According to Kolbert's article, objective research now demonstrates that what people think will make them happy - more "stuff" as an example - often does not make them happy in fact. If true, this should perhaps have political consequences, but Kolbert notes that there is another way of looking at the issues involved. She ends her article with the following words:
Consider again the finding that a half century of escalating consumption has not brought Americans increased satisfaction. This is a disturbing fact, and certainly one that seems pertinent to discussions of economic policy. But let's imagine, for a moment, that we had enjoyed ourselves for the past fifty years. Surely, trashing the planet is just as wrong if people take pleasure in the process as it is if they don't. The same holds true for leaving future generations in hock and for exploiting the poor and for shrugging off inequality. Happiness is a good thing; it's just not the only thing.