Psychology of Comparing Yourself to Others

When I was on my mission in post-reunification East Germany, one of the most striking realizations that I had was that there were A LOT of very average people who actually felt worse off since being joined to West Germany than they had previously. The reason, I figured out, was that even though they now had color TVs, 4-stroke engines in their cars, and all the Coke they could drink, in their new, changed world they were pitiable bumpkins. When they were part of the Soviet Bloc, they had it better than any of their fellow bloc-mates. As part of unified Germany, they were, by comparison, utterly backward.

Therefore, my hypothesis: it’s better to be living better in a dump than other people who are also living in a dump than it is to be living in a palace but living worse than other people living in a palace. Assuming that dumps and palaces are themselves closed, discrete environments of course.


1 comment

  • telkontar

    That’s one reason the US Civel War occurred — rich man’s war, poor man’s fight on the Secession, but at least the fighters weren’t slaves and they would fight to hold that social order.