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Better Happy than Rich? Canadians, Money, and the Meaning of Life

by Michael Adams

Hot on the heels of the best-selling Sex in the Snow, Michael Adams continues his examination of changing Canadian attitudes toward money and society in the equally engaging Better Happy Than Rich? Adams uses extensive research to discredit the notion that Canada and its culture is being swallowed up by its money-obsessed American neighbours.

Adams organizes Canadian society into three major “social values tribes”: the Elders, the Boomers, and the Gen-Xers, whose value systems are based on, respectively, elements from traditional, modern, and postmodern society. He then demonstrates the ways in which allegiance to these groups affects their members’ spending habits. In spite of the differences among these groups, though, Canadian society as a whole emerges as more charitable, fiscally conservative, and less beholden to patriarchal authority than its American counterpart. This movement away from patriarchy is reflected in Canada in the changing roles of fathers, mothers and children; in the hierarchical structures in the workplace; and in the candidates considered for leadership in government, business, and other influential organizations.

Such a statistics-heavy book runs the risk of burying the reader in facts and figures, but Adams’ writing style and careful use of personal anecdotes makes Better Happy Than Rich? a lively read. The impressive selection of data also raises interesting questions. Though he does warn of an increasing cultural obsession with instant gratification and material wealth, Adams offers a positive view of Canadian society, one that suggests we will not be absorbed by the American dream.