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[P]
Self-Interest and the Social Optimum

By gyan in Op-Ed
Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:37:54 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

Lord Richard Layard of the London School of Economics recently delivered three lectures examining happiness and its relation to absolute wealth and wealth distribution in society. He also sets forth what the purpose of public policy should be in order to "maximise the sum of happiness in society" since public policy in Western economies according to him, have failed in this regard.


He shows that despite an increase in wealth and rise of living standards, the level of happiness has stagnated.
People in the West have got no happier in the last 50 years. They have become much richer, they work much less, they have longer holidays, they travel more, they live longer, and they are healthier. But they are no happier. This shocking fact should be the starting point for much of our social science.
This is a contentious point since measuring happiness objectively has remained a controversial activity. His answer is that neuroscience can provide that objective basis of measuring happiness,
The main finding is that positive feelings correspond to brain activity in the left side of the pre-frontal cortex,somewhat above and in front of the ear. And negative feelings correspond to brain activity in the same place on the right side of the brain. (All this is for right-handed people.) ... All these methods[functional MRI] give good correlations between reported feelings and brain measurements.
Post-Adam Smith economists have used the model analogous to the psychological model that there is an evaluative faculty in humans that informs the self about current happiness and chooses the best combination of action that improves happiness. Individualism has become the dominating ideology in Western culture since the late 1970s. Economists support it by the Smithian argument that the pursuit of self-interest will lead via the invisible hand to the social optimum. So,how does it relate to economic models?
In the standard economic model, private actions and exchanges get us to a Pareto optimum where no one could be happier without someone else being less happy ... broadly speaking, the economic model says that the higher the real wage the happier the population.
Layard counters that our personal desires are a function of society's desires and that when society's standards rise, so do their desires. This means, that for someone in the bottom quarter of income, they're likely to be as happy or unhappy as their historic predecessors, despite the increase in overall standards of living. With the bottom quarter always trying to catch up with the top quarter, "a 10% rise in actual income causes a roughly 5% rise in required income." where the required income is the income perceived as sufficient to maintain status in society. They are on what psychologists call the 'hedonic treadmill'. They try to rise up a rung but in the next period that rung is once again at the bottom, from which they again try to rise,essentially a problem of addiction,where people's past standard of living affects in a negative way the happiness they get from their present living standard. The factor of rivalry is also demonstrated another way, Harvard students were subjected to a survey where they were asked to choose among two worlds(prices are the same):
A. You get $50k a year and others get half that
B. You get $100k a year and others get more than double that
A majority preferred the first choice. Given this rivalry,it is not very surprising that the rich are happier than the poor,because from their "lofty position the people they compare themselves with include a greater fraction of people who are poorer than they are. And the opposite is true of those at the bottom of the pile." So far, Layard hasn't said anything really surprising.Now,he come to his proposal to correct public policy such that "sum of happiness is maximised". Economic growth is pointless if only relative income matters. But he contends things aren't that bad,
If we compare states in the USA we find that, if other people in your state get more, you do feel worse off.But the negative feeling is not so large that it completely cancels the gain, provided your income rises as much as everyone else's. So there is hope after all. To be precise, if my income increases, the loss of happiness to everybody else is about 30% of the gain in happiness to me. This is a form of pollution, and to discourage excessive pollution, the polluter should pay for the disbenefit he causes. So the polluter should lose 30 pence out of every 100 pence that he earns - a tax rate of 30% on all additional income. Assuming the tax proceeds are returned to him through useful public spending, he will work less hard, and the self-defeating element in work will have been eliminated.
This proposal will reduce work effort and subsequently GDP, but Layard is unworried since "GDP is a faulty measure of well-being." Of course, besides making income a non-sequitor, so must be leisure. But the same survey of Harvard students show that people are not rivalrous about their leisure. But there remains the problem that actions undertaken in pursuit of status are truly fruitless at the level of society.
The fallacy here is to think of consumers and producers as different. We are each of us at one and the same time a consumer and a producer. We both consume the output and produce it. Of course I value much of what I consume, for its own sake. But, if I also seek further income and consumption as a route to status, that part of my effort is self-defeating.
Using equations to explain this:
Happinessi = func(Leisurei, Valued Consumptioni) + αRanki

For the whole society:

ΣHappiness = Σfunc(Leisure,Value Consumption) + constant
So, the existing game is zero-sum, the extra work that is done to achieve rank is totally counterproductive. The solution is that "we want people to enjoy their contribution to the social product,a notion unknown to standard economics but experienced by each one of us." Hence, the equation should be
Happinessi = func(Leisurei, Valued Consumptioni) + αRanki + βOutputi
where α is as small as possible and β is as large as possible
This game is no longer zero-sum due to the last term.

In broad terms, Layard has identified a few factors that public policy must address
  • low unemployment -> some job better than no job. Psychic impact in addition to the loss of income (the only factor that economists consider of unemployment)
  • job security -> Secure workforce is a happier workforce, even at the cost of productivity(GDP)
  • geographical mobility -> should be carefully encouraged, if people are highly mobile, they feel less bonded to the people among whom they live, and crime is more common.The evidence shows that crime is lower when people trust each other, and that people trust each other more if fewer people are moving house and the community is more homogenous...Mental illness is more likely if you live in an area where your group is in the minority[A pretty controversial suggestion, overall]
  • mental heath -> increase spending on treating mental illness, since it is the health variable most closely related to happiness. Promote psychiatry.
  • political freedom -> greater participation promotes happiness. "Bruno Frey has compared happiness in those Swiss cantons with the most frequent referenda with happiness in those Swiss cantons with the least frequent referenda. The resulting difference in happiness is roughly equal to the effect of a doubling of income."
On the other hand, Ed Hopkins and Tatiana Kornienko of University of Manitoba, examine the effects of such a consumption corrective tax, "In a more equal society those with lower incomes spend more on conspicuous consumption and are worse off". The conclusion of this paper is that
We find that greater equality induces greater conspicuous waste on the part of those with low incomes (the effect is ambiguous for the richer members of society). This enables us to show that the poor are made worse off by greater equality. Consequently, when we consider corrective taxes on conspicuous consumption, we find that the more equally is income distributed, the higher should marginal tax rates be for those with low incomes, and the lower should be marginal rates for those with high incomes. Indeed, we are able to show that in some circumstances a regressive tax, with higher tax rates (but also higher subsidies) for those with low incomes, can lead to a Pareto improvement.

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Self-Interest and the Social Optimum | 206 comments (192 topical, 14 editorial, 1 hidden)
Three assumptions (4.40 / 10) (#4)
by pyramid termite on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:33:45 AM EST

1. He assumes that the purpose of life is happiness. I'm not really sure that it is.

2. He assumes that society as it is now is a zero sum game. Considering that the amount of potential connections and reactions between people are an extremely large number that is increasing due to the world wide birthrate and the constant creation of new ideas, I think this is unlikely too.

3. He assumes that money is the central factor in happiness and that it is the main factor in this game of life. I don't agree.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
Well (none / 0) (#5)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:07:46 AM EST

He assumes that money is the central factor in happiness

 Not money directly but its ability to open avenues and it perception as a central factor in life.

 This isn't a philosophy of life as it should be, but a method to work with existing perceptions and limits and improve the human experience in general.

