GIVEN the choice, many of us think we want more in life rather than less. We imagine that plenty of expansion would improve our lives: expansion of horizons, of the chest, of the kitchen, but mostly of the wallet.
A costly course of enlarging cosmetic surgery, for instance, could take us a long way. But more does not necessarily make us happier. A surgical course of rapid, painless and effort-free weight loss - in the hip area, say - would cheer up many a life. So would half an inch off the nose.
But it is not only physical decrease than can help. The England football manager Graham Taylor, to name but one, would find his life much better if it contained a bit less pressure, a bit less responsibility, a bit less grief; indeed, if he had a bit less to do with English football altogether, he would improve the quality of life for the entire population.
If, in the unlikely event of Mr Taylor's winning anything at all, he scooped the Independent's pounds 30,000 first prize, he might buy a croft in the Hebrides. He could escape from the tabloid rotters comparing him to a pile of Norse manure and pick up tips on the long-ball game as it has been perfected by the local seal population.
He might even have enough left over for a few packets of seeds to cultivate a vegetable patch - a relaxing pastime in which he might excel. It is an area of life in which dull, predictable, plodding spade-work counts for more than does flair; moreover, turnips and swedes apparently thrive in a colder climate.
George Michael, too, could do with a bit less. In the midst of proceedings at the High Court, he is trying to convince the country's top legal brains that his life would be immeasurably improved if he didn't have so much contact with his record company, Sony. He could use the prize money to pay for a QC to spend a day attempting to unravel him from the binding intricacies of his contract - although pounds 30,000 might only secure him the lawyer until lunchtime. George does not need the first prize to spruce up his life: pounds 2.99 for a Gillette Contour and six double-action blades with lubricating strips is a small price to pay for some deforestation of the chin, which would make him far less of a scruffy deadbeat in the eyes of any High Court judge.
Just pounds 10 would buy him a new white T-shirt so that he would have to rely less on the black item which he has worn every day so far in court, and which, according to a report in the Sun, he has been wearing for the past five years. A life-enhancing visit to the optician's would cost not much more. George could buy a pair of spectacles which made him look less like that vigilante looney played by Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down.
Naomi Campbell, supermodel, would find things looking decidedly rosier if she spent less time sitting on the catwalk after tumbling from her platforms. A short course in deportment at the Lucy Clayton Modelling School would not cost too much - but then again, for Vivienne Westwood shows, a few hours on a building site learning how to balance on half-bricks might suffice.
The trees of the world would find their lives spruced up if they saw a bit less of Lady Thatcher; several acres of hardwood are being sacrificed on a daily basis to satisfy the pages of her monster-selling coffee-table breaker. The pounds 30,000 would send her and Denis off on a cruise lasting several months (well, if it was up and down the Manchester Ship Canal), which would simultaneously save us from the sight and sound of television and radio chat show hosts salivating over her memory.
Three others who might fancy a change in life: Bill Clinton could buy a haircut or two (though at his rates, more like a haircut and a half); Boris Yeltsin could afford a fact-finding trip to Haiti, where they know a thing or two about the dangers of democracy (and how to run a banana economy); and Nigel Short could do with seeing less of Garry Kasparov (British Airways' Club Class fare to Moscow is pounds 1,164, but these days, you could probably charter the entire Aeroflot fleet for pounds 30,000 in hard currency).
In the end, however, even the renowned and the wealthy would probably do the same as the rest of us with pounds 30,000: improve their life immediately by paying off a slab of the mortgage. Now that's what you call a life-enhancing reduction.