up than down. Interesting question. I haven't thought about that sort of thing for a very long time, either way. If I had a choice, though, and having a higher number either way would give me more choices and allow me to travel more, I suppose I would always choose the higher number. However, if I could still travel I would not mind choosing a lower number. I don't equate my life with others when it comes to happiness. It has more to do with where my life can take me, and what my life can give me, not what others have or do with their lives. Hmmmm, does that answer the question??
Responder’s Comments Ok, if the scale is 1-10 and 10 being the highest, I would much rather have a standard of living being an 8...who cares what everyone else has , that's pretty close to as "good as it gets" so I am guessing I'd be comfortable and so would my family. If you are using the same scale of 1-10 and 6, although better than most, is still not so great. I have always been less interested in being better than everyone else and more interested in being the best I can be. I hope this answers the question. If this was a trick math question, I’m sunk! Lol! See for me, I try to do my best each time and each "next" try should be better than my last. That is how I measure my results. For me the journey is every bit as important as the destination. I will never expect to be the best there is at everything I do, I do however expect to keep getting better and better at things in my life whether that be standard of living, relationships or things that I can do with my gifts. More importantly , at the end of each day, if I can HONESTLY say I did my best at everything I did that day, then my standard of living , my relationships and my work will automatically reflect that effort and hopefully it will be all balanced. Maybe I am weird. I cant wait to see the results!
Responder’s Comments Just off the top, I think that it is important for there to be a healthy difference from low to high. It is what causes churning, progress, movement, and striving for, etc, etc. So for everyone except me to be a 5 and I am 6…….this is not good. It is better for there to be a divergence 1 to 10 and it is not that important where I am in it other than to me such that if I am unhappy, I should be motivated to do something about it or live with it. If we all the same, we are in a pond of stagnant bilge water. In order for an amplifier to amplify, it must be on the verge of oscillation. The further from oscillation it gets, the less it becomes an amplifier. It is much better for Bill Gates to have 36 billion dollars than for the government to take his 36 billion and give to each citizen an amount equal to his 36 billion divided by the number of citizens.
Responder’s Comments I'm missing something. I'll take 6/5. does that make me a bad person? I would like to judge my standard of living based on what I can afford not on my neighbors -- What's his is his - what's mine is mine -- If he needs assistance - and I can afford to help -I will.. I am not competing with a neighbor, friend, family person, etc.. I place a scale of 10 on my efforts or success on my self - and then I go up and down the scale as the results come in over a period of time. 8 is better than 5 or 6, so 8 is my choice. I'm probably a 7 now and headed for 5 or 6 - HA!! 6 is my answer. Now is a prefect example of this. We were living an eight although most were living a 6. We are now living a 6 while most are now at a 4. My thoughts are as long as you stay one step (preferably two) ahead things will adjust and you'll be fine. Now I'll go think about my answer and see if I still agree with myself. LOL
Responder’s Comments It depends on what the scale means. Is it absolute (proportional the ratio of my income to GDP?) or relative (10 = the Saudis)? Is it linear or logarithmic? Also, you didn't specify, but there's a cultural implication that your scale is from 1 to 10, which makes the premise "everybody else has a standard of living of 10" a bit hard to swallow. I think I cannot envision a free world in which it's a 1-10 scale and almost everybody is a 10. The market would price everything so that only 10s could afford them, there being basically no market for <10ers. My conclusion is therefore that your 8/10 scenario represents a highly controlled economy, in which I had a choice of being part of the system (an accepting the 10) or going it on my own and potentially being an 8. I would probably take the 8 in that case, comforted by the notion that society is going to collapse under its own immorality pretty soon, and I don't want to be a ward of the state when it does. The 6/5 scenario (again on a 1-10 scale) is more reasonable in a free market, so I would definitely choose that one.
Responder’s Comments Everyone would rather be among the wealthiest in his or her “environment” than have an absolutely higher standard of living but not be among the wealthiest in his or her environment. Never wanted to be top dog, tends to make you a target ;-) I'd go with the 8. I will take a 7 and take my chances Without more than 3 nanoseconds of thought, I'd rather have the 8 out of 10. I'd rather be upper middle-class in America the the Upper Crust in Ukraine. Interesting question. The rational answer is to take the higher standard of living- that is, 8, although most people would be richer than you. But I seem to prefer being among the rich in a slightly poorer society, so I’ll pick 6 where most people are at 5. I guess this is because I like being “wealthy” in my own society, having more perks, opportunities etc. in comparison to others. I guess everything is relative, rather than absolute!