 To that extent, it is a practical (even if wrong) theory.

********************************

[ Parent ]

Another thing. (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:32:31 AM EST

He assumes that the purpose of life is happiness. I'm not really sure that it is.

 Well, happiness is not a purpose, rather a state.I don't know about you but most people I've met are of the opinion that they would like to be happy in life. Of course,it's entirely possible that once people become "happy" they might get bored of it. But, then it remains to be seen, just what happiness is. Although, you should read the first lecture to see Layard's definition of happiness.

********************************

[ Parent ]

I don't think so (4.50 / 4) (#8)
by dalinian on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:46:38 AM EST

He also sets forth what the purpose of public policy should be in order to "maximise the sum of happiness in society"
If we want to maximise the happiness in society, wouldn't the more obvious solution be to start developing experience machines?

Yes and no (3.00 / 3) (#22)
by psicE on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:20:15 AM EST

Nozick's experience machine is a perfect example of why we do not want to maximize pleasure. People do not want to be plugged into a virtual reality machine where they will have a perfect life; they want their life to be real, and furthermore they want to achieve success, not have it handed to them on a silver platter.

However, you're confusing pleasure and happiness. Nozick's machine will maximize pleasure. But people will be extremely reluctant to plug in, because living a fake life will not make them happy.

It is true that we do not strictly want to maximize the sum of happiness in society. That would lead to moral dilemmas where one person might be tortured for the good of a community. Still, it is practically a postulate that happiness, in some form, should be maximized.

Most economists make the same mistake you did. It is as useless to equate happiness with GDP per capita or wih average income as it is to equate it with artificial pleasure.


[ Parent ]

Mer? (4.50 / 2) (#34)
by jmzero on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:15:49 PM EST

There's no reason to restrict the machine to "pleasure".  I'm sure they could find the right little cranny on the brain to stimulate your "job satisfaction" or "self-righteous indignation" or "joy from being the last person to not get into the pleasure machine" center.

People do not want to be plugged into a virtual reality machine where they will have a perfect life;

Have you met people?  I've met a couple people, and I could see them going for this.  Me too?  Yep.  Of course.  

If people rejected it, I think it would mostly be out of fear or misconception.  People might think that it wouldn't make them "truly happy" (like tending their real garden or rubbing their real cat does) - whereas if that wasn't exactly what the machine did then that would be a flaw in the machine.

.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

experiences (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by dalinian on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:26:09 PM EST

The other poster already pointed out that the experience machine is in no way limited to producing pleasure. Any other experiences are available as well: that's why it's an experience machine and not a pleasure machine.

And I only mentioned experience machines to make the point you're making. Many people really do believe that there is more to life than having some mental state or another, and these intuitions can be used as an argument against the utilitarian ideas presented in the story.

It is true that we do not strictly want to maximize the sum of happiness in society. That would lead to moral dilemmas where one person might be tortured for the good of a community.
I don't think it would, because that is not a genuine moral dilemma. In a genuine moral dilemma there are two bad options, and I think it is reasonable to say that in this case there is only one. And if we really want to maximize the happiness in society no matter what, it is not a dilemma either, just a job for the felicific calculus.

[ Parent ]
Why not? (4.00 / 1) (#124)
by bjlhct on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:26:28 PM EST

Sure it will. You just think it won't. I'm with huxley.net here.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
No (2.00 / 4) (#23)
by jt on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:51:42 AM EST

Just kill all the lawyers and politicians.

[ Parent ]
Cuz it's nigh impossible. (4.00 / 1) (#125)
by bjlhct on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:27:43 PM EST

Nobody has ANY clue about how to do such a thing. Punmping money into it won't make it come much faster.

"just" this, "just" that, things aren't so simple.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]

that reminds me... (2.00 / 1) (#133)
by Fuzzwah on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:04:09 AM EST

The Matrix sequel is out soon.....

--
The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

Whew, that was close (4.22 / 9) (#11)
by BenJackson on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:08:15 AM EST

After the anecdotal evidence that Harvard students would prefer higher relative earnings over higher absolute earnings, followed by a restatement of the "maximize total happiness" theory, I was sure I was about to be sucker-punched with a pitch for communism. And I know I wouldn't like that, since I took a quiz that told me I was a libertarian.

Advertising and the media (4.61 / 18) (#14)
by twistedfirestarter on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:25:41 AM EST

is the cause of a great deal of unhappiness. Advertising is designed to make you feel inadequate in every way, to only feel complete if you have the latest goods and shoes.

The media is paid for by advertising, so even the "content" is designed to make people consume more - after all, the content is actually being created by advertiser's now. Which is why so many people on TV are beautiful, have beautiful cars and houses...

Get rid of advertising and my bet is happiness levels will increase dramatically. The effect should outweight whatever benefits advertising has on the economy.

Layard (1.33 / 3) (#15)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:30:10 AM EST

covers this in his third lecture :-)

********************************

[ Parent ]
fuck you (3.75 / 8) (#18)
by twistedfirestarter on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:05:46 AM EST

don't mod down comments in your own article.

[ Parent ]
Explanation (2.00 / 6) (#20)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:30:51 AM EST

I rated your parent comment a 2 because

 1)you brought up advertising as social pressure -> I consider that valid

 2)You said, get rid of all advertising -> in my view, that's not a well thought-out solution. You would require books to examine how advertising impacts society in various spheres.

 So, on balance, I gave it a 2.

I rated your rant a 0 because

 1)not a polite way to get your point across
 2)no reasoning behind your order
 3)phrased such as to incite flames
 4)disingenuous argument. Anyone can read all comments. Set your threshold accordingly. I'm not censoring anything.
 5)If I couldn't rate comments in my own article, I would have to respond to all trolls and depend on others to mod down.
6)Your order means I can't express my level of agreement or disagreement with a comment if there's nothing in the comment to reply to.

********************************

[ Parent ]

Two things (4.33 / 3) (#21)
by Simon Kinahan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:31:45 AM EST

1. Rating comments in your own article, or in reply to your comments, badly is generally considered bit rude, even though it is possible.

2. Zero ratings are for spam, and other things intended only to annoy. Read the trusted user guidelines.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Social Pressure (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by Kintanon on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:30:02 PM EST

You say "1)you brought up advertising as social pressure -> I consider that valid"

Advertising is a form of social pressure. The display of people who have more, look better, work less, vacation more, etc... etc... leads people to attempt to emulate those characters because they almost always look/act happy. When the characters have problems those problems are solved usually within the halfhour timeframe of the episode. People desire their own lives to be like those they see on television (by no means ALL people, but a lot of them) and by extension they associate the use of the products advertised during the episode with the behaviour of the characters. People feel the urge to purchase the products associated with the emotion in order to re-experience the emotion. It's not a rational or logical thing to do, it's a subconcious, emotional response to an emotional stimulus.

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

Huh? (none / 0) (#72)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:00:41 PM EST

I wasn't saying that advertising isn't a social pressure. I was saying that the OP's statement "advertising as social pressure" is valid.

********************************

[ Parent ]
I'm hallucinating (none / 0) (#73)
by Kintanon on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:06:26 PM EST

For some reason I read that twice, quoted it in my post, and STILL thought it said "I don't consider that valid".
Sorry.

