People gain enjoyment from exercising their agency and interacting with others in order to accomplish projects and change reality, as is evident from the successful evolution of homo sapiens. Hence, time can be enjoyable in both pursuing and achieving socially valued goals. Since modern economic progress offers products in growing abundance, thus increasingly exploiting individuals’ time and interaction, people are tempted to seek enjoyment in another way, i.e. in consumption itself, as homo economicus would suggest. On the basis of various evidence, the paper argues that people can choose between these two ways leading to well-being; that the homo economicus way is less effective or even perverse; and that economic progress weakens people’s skill to undertake the homo sapiens way. These arguments help explain why the economy of a country, such as the USA, can grow over decades whereas its citizens become less able to enjoy their lives.
Published in MPRA Paper No. 104378 (downloadable)