Das Gefühl, reich zu sein

Wer ist reicher, Sie oder ich? So lange wir beide genug haben, um davon bequem zu leben, sollte das nicht so wichtig sein. Viele von uns versuchen, es nicht wichtig werden zu lassen. Doch manchmal nagen solche Vergleiche an uns. In einer Zeit der Globalisierung mit schnellem Wirtschaftswachstum in einigen Bereichen und Stagnation in anderen, in der das Fernsehen und das Internet es uns ermöglichen, zu sehen, wie andere leben, stellen diese Vergleiche einen zunehmend wichtigen Faktor in der Weltwirtschaft dar.

Der verstorbene Sozialpsychologe Leon Festinger vertrat den Standpunkt, dass zwischenmenschliche Vergleiche des Erfolgs, unsere moralischen Bedenken hin oder her, einen grundsätzlichen – und daher ununterdrückbaren – menschlichen Trieb darstellen, der in allen Gesellschaften und sozialen Gruppen vorhanden ist. Festinger legte dar, dass die Menschen bei jedem Erfolgsmaßstab, ob Wohlstand, Können oder bloßem persönlichen Charme, dazu neigen, sich am meisten mit Vergleichen zu anderen zu beschäftigen, die sie regelmäßig sehen und die sich auf einem ähnlichen Erfolgsniveau befinden. Wir stören uns tendenziell nicht an Leuten, die entweder wesentlich erfolgreicher oder wesentlich weniger erfolgreich sind. Wir nehmen sie als so verschieden von uns wahr, dass sie uns einfach egal sind.

In dem bedeutenden neuen Buch des Harvard-Professors Benjamin Friedman The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth (Die moralischen Konsequenzen des Wirtschaftswachstums) wird ausführlich dargestellt, was die durch diese Vergleiche hervorgerufenen Gefühle für die gesellschaftliche Harmonie und den Erfolg unserer Volkswirtschaften bedeuten.

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