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

you're wrong (5.00 / 2) (#68)
by dalinian on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:51:42 PM EST

Anyone can read all comments. Set your threshold accordingly. I'm not censoring anything.
Only trusted users can read comments rated below one.

[ Parent ]
I knew (3.00 / 2) (#74)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:06:33 PM EST

someone would bring that up.

But the OP complained about me "downmodding" his post. I rated it a 2, so I couldn't have hidden it.

********************************

[ Parent ]

hey.. (none / 0) (#134)
by infinitera on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:26:00 AM EST

ever get around to reading On Power & Ideology? ;) Just wondering.

[ Parent ]
Not yet... (5.00 / 1) (#194)
by gyan on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:13:51 PM EST

I've more important things to do, like procrastinating :)

********************************

[ Parent ]
Also (4.33 / 3) (#19)
by Simon Kinahan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:24:33 AM EST

Don't zero comments that say things you don't like. It makes you look petty.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Well well well (3.75 / 4) (#16)
by Hellraisr on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:30:41 AM EST

I wish I was so cool as to be able to go back in time 50 years and have a device that could measure happiness.



Lords delivering Lectures (3.50 / 6) (#17)
by Pac on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:04:06 AM EST

It amuses me much the Victorian picture of an assembly of noble gentlemen of knowledge, installed by the benevolent Queen to enlighten serious and respectful scientific and ethical themes with their immense wisdon.

Maybe Sir Richard could be made Royal Guardian of the Commonwealth Happiness, so my amusement could be complete.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners


Which goal? (4.14 / 7) (#24)
by jmzero on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 12:34:44 PM EST

"maximise the sum of happiness in society"

This seems like a really poor goal.  It's trivially wrong in that it is biased towards more people - which isn't clearly a good thing, and certainly doesn't seem necessary to put in our central goal.  The average happiness would be better in this way (although this would have problems too, as killing unhappy people would become a boon to society).

Even then, this allows for societies with the kinds of inequalities our goals shouldn't ask for.  For example, perhaps a large number of regular people could be made much more happy at the cost of forced prostitution by a much smaller number of supermodels.  

OK, maybe this isn't so bad.  Still, surely we should be considering protecting the minimum as well as maximizing the average (and using the total is just plain silly).

In any case, I think that the first step in such economic calculation is a decision on what exactly our goals are.  Even if we write off things like "killing unhappy people" as silly, starting off with the wrong goal is likely going to lead us to the wrong solution.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife

But (none / 0) (#25)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 12:46:18 PM EST

aren't goals of a democratic political system and culture based on "more people" rather than all people?

********************************

[ Parent ]
It's a flaw in democracy. (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by jmzero on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:06:33 PM EST

People have referred to this as the "tyranny of democracy".

It's a flaw that in large part is negated by altruism, alternate channels of affecting policy, and practicality - but it is a flaw nonetheless.  

We could predict that through altruism the basic needs of the "minimum people" would be disproportionately represented in society's overall happiness (and thus protected by our goal) - but in looking around the real world I think we have to say this is a little overly optimistic.  

Imagine that we were redesigning the compensation scheme at your place of work.  Pick a plan from the ones below (assuming the decisions as to who gets which amount will decided randomly on one occasion, and you know you'll work there for years):

  1.  Each of the 5 employees gets $10000
  2.  4 of the 5 employees gets $15000, 1 gets $1000
  3.  1 of the 5 employees gets $60000, the rest get $500
In deciding which of these plans is best, we're not just looking at things like averages, totals, or even the marginal utility of $60000 over $15000 - we're considering the possibility that we'll be the one that gets shafted.  

I'm not saying things always need to be equal or fair, just that ideas like "making sure the minimum is reasonable" need to be part of the master goal/plan.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

I would think (none / 0) (#35)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:18:05 PM EST

that Layard uses the phrase "maximising sum of happiness", we refers to it in a proportionate way.

About the minimum thing, his first lecture says

As it shows, once a country has over $15,000 per head, its level of happiness appears to be
independent of its income per head.


********************************

[ Parent ]

To be more clear: (none / 0) (#37)
by jmzero on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:31:42 PM EST

that Layard uses the phrase "maximising sum of happiness", we refers to it in a proportionate way.

As it shows, once a country has over $15,000 per head, its level of happiness appears to be
independent of its income per head.

You're talking about marginal utility differences (ie, how much better is $20,000 than $15,000) - but that's really tangential to the problem, and could be eliminated by talking about things in different units.  

The real problem is choosing exactly what we're trying to maximize, and for this the units are irrelevant.  We have to decide how we're going to evaluate a plan - whether it be based on average happiness or something else.  I'd suggest that average happiness is a good start, but that it at least needs to be mixed with a measure of minimum happiness or the like.

Alternatively, we could draw up our happiness unit scheme to bias for the kind of answer we really want in the beginning (by granting absurd happiness numbers to things like "not worrying about finding my next meal"), but this would take a lot of objectivity out of the scheme - this is not how science should work.  

Better to just write the goals as we want them, and then be objective in maximizing our success in reaching those goals.

.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#38)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:34:58 PM EST

wouldn't policy that encourages β in the equation take care of the minimum?

********************************

[ Parent ]
Practicalities (none / 0) (#40)
by jmzero on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:46:32 PM EST

It could well be that his proposed practical changes are perfect.  I don't know.

It could also be that the method he defines happiness is such that it biases in protection for the minimums.

However, we can't claim any such system is descended from a goal of "maximizing average or total happiness" and objective measurement of such.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

average (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by StephenFuqua on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:16:04 PM EST

It strikes me that we need more than an average, total, or median as a goal. A society should also have minimum standards—both of the moral kind (think 10 commandments, for example) and the physical kind (food, shelter, etc.). Happiness being dependent on brain physiology as well as circumstances, it is too vague a measure.We can isolate some causes of (un)happiness and set the minimum standards accordingly—thus striving to insure the basic circumstances for happiness.



[ Parent ]
average happiness, statistically (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by durkie on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:44:10 PM EST

When you start killing off unhappy members of society, average happiness increases only in a statistical sense. Same happiness, but less people to divide it amongst. I think that since people see that their happiness does not actually increase at the expense of others (such as through killing others off), they would be more likely to feel more unhappy (through compassion, outrage, etc) at the thought of their government killing off their fellow citizens.

So these activities that would seemingly increase the average happiness have the side effect of happy people becoming less happy as a result thereof, and this has to be taken in to account before writing off average happiness as a goal, or before hastily executing programs designed to increase average happiness

[ Parent ]

So what then? (none / 0) (#126)
by bjlhct on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:29:48 PM EST

Some happiness is more important than other happiness? Why?

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
That's one way of saying it, yes. (3.00 / 2) (#159)
by jmzero on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:42:42 AM EST

If I was designing a system wherein I didn't know what position I would end up in, I would naturally want to do as well as I could.  From simple statistics, this would mean I would want the average to be as high as possible.  However, I don't have multiple lives to even things out - so I would also be concerned that the minimum is reasonably high, even if it meant lowering the average somewhat.

One way of doing this would be, as you suggest, to overvalue the first few levels of happiness.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Hrmmm. (none / 0) (#178)
by bjlhct on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:27:41 PM EST

You seem be be operating out of an unconscious thinking that a person can only be so happy. That may be true, but this is all hypothetical.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
Mer? (1.00 / 1) (#179)
by jmzero on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:34:14 PM EST

You seem be be operating out of an unconscious thinking that a person can only be so happy.

