Or, rather, some amateur sociology about status seeking, in my latest essay.

I suspect that the most likely alternative to economic motivation is a worse motive: status-seeking. I believe that is more important to curb our lust for status than our lust for goods and services…

Trade and economic growth are positive-sum games, in which there can be winners without losers…

Status, on the other hand, is typically a zero-sum game, in which one person’s gain comes at the expense of others. Adding to the evils of status-seeking is that people often deceive themselves and others into believing that they are doing something for a higher motive when in fact they are seeking status.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen gave Thomas More’s argument that people’s need for approval is helpful to society.

if no one responded to approbational incentives of honor and shame. There would be fewer vanities and absurdities of many kinds, but extreme punishments would be needed to prevent people from breaking the law. No one would keep the law for the sake of honor. In reality, utopia is impossible, as pride and property are indispensable and society rests upon the foibles of men.

UPDATE 2: See also Gavin Kennedy.

For Discussion. Under what circumstances do you believe that the status-seeking motive would lead to better results than the profit-seeking motive?