Economist discuss positional goods, which are goods that are in fixed supply. People can only enjoy these goods if others do not. Some examples include the best education, best jobs, and best home locations.

Positional goods for previous generations have become commonplace for this generation. For example, having central air conditioning was maybe a positional good 40 years ago. However, air conditioning is now much more common (at least in the United States). So luxuries of years ago are becoming necessities in the present.

Gregg Easterbrook in his book, ‘The Progress Paradox’ describes a paradox in which or standard of living has improved greatly, while our levels of happiness have stayed about the same. Maybe this paradox can be partly explained by the wanting of positional goods. As soon as enough people have attained positional goods, the goods no longer provide the satisfaction they used to provide. Thus, new items become positional goods and people strive for these new positional items (while their overall happiness remains unchanged).