I'm not sure where this idea came from - but I don't think it was me.  How did I suggest this?
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

I suppose it was just a guess. (none / 0) (#185)
by bjlhct on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:43:35 PM EST

But I suggest that if a is 2b and you'd rather have (a+b)/2 happiness for some time than a happiness half the time and b happiness the rest of the time, then a is not truly twice as much happiness as b.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
Yeah, we've really missed paths here (none / 0) (#191)
by jmzero on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:15:29 AM EST

As I really don't know what you mean.

Sorry - have a good day.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Here's happiness (3.33 / 3) (#26)
by tang gnat on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 12:55:19 PM EST

Your individual level of happiness is about constant for your entire life. There are short-term ups and downs as you get used to changing circumstances, but it always gets back to somewhere near contentedness. They pointed out that the level of happiness has been constant for 50 years in the face of many other changing variables.

Basically, the average Joe is a bit less than happy about the current position he's in, as long as he sees room for improvement. He thinks he'll be happier there, and he will be for the first ten minutes.

But (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:11:18 PM EST

Your individual level of happiness is about constant for your entire life.

Is it fixed?

Can you say that the 'contentedness' of a 1920s century trader is equivalent in its "amount of satisfaction" to that of a 1990s'?

********************************

[ Parent ]

Only if Joe's brain is normal. (5.00 / 2) (#47)
by 8 out of 10 doctors on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:18:57 PM EST

If Joe Average is one of the 17.5 million Americans estimated to experience clinical depression during the year, and he's not treated for it, happiness may go down the tubes no matter what income he has.
___________________________________________________

"Ha! The special agent, who is supposed to be arresting me, is actually sucking on my cock!" -- LED, Kamyla


[ Parent ]

erm (none / 0) (#202)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 03:47:27 PM EST

i hate my life...every day i wake up wishing someone will knife me, or that "they" will finally snipe me out, or that someone will nuke this god damned hicktown...your contentedness is bullshit - life is fooling yourself to think that it isn't really that bad, even if it really is. how many children have died for your consumer habits? for your gasoline? for your shoes, t shirt or pants? between that and the working for a company and ripping people off to feed myself,.. i want to puke looking in the mirror...and you appear content? content at what? what is so great in your life that the injustice around you is so insignificant? that there is nothing worth living for, and yet you are content?

as i grow older, the only people i find i take seriously are the perpetually suicidal, and unfortunately there aren't many of them left[for the obvious reasons...] ...wake your mind up and think, and you'll find life itself is a scary thing.

while you were reading this little message, somewhere in the world, a woman was raped. do you have a girlfreind? or sister perhaps?
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
Should maximise the median, not the sum (4.33 / 3) (#28)
by GGardner on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:00:39 PM EST

He also sets forth what the purpose of public policy should be in order to "maximise the sum of happiness in society"

I think this is an example of misuse of statistics. To maximize the sum, we could have one person with near-infinite happiness, and everyone else unhappy. Or, we could overpopulate, and have a near-infinite number of not-very-happy people.

A better measure would be to try to maximise the median value of happines in society.

BTW, what are the units of this happiness we are measuring?

Units of happiness (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:05:02 PM EST

are measured in relation to income. Read the transcript of the third lecture.

********************************

[ Parent ]
I think he means average not sum nt (none / 0) (#127)
by bjlhct on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:31:04 PM EST



*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
I'd be much happier... (3.77 / 9) (#39)
by randyk on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:41:13 PM EST

...if economists and sociologists would quit trying to engineer their perfect society and leave me the hell alone.

__


--
I love diaries like this. It's like a man who comes home to a burning house and asks the smoldering remains of his wife what he's missed. - rmg
So you imply (3.00 / 1) (#154)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:18:10 AM EST

1. Government shouldn't exist
or
2. Government shouldn't have any policy (spend tax money at random)
or
3. Government should have a policy for spending tax money, but not base that policy on research the best policy

Or have I misread your comment?

[ Parent ]

You Missed... (2.00 / 1) (#160)
by avdi on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:49:59 AM EST

4.  Government should be strictly limited to defense and enforcing the rule of law, thereby leaving people alone to decide on their own the best use for the money that would otherwise be taxed away.  

Why do you equate "best policy" with "the policy t certain people consider optimal for achieving a goal that they consider desirable"?  To me, "best policy" is leaving me the hell alone - which doesn't take a hell of a lot of tax money.

--
Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir
[ Parent ]

Not relevant here, but: (none / 0) (#163)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:09:06 PM EST

Law is not self evidential (someone ha to do the legislation and interpret it), and means of law enforcement is a matter of government policy.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

I could arguw with that (none / 0) (#166)
by avdi on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:59:55 PM EST

While it's true somebody has to interpret the law once it's codified, it's not true that you need legislation in order to create law in the first place.  That's actually a relatively recent concept; until sometime in the last hundred years or so, in many cultures "law" was most often synonymous with consensus community standards, and the job of the judiciary was to elucidate and codify existing common law.  The idea of creating new laws would have been seen as silly.  There's some interesting (albeit brief) history on this subject in David Boaz' Libertarianism: A Primer.

I'll grant that means of enforcement is a matter of government policy.

--
Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir
[ Parent ]

The factor of rivalry (4.40 / 5) (#41)
by DivideByZero on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:00:27 PM EST

The factor of rivalry is also demonstrated another way, Harvard students were subjected to a survey where they were asked to choose among two worlds(prices are the same):

A. You get $50k a year and others get half that
B. You get $100k a year and others get more than double that

A majority preferred the first choice.

When you say prices are the same, does that mean now, or forever? The only way choice B is desirable is if you have controls on prices. With everyone else having more money, and willing to spend more on the same products, prices are going to quickly go very high.

I would also choose A, given what you've said.


I tried to evaluate you but you return an error every time. I think fucking is out of the question. -- webwench

Even forever (4.66 / 3) (#49)
by NoBeardPete on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:30:36 PM EST

I think even if you specify that the prices of goods and services stay the same forever, most people will choose the first option. It's a thought experiment. If it makes you feel better, consider that super powerful aliens with fully automated factories and vast resources are willing to flood the market or buy stuff in whatever quantities are needed to lower or raise prices to their fixed values.

I think the crux of the matter is that there are some things that people very much want - status, an ability to partake in common social activities, the interest of attractive members of the sex they're interested in, etc - which operate in a vastly different kind of market. If everyone else makes $25k a year, and you make $50k a year, you will likely find yourself with a fair bit of status, an ability to engage in a wide range of social activities, and the economic (if not physical or personality based) means to impress and attract member of your favored sex.

If you make $100k a year, and everyone else makes $200k a year, even if prices for everything are the same, things will be different. In the first scenario, people you might want to be friends with might mostly socialize at home, or in a park, play inexpensive games, sing, dance, etc. You can join them and have lots of fun. In this scenario, though, people you might want to be friends with probably have more expensive pasttimes. They go to expensive theme parks, go out to fancy restaurants, and buy drinks at trendy bars. They may go sky-diving, or go to pricey ski resorts. You'd like to hang out with them, spend time with them, socialize, but you lack the means to do so. If you are a straight male you will quite likely have much more trouble finding dates with attractive and interesting members of the opposite sex.

