- There is a fundamental instinct that is unique to the human species and is responsible for much of history: envy.
- Humans are capable of reflecting about their own condition and the condition of other humans.
- Humans define themselves by contrasting what they have with what others lack, and viceversa.
- The gap between them and other humans is then amplified by geographic proximity between them and the "other": envy for a neighbor's possessions is much greater than envy for a distant stranger's possessions.
- We decide whether or not we have enough by comparing our conditions with those of our neighbors. There is no absolute definition of wealth just like there is no absolute definition of poverty: it is all relative.
- Envy is the engine of human history. It accounts for war, but, more subtly, it accounts for the permanent unhappiness of the human condition.
- Envy also explains the consumer society, mass products and the power of marketing. Human societies need endless economic growth because their individuals always need more. All you have to do is introduce a new good and have someone buy it. Then others will want to buy it and soon it will become a necessity. Today's necessities are yesterday's luxuries. When everybody has it, a new good will divide society again into those who have it and who don't. Those who don't have it will struggle to obtain it. In order to do so, they usually make someone else richer, so that at least one person will have something that they don't have, thereby perpetuating the cycle forever.