Adams provides an excerpt from The Guide’s entry for a planet called Magrathea. In “ancient times,” it reads, the Galaxy was rich. In fact, people became so wealthy that their lives began to feel “rather dull and niggly.” They attributed this discontent to the various insufficiencies of their own worlds, deciding that they “settled on” the wrong planets. As such, they began hiring specialists to design “custom-made luxury planets.” This project took place on Magrathea, “where hyperstatial engineers sucked matter through white holes in space to form it into dream planets” that were “made to meet the exacting standards that the Galaxy’s richest men naturally came to expect.” Unfortunately, this business venture was so profitable that Magrathea became significantly richer than any other planet, throwing the Galaxy into “abject poverty” that instigated an economic crash. Since then, Magrathea has “disappeared,” and people no longer believe it ever existed at all.
According to this entry in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, a general sense of discontent is something that afflicts people throughout the Galaxy. At the beginning of the novel, Adams makes it clear that humans are saddled with unhappiness, which they try to alleviate by attaching significance to otherwise mundane concepts or objects. Apparently, though, earthlings aren’t the only species to struggle with this kind of discontent. In the same way that humans focus on money in an attempt to make themselves happier, other species fixate on the idea of buying new planets. Needless to say, both techniques are quite materialistic and most likely do nothing to improve a person’s sense of fulfillment.