In the second scenario, you will have more and better food than in the first, better healthcare, a larger and more nicer house, a faster, more reliable car, better fitting shoes, more comfortable toilet paper, and better dentistry. You will be able to afford more services - massages, tax preparers, hair stylists, and more. Nonetheless, you will probably feel much less happy, because you will be socially much worse off.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Economics and Psychology (3.81 / 16) (#42)
by drivers on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:07:53 PM EST

Two pseudo-sciences that go great together.

79.3% of soft science statistics are invented (nt) (1.00 / 1) (#78)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:52:59 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
<homer> (none / 0) (#104)
by Martin Bishop on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:00:46 PM EST

97.8% of North Americans know that.</homer>

[ Parent ]
Similar to the creationist argument against... (4.50 / 2) (#112)
by BerntB on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:39:47 PM EST

To claim that economy is a pseudo-science is common.

You can take that argument in one of two ways:

  1. Saying that all research subjects (except maybe physics and math) are pseudo-sciences.
  2. Saying that economy in particular is bad.

I'm not touching the first case. If you meant that, ignore this -- after explaining why the proof you used to reach the conclusion isn't a pseudo-science! :-)

Economy has a problem in that full scale experiments are hard to do. It is in many ways a historical science. (New data comes along, etc.) Compare economy to paleontology. It is also a historical science that has old bones to analyze. (More bones are dug up with time.)

My point is that there are obvious parallels with the ways that researchers in economy and paleontology can reach models of the world they study. Both sciences have more or less equal ways of finding information and are unable to use the scientific method as such, with experiments.

My thesis is that there is a very obvious parallel between creationist criticism of palaeontology and the criticism of economy as a science.

Criticism against both sciences tend to be from extremist groups that have no serious arguments. Their criticism seem to be based on either that all researchers in the subject are idiots or that they are in a big conspiracy.

(Please note before arguing that the criticism against economy research but not paleontology is correct -- that the economy subject has more resources, more researchers, etc. The models those people work with today are complex. Some of the smartest people around work in that field.)

[ Parent ]

My beef (4.40 / 5) (#43)
by khallow on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:22:36 PM EST

This series was pretty well thought out, and if you bought the original premises, then it didn't seem too bad a conclusion. Though I'm dubious about the rationalization for the 60% tax rate.

However, the original premise that government should try to maximize or even improve the level of happiness of its citizens is flawed for several reasons. One is that it really isn't the responsibility of the government to make people happy. Ie, I don't know of any governments that explicit cite the happiness of their citizens as a goal of the government.

Second, Lord Layard ignores the many problems with government. For example, he cites rivalry as a happiness problem. One way to best your rivals is to acquire power, say via a choice position in government. Of course, he doesn't address rivalry in a government that is funded by 60% tax rates. While he does discuss objective measures for determining happiness, he doesn't hint at how to determine whether a government is succeeding at increasing happiness. The lack of objective measures opens the way for opportunists to better themselves at the expense of society.

Finally, there seems to be a cheaper way. Ie, devise a device or drug that makes you happy all the time. After all, happiness is a state of mind right? Just turn the knob to "happy" all the time. Why do massive social experiments when a simple engineering solution does the job?

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Because (3.00 / 1) (#44)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:42:36 PM EST

your drugs would be escapism. Layard wants to create a world where happiness is reality and not an escape.

I think what Layard is really trying to create, is a world where materialism and economic concerns become non-issues. The best institution to implement this theoretically ,is government.

********************************

[ Parent ]

happy != escape? (none / 0) (#55)
by khallow on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:09:57 PM EST

your drugs would be escapism. Layard wants to create a world where happiness is reality and not an escape.

Escapism does the job, right? Who cares what is "real" as long as everyone is happy?

I think what Layard is really trying to create, is a world where materialism and economic concerns become non-issues. The best institution to implement this theoretically ,is government.

I think the individual level is the best place to combat materialism. As far as economic concerns go, I find that I have the primary responsibility for my economic well-being. Further, I like it that way. In a similar fashion, I think this should be the case for everyone else. Macroscopic economic concerns do fall under the domain of governance. However, government has proven based on milenia of evidence to be an extremely poor way to implement ideal worlds. I'd say that the most successful experiments occured when the power of government was restricted substantially. Think about that.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Not really (none / 0) (#70)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:55:26 PM EST

Escapism does the job, right? Who cares what is "real" as long as everyone is happy?

 Well,if the escapism doesn't last forever, then there is fall back to reality. Which could lead to depression.

Besides, there is no such thing as a permanent drug.

********************************

[ Parent ]

Permanent drug... (none / 0) (#102)
by Martin Bishop on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:59:21 PM EST

besides religion you mean?

[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#117)
by gyan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:08:21 PM EST

Religion isn't a permanent effect. You have Ups and Downs there as well. There is nothing such as a drug that acts permanently and effectively.

********************************

[ Parent ]
soma [nt] (none / 0) (#197)
by infinitera on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 02:32:21 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Declaration of Indepence Perspective (3.00 / 2) (#46)
by cronian on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:04:30 PM EST

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
(Declaration of Independence, Emphasis Added)

The idea is not that the government should make everyone happy, but that everyone should have an opportunity to become happy. There are different ideas on how to achieve this, but it should include flexibility and dynamicism. The alternative would be some utopian ideal, and I think this "genius" just proved that utopias don't work.



We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
right! (1.00 / 1) (#53)
by khallow on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:58:56 PM EST

A person has the right to look for happiness, but government shouldn't be in the position where it's responsible for making them happy.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

+1 fp (2.62 / 8) (#45)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:47:28 PM EST

+1 fp just to see the libertarians and ayn rand acolytes choke on it.

let us see them try to deconstruct such an obvious good in the name of their self-serving blindness.


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

No (2.66 / 3) (#52)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:53:06 PM EST

We won't try to deconstruct it, because we don't believe in the concept of "the best thing for society as a whole."

I will say that utilitarianism has been used to justify some pretty horrible acts of trampling on the rights of the individual in the interests of all society.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

Most (5.00 / 2) (#54)
by duncan bayne on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:04:10 PM EST

"...utilitarianism has been used to justify some pretty horrible acts..."

Actually, I'd say *most* horrible acts in modern history.

[ Parent ]

yes, but (none / 0) (#64)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:38:29 PM EST

mao's great leap forward WAS pretty pathetic

but it is easy to point to the flash flood of socialist idiocies and yell "disaster", and forget all of the little selfish raindrops, no?

and i suppose the raindrops of individual, forgotten, day-by-day selfish acts that do not get the historical press coverage and attention of mao's great leap forward might just add up to a deluge 100 times larger the flash floods you recognize?

forgive my poetic license, but i think the point i am trying to make is that you miss the obvious.


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Your words sicken me (none / 0) (#67)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:49:36 PM EST

Do you realize that you are saying a society that embraces individual freedom is worse than mass genocide?

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
what i am saying (none / 0) (#71)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:57:05 PM EST

socialism is idiotic

libertarianism is idiotic

the middle road is always the best choice

libertarianism and socialism are extremes on a continuum

and the extremes offer us mass genocide, in bulk form (socialism, sudden giant horrible idiotic acts of horror) or individually packaged (libertarianism, every day tiny awful selfish acts of moral repugnance)

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

the middle road (4.75 / 4) (#80)
by aphrael on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:57:58 PM EST

the middle road is always the best choice

There's a dangerous fallacy there. While it might be true in the general case, it's appliability defines on what you define the extremes are. If the debate shifts so that the current middle road is where one extreme was a year ago, the middle road may no longer be the best choice.

