The grass is greener, European wealth edition

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: The latest European Social Survey is out. And The Economist has the key chart:

Never mind the syntactically awkward question; the results are quite telling. First off, to no one’s surprise, most Europeans choose not to identify with the hypothetical speaker who lusts for wealth and expensive things. On average, only 17% classify themselves this way. Germany, at just over 10%, is pretty much in the middle of the pack for western European nations.

But look at the top and bottom. The people who least desire wealth are the ones who’ve got it; the people who most desire it are the ones who don’t. The three least wealth-seeking nations — Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands — comprise, along with Switzerland, the four wealthiest of the countries surveyed. Meanwhile, the most money-hungry countries are almost all east of the Iron Curtain; the only Western Bloc country to crack the top eight is Greece (which, let’s admit it, isn’t drawing much economic envy these days).

So is this Grass Is Greener Syndrome? Or is it that more egalitarian societies also tend to be wealthier, while every-man-for-himself Randian-style economies fall behind? The comments section is open….

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