You already own nothing. Question is: are you happy?
One of the most stubbornly shared conspiracy’s is about the World Economic Forum stating that by 2030 everyone in the EU ‘will own nothing and be happy’. Something that has been debunked and is or was never a goal in itself. But what if this would be in fact the ultimate goal: to have people own nothing and let hem still be happy. What does this mean and what would change? Because: I have some idea that most people how believe in these conspiracies have no idea about what they actually own – and still be happy about it.
Face it: You already own nothing.
You’re reading this on your phone that you bought on a monthly payment plan from you provider. It’s not yours. You possibly drive a lease car, live in a home with a mortgage and watch streaming services instead of buying them. So you work to pay of all your debt, leases and loans. As long as you do this, you might think you own these things – but try stop paying for them for a while. Your house will be seized by the bank, the car repossessed by the lease company and the phone disconnected. Short story shorter: You own nothing.
Why does this abused quote trigger so many people?
For certain people having things has become the purpose of their lives. That’s a life choice, which you can debate, but in a society where we’ve moved to not owning the things we use or need anymore has become the standard it’s somewhat strange that this quote triggered people. As with most conspiracies there is no real logic, so that is not that strange. But the concept of possession or ownership is interesting – it triggers people and makes them think they’ll have to live in a socialist of communist society – and be happy. I do think that achieving results by working hard is important, but the fact that this should result in ownership of stuff is the ultimate goal is interesting.
Question remains: are you happy?
The original – but misused – quote ends with the statement ‘and you will be happy’. So leaping back to the idea we hardly own anything anyway, are you happy about it? Is ownership the ultimate goal to be happy? Decades of research proves otherwise. And even before the last 10-15.000 years we did not own much for million of years of evolution. As nomadic people living in tribes we owned what we could carry. So no, owning does not make anyone happy – but the other aspects of having things that gives us some comfort in live do count. I rather not have a high monthly cost level, so I do like to own my car, lower my mortgage and not have too many other subscriptions – but still I think the whole ‘you won’t own anything’-fear is typically populistic nonsense.
Our image of happiness is severely clouded by the idea that owning means happiness, which has never been and probably will never be the case. Does it mean we should strive towards a society where you own nothing but are tied up on lease, subscriptions and debt? No, but as far as I can tell only the conspiracy theorist belief this is the goal.