[ Parent ]

you are correct (none / 0) (#83)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:21:39 PM EST

but why did you attribute to my view that the middle road does not shift over time?

of course it changes over time, that's what makes it the middle road. ;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

The Value Of Extremism (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by duncan bayne on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:51:40 PM EST

I'd like to argue the value of extremes, as opposed to the middle road, but someone else has said it so much better already:

The Virtue Of Extremism

"One doesn't say, 'I like my butter to be moderately rancid, my eggs to be moderately rotten, my meat to be moderately putrefied, my vegetables to be moderately decomposed, with the degree of rancidness, etc., to be determined by consensus' - in order to avoid charges of 'extremism'."

Read it and think.



[ Parent ]
yes, yes, yes... (3.00 / 2) (#88)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:58:27 PM EST

you forgot to add the other tired one: something about the middle of the road being a place for yellow lines and dead armadillos

gee what wisdom and insight! these are all punchy quotes... would you mind telling me what the hell they mean?

no really, explain to me why they should persuade me, or some impartial reader, as to their wisdom content.

they cant', why? they DON'T CONTAIN ANY WISDOM. they make people LAUGH. but on closer examination they have the intelligence content of... RANCID BUTTER. lol ;-)

you have the punchy soundbite with no real intelligent content mastered... you know, you should consider a life in politics, lol ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Read the article (4.00 / 2) (#91)
by duncan bayne on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:09:35 PM EST

If you read the article, you'd realise that extremism is a virtue when applied to values; e.g. being moderate about not initiating force against others is wrong, and being moderate about requiring non-decomposed food is just stupid.

The reason I posted the quote is I considered it was the best single example of how stupid the concept of moderation is.

Now, go away and read the article, and critique it (if you can).



[ Parent ]
i won't read the article (1.66 / 3) (#92)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:25:18 PM EST

i don't have to read some stupid article, as your entire proposition is absolutely ludicrous.

i said, moderation is always the best choice...

what i forgot to add is... when talking about ideological views.

so, you may proceed to call me an asshole for changing what i said midstep, and i may continue to think of you as an absolute moron for thinking i meant to apply this to... what is your stupid example? rotten food?

context

hello? do you know what "context" means?

hello? any brain in there?

what does "taken out of context" mean to you neanderthal? lol ;-P

wait, wait, i have a diffrent approach...

ok, you win! my point is completely wrong!

why?

because my point on moderation is not correct as applied to rotten food as compared to fresh food!

HOW COULD I POSSIBLY FORGET THAT!!??

oh shit! i feel like such an idiot! thank you fine sir for reeducating me on such an obvious and blatant logical misstep on my part!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

idiot

;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Values (2.00 / 1) (#97)
by duncan bayne on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:39:04 PM EST

Why should philosophical values be any different from food?  There is no difference between saying 'Fresh food is good, so I will eat the freshest food I can find', & saying 'Murder is bad, so I won't murder anyone ever'.

[ Parent ]
values and ideologies (2.00 / 1) (#103)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:59:23 PM EST

ok, you have reduced me from making jokes and making fun of you to talking to you directly and openly and without sarcasm... how dare you. lol ;-P

yes, you are correct about values.

yes, i am correct about ideologies.

now, tell me: what is the difference between a value- "i value fresh food" and an ideology- "i am a libertarian"?

a value is concrete judgment.

an ideology is a group of values.

so a group of points, taken together, that drift to one side of the metaphysical road, fail to adequately address the real world and how it plays out.

so a value: "personal accountability is good" makes sense. while an ideology: "personal accountability is all that is needed to make society work" does not. "how does society work?" is a question that encompasses many values, no?

("personal accountability is all that is needed to make society work" is just a rhetorical example, don't troll my understanding of libertarianism here.)

so i say to you that libertarianism does not have all of the value points within its philosophy to ensure that society does not stray into dangerous territory: injustice, inequality, etc.

therefore, if you balance libertarianism against another ideology, another set of values, another partial set of values that is also flawed but in a way that is different than libertarianism- socialism for example, then you begin to approach a way to understand society that minimizes something that both socialism and libertarianism try to address: a better society.

see?

the middle of the road. moderation. isn't that stunning.

in this way, you are correct, and i am correct, and we can all get along and kiss and hug and make up. ok, i'm back to my sarcastic self now, thank you. ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Middle of the road? (5.00 / 1) (#131)
by DangerGrrl on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:28:46 AM EST

I am not sure how you can say the middle of the road is ALWAYS the right choice for everything?

Isn't it a matter, on a majority of issues, of personal, individual right to choose what side they want to be on? Middle of the road sounds... Indecisive.

How can you be "middle of the road" on whether murder is right or wrong. (Note I say Murder, not Self Defense.)How can you be middle of the road on abortion? healthcare? School Vouchers?

Or are you talking about adaptability? Taking some choices from column A and column B.

I'm really wondering who or what gave you the idea that libertarians commit "every day acts tiny awful acts of selfish repugnance." What do you consider these acts to be? Cohabitation? Drinking out of the milk carton? Leaving wet towels on the floor? Blasting their base woofer sound system at 8am? What?

[ Parent ]

and selfishness of the individual... (4.33 / 3) (#57)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:18:20 PM EST

has never ever led to horrible acts, right?

naivete incarnate

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

What's this? (1.00 / 1) (#59)
by valeko on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:21:34 PM EST

Circletimessquare, is that really you? Have you turned over a new leaf or something?

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart
[ Parent ]

what, do i have fan club a la turmeric now? ;-P nt (1.00 / 1) (#65)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:43:03 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
No. (1.00 / 1) (#123)
by valeko on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:23:42 PM EST

I'm just (pleasantly) surprised to see such a sensible point coming from you.

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart
[ Parent ]

here's another one: (none / 0) (#186)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:56:19 PM EST

don't let prejudice close your mind. everyone has a reputation. but their reputation should never alter their credibility. credibility is a code word for some group or person's approval, and that approval or lack thereof is often off the mark.

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Depends on how you define selfishness (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by DangerGrrl on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:59:39 PM EST

If you use the common meaning with all of it's connotation, then yes. Yes it has.

However, if you use Rand's definition, which lacks connotation of evil, and is the antithisis of "Selfless" or "having no sense of self" then no, no it hasn't. A selfish person in Objectivism terms would have no need to do horrible things to others. A Selfish person (again, using AynRandian English) would be able to use reason to see that it is not in their best interest to harm others. An act of violence done out of emotions of anger  is an irrational act. A person who knows his or her self and is true to that knowledge has no need for the irrational.

