I grew up in Las Vegas which is arguably be the most materialistic city in the world. Sex, money, shopping, entertainment in the extreme. It was an interesting upbringing. My dad ran a charity there, and that gave us the opportunity to get to know families of all kinds, from homeless people to owners of casinos. He made my siblings and me volunteer at all the agency's programs: homeless men, homeless families, abused kids, pregnant teens, delinquent boys, the elderly, homes for mentally handicapped adults, thrift stores, etc. His job brought all types to our house. We lived in a middle-class neighborhood but went to the city's best schools. I spent six months living literally dirt-poor in the Philippines, but also six months with ridiculously wealthy relatives who have a live-in staff of 5, as well as swarms of day staff. Who is most happy? I think the problem is that human happiness is complicated because human existence is complicated. We have chemical, biological, intellectual, emotional, social, and historical needs. All of these needs must be met for us to be happy. There's a hierarchy of being in the world in general and in each person. Lower, physical operations ground higher mental and emotional functions. It's hard to study when you're hungry, for example. But on the other hand, the higher functions can affect the lower ones. Mind over matter anyone? Athletes? Mystics? Aristotle had it all right in the Nicomachean Ethics--the fundamental subject of which is precisely the question, What makes us happy? His answer does justice to human complexity: We need a base level of physical/material goods to be happy, but that alone doesn't make us happy. We need health. We need family and friends (who themselves are healthy, etc., since their unhappiness would make us unhappy). Above all, we need virtue. Why? As other people mentioned above, there is a natural human need for meaning and purpose -- to feel that our lives are worth something, that we are intrinsically lovable, and, in fact, loved. Most things we do are to feel we're lovable/respectable/enviable, whatever. It's a big part of the reason we buy what we buy, choose careers, wives, husbands, post on forums, etc. On the question of whether being born rich is a bad thing: In my experience, it is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it can shift probabilities in favor of being unappreciative of the value of things and the genuine needs of others. There's an old saying that is true in terms of probabilities, not necessity: "To have little inspires thought, to have much inspires conceit." This is true not merely about money, however, but also about good looks, athletic ability, or any good. It's possible for the beautiful blond to be kind, but not likely, at least not when she's young and immature, unless she only lately grew into the beauty--which is similar to a person earning money after experiencing poverty. Money is good. It's all good. And it's all necessary. But virtue is greatest. I'd rather be a virtuous person who was poor than a rich asshole any day. And that's the case not simply because of some moral high ground, but because I'd be happier. Why? Because of that natural, inborn desire to have meaning, to be lovable. In short, goods are good, but it's better to be good than to possess goods.