I'm currently working on a paper about Objectivsm and Ms. Rand. So before you go decrying her work, keep in mind a couple of things:

  1. English is her second language. This is very apparent in her litteral definition of "selfless" and can also be seen in her long monologues. Often those who have English as a second language feel the need to write more to get a point across because there are words that do not convey the same meaning as theirs.
  2. The tenents of her philosophy were written after her novels. She thought they should be apparent to all who read them. It wasn't until
  3. She was an INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs.
  4. She did not approve of the Libertarian Party. (I think she would have had a fit if she heard about the NYC Libertarian Parties 'guns for tots' program.)
  5. She lived through the attrocites of socialist communism and saw her father's lifes work destroyed by it.
  6. She saw things such as 'Freedom' and 'Liberty'as tangable absolutes. (Again I think this was as a result of language translations, but not knowing Russian, I have no way to check this.)
And if I make this post any longer, it will have to be it's own story... But I hope you get the point.

[ Parent ]
you are correct on the details (none / 0) (#86)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:46:35 PM EST

you are correct on the details, it would be folly for me to counter them.

but my aim is to not defame ayn rand, or get into a gigantic heuristic debate about the exact meaning of this or that.

the gist of her philosophy, or, to take your point of view into account, the gist of her philosophy as it has been interpretted by most other people, results in the preservation of the haves at the detriment of the have nots.

you see, libertarians and ayn rand acolytes fail to see how their ideology plays out in the real world. it is one thing to discourse at length about idealized, academic abstract concepts in a utopian setting. it is another thing to watch how those concepts actually play out with human nature at work, where a subset of human behavior that is not encompassed by libertarianism and ayn rand's philosophies digress the lofty goals of these ideologies into something more unequal, not less.

namely, proponents of these ideals are very good at seeing how the havenots do not deserve this that or the other thing for doing no work. and they are correct to point out that the negative effect of socialist policies on personal character and personal accountability. socialism is just as big a folly.

but they are not very good at seeing how their reverse ideology plays out in the real world because what it essentially does- and they either do not understand this or they do understand this and they dismiss it without giving the phenomenon its proper weight, is that their ideology protects the haves at the detriment of the have nots.

they do not create equality by elevating the poor through character building exercises, they merely preserve the status quo because they do not understand how social structures concentrate and fossilize pools of wealth amongst historically priveledged groups or individuals. if you do actively counter that phenomenon through socialist means, you wind up with a society more unequal than that which the libertarians and ayn rand acolytes despise. and they don't understand how their much vaunted ideals are their own worst enemy if their lofty goal is a society of equal individuals.

no man is an island people. get it straight.

and a society is merely the sum of its individuals acting out in their own best interests, not some sort of quasi-organism. get that straight, socialists. the point that libertarians and ayn rand types don't understand that "acting in your best interest" is not always altruistic, and people will always be breaking the rules, regardless of educational background or high moral character or whatever. there must be checks built into the STATE to prevent one person's selfishness warping the structure of society.

yes, you heard me right libertarians, we NEED A STATE. who fills your potholes? who ensures that your airbag works? market principles? jesus christ you idiots. some of you propose anarchy and don't even understand that is all you essentially propose, not libertarianism. anarchists calling themselves libertarians. jesus christ the fools out there.

of course, at this point the kneejerkers reading this will scream at me "you socialist fool!" but:

i am not a socialist.

i am not a libertarian.

i believe that both ideologies must act in tandem in society, both ideologies have something to teach us about the best path to take as a society or as an individual. this is because neither ideology properly captures and defines the good and bad aspects of human nature as they play out in the real world.

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Simple things. (none / 0) (#94)
by rcs on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:27:25 PM EST

I am not a socialist.

I am not a libertarian.

I am an anarchist. Despise me if you want for it, but please, don't try the high and mighty thing.

Who fills your potholes? You do.

Who ensures your airbags work? You do.

Do you understand this, or shall I explain a little more?

The State creates nothing. It takes and redistributes. Usually to those who have done nothing to earn it. As well as reduces the total amount of value involved in the overhead for this taking and redistribution.

(Hint: You're the one it's taking from.)

--
I've always felt that there was something sensual about a beautiful mathematical idea.
~Gregory Chaitin
[ Parent ]

i am glad you are an anarchist (2.25 / 4) (#100)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:46:48 PM EST

no, i really am. anarchists make great music. lol

now go back to your mad max movie reruns and leave the discussion ABOUT society to those who say they are A PART OF society.

at least libertarians care about the damn thing. you don't even care about it.

because if you are an anarchist, you dismiss your role in society, no?

and being not a part of society then, then you lose your right to criticize it, no?

now go away and bother your parents for some mall money you teenage fool, or i shall be forced to bitchslap you around some more. lol ;-P

you are just a teenage fool with dreams of anarchy, and i can tell, because a real anarchist would not be trolling kur5hin with their computer and their internet connection, a real anarchist would be out blowing up transformer stations and out in the cornfield cutting up fibre optic backbones.

or is it that you sustain yourself off of the fruits of the society you hypocritically pretend to not be a part of?

fool... young uneducated naive fool, but still a fool... you'll grow up... just don't leave to big a mark here or on your police rap sheet while you entertain your romantic notions of anarchy in your misbegotten youth lol ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

State can create (and anyone else can, too) (4.00 / 1) (#181)
by Viliam Bur on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:45:15 PM EST

Creating things is not just working with your hands. If you have something/someone to coordinate people, to lead them in a similar direction, you can achive better results.

For example, imagine 10 people programming Tetris, each alone. At the end, you get 10 average games. If one of them will stop programming, and instead of it he will contact the other 9 by internet, and tell them to work on one project, they may together produce a 1 much better game. Now, did the 10th guy create a value, or did not he?

You may argue that the value was actually created by the remaining 9, that every line of code was written by them... but still, the result in the second case is differemt from the first, thanks to the 10th guy.

This is an effect that anyone can do, including state. (By this I am not saying that anyone else could not do it better, or that state always does the good thing,...) And I think that this kind of work is much more useful/needed/rare than the simple labor.

[ Parent ]

Of course the state creates something (4.00 / 1) (#184)
by Nelziq on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:14:32 PM EST

This is like saying that your bank creates nothing. It just takes a bunch of peoples money and shuffles it around a bit.

Actually its the government that creates something. The result of a government is a state (like the result of a script is a play or the result of a program is a process).

Its the existence of a state that makes much of the workings of modern society possible. Its social infrastructre just as important as the physical infrastructre of roads, powers lines, and fiber optic cables.

[ Parent ]

Thought you should know (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:14:29 PM EST

As a self-professed "middle of the road" American, I will assume you support the status quo. Congratulations - you're doing a brilliant job of eliminating class lines. Go ahead, pat yourself on the back.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
as opposed to you? (none / 0) (#109)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:24:11 PM EST

if what you accuse me of is true, then what pray tell do you offer that is any better?

seriously, you attack me, but you provide no details.

you either have none, and are just attacking me for trollish reasons, or you have good superior details that you are not disclosing.

and by not disclosing them, i suppose then that makes you superior to me?

i guess that's just me and my "status quo" ways i guess, lol ;-)

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Don't read too much into it (none / 0) (#113)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:43:10 PM EST

I was merely pointing out that it seems a little contradictory for a statist to say that class division is bad.

Me? I'm a libertarian. And please don't view every response as an attack on you personally.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

statist and moderation (1.00 / 1) (#114)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:49:36 PM EST

i am not a statist. i believe in human progress. and it is to be found in moderate consideration of the teachings of socialism, and libertarianism, taken in equal aspect.

librtarianism, taken by itself, leads to ruin and folly. that you cannot see that is why i take offense.

and i don't take offense at your comment, i take offense at YOU. YOUR FLAWED IDEOLOGY.

btw, consider that a personal attack. lol ;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#115)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:55:24 PM EST

librtarianism, taken by itself, leads to ruin and folly

Never having been tried, I don't know how you can say this to a certainty.

i don't take offense at your comment, i take offense at YOU. YOUR FLAWED IDEOLOGY.

You shouldn't be. But I support your right to be offended by my FLAWED IDEOLOGY.

In closing, you're a poopie-face.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

lol (none / 0) (#118)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:18:39 PM EST

i take offense at your not taking offense at my humor at your expense that you find humorous! lol ;-P

meanwhile...

seriously, libertarianism is flawed dude.

and your argument that it hasn't been tried is kind of a no go.

i mean, we haven't tried out sharia law either, and i can find plenty of people who would say it is the answer to all of our problems. ;-P

my personal philosophy on life is more mature than yours.

seriously: it encompasses libertarianism, and extends it. your libertarianism is but a subset of my worldview.

there, now you can accuse me of being an egomaniac. ;-P

libertarianism is reductive, simplistic, fundamentalist, absolutist, utopian, idealistic, naive.

have you ever considered the possibility that some people are so blind to their own selfishness that their personal philosophy becomes a simple extension of that?

of course we are all selfish. but some are selfish with an awareness of self, and some are selfish and are blind to their own selfishness.

such people create suffering.

then the problems of the world is not so much an extension of those who work hard and receive what is rightfully there's versus those who do nothing and expect something for nothing... it becomes an issue of those who say they are priveledged to something and so deserve it, be damned to everyone else.

you condemn such a philosphy on one hand: from the desire of the havenots, and then eventually, you only wind up proposing the same idea from a different direction: from the desire of the haves.

haves and havenots exist in the world. and it is not always equitable how this comes to be. your world philosophy fails to recognize this unfair distribution, and so winds up supporting the haves at the expense of the havenots.

i have no doubt you work hard and deserve much for your efforts. but, in your rush to justify your just deserves, you promote a simplisitc philosphy which preserves the current unfair distribution of weath at the expense of the havenots and the benefit of the haves.

you so cuttingly see how it is unfair for the havenots to get something for nothing, but you fail to see how your philosophy fails to address the haves getting more than they deserve, in progressive accumulation.

so, in the end, your philosphy actually extends to a disavowal of your hard work as the gauge of the meritocracy you profess to promote. your libertarian philosophy actually preserves a world of egalitarian priveledge without reason.

somewhere, out there, is a havenot toiling hard, and not getting as much as they deserve. and your philosophy does not protect them, it protects those who currently benefit from them.

libertarianism provides for no addressing of preexisting inequalities in the world. it ignores them.

you fail to see that. your philosophy is simplistic because it provides for no mechanism to address preexisting inequalities. you doggedly disavow the creation of new inequalities, but you do not address existing inequalities. so your personal philosophy is flawed and simplistic.

you don't have to feel guilty about that if you are an honest person. and i believe you are an honest and sincere person who simply doesn't understand the big picture. so don't feel bad about the failings of your philosophy.

there, now i have patronized you too. ;-P

you should have some more self-awareness of the true nature of how your philosophy actually plays out in the real world, instead of how it plays out in your smaller subset of the real world, or in the real world as you misunderstand it, or in some academic book idealizing some impossible utopia.

remember this exchange:

librtarianism, taken by itself, leads to ruin and folly

Never having been tried, I don't know how you can say this to a certainty.

and know this:

sometime in the past, in tsarist russia, the same exchange took place. just replace the word "communist" for the word "libertarian". ;-)

so the question for you is now: we know how russia paid for flirting with absolutist ideology. how much do you propose we pay for flirting with your absolutist ideology?

all absolutism is bad. from any corner of the room. yours is no better than theres. the middle of the room, keeping both eyes on both corners, is true wisdom.

and that is me, not you.

know that, and grow as a person, and relax your grasp on absolutism.


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Random thoughts (none / 0) (#119)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:48:20 PM EST

Are you the timecube guy?

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA (none / 0) (#121)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 10:01:46 PM EST

i only wish i could be!

he's a genius!

lol ;-P

Since I have informed you of Nature's Harmonic Time Cube 4-Day Creation Principle, your stupidity is no longer the issue.  For now, the issue is just how evil you are for ignoring Life's Highest Order, and just how long the
Time Cube will allow you to plunder Earth before inflicting hell upon you.

madlib flip

Since I have informed you of the stupidity of Libertarianism, your stupidity is no longer the issue.  For now, the issue is just how evil you are for ignoring Life's Highest Order, and just how long Libertarianism will allow you to plunder Earth before inflicting hell upon you.

i like it! i really do! lol ;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Folly of a large paintbrush (5.00 / 2) (#129)
by DangerGrrl on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:03:05 AM EST

I think you are generalizing Libertarians and Objectivists with a very large paintbrush.

Libertarians, as far as I have seen, have no problem with the state, it's the federal gov't putting their hands in your wallets that is the issue. They would like less gov't all around it's true, but most understand Interstate Commerce and the means to do it with (i.e. roads.)

And to talk about roads, an Objectivist would have a BIG problem with the way we take contracts from the lowest bidder to pave those roads. As a result of this "who can do it for the least amount of money" mentality, we have those potholes a year after a road has just been paved. There is a component missing, who can do THE BEST JOB for the least amount of money. And Sometimes the least amount of money is not the best job. If we are going to give government money to provide for us, we should get what we pay for, no?

I have found that many who claim to be Objectivists fall flat on actually grasping the concepts.

I personally vote Libertarian and I enjoy Ayn Rands Philosophy. I support Publicly Funded Education, Roadways, Law Enforcment, Defense and Healthcare. Why? Because it is in my best interest to see these things happen. When the health and education of a population goes up, quality of life increases and crime decreases.

My life is made better when others have no need to want what I have. This, to drag out the overly used Maslow's Heirarcy, requires massive selfactualization on the part of the population. For that to even fathom to happen, base needs must be met.

I am selfish, in that I live for me. If I were to live for anyone else, as I have (I'm sure most of us have at one point or another), I would become greatly dissapointed for them not living up to my expectations or for me not living up to thier expectations.

I am selfish, but I am aware that I do not exist in a vacuum. I will not help those who do not want help. But I will offer the hand to those who do.

I am selfish, but I will ask for help, because I can not know everything and there are other people who can do things better than me. I'm a rhetorician, not a statistician, and would probably have to ask a statistician for asistance on any research I do. And I will give credit where credit is due, not hog the glory for my own ends, for in the long run, that would destroy who I am, and I would be selfless.

Am I making any sense here? Beware of painting Libertarians and Objectivists with the same brush. They are different concepts, and calling oneself a Libertarian or Objectivist does not necessarily mean they fully grasp the concept.


[ Parent ]

alphabet soup (none / 0) (#138)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:42:53 AM EST

objectivism? jesus christ.

call yourself a duck, call yourself a garden hose, whatever.

as long as your selfishness does not rise above your humanity, you are fine.

libertarianism is used by some to justify selfishness.

this is moral failure masquerading as philosophy.

dress it up with as many syllables as you want, but for anyone who does this, it stinks.

you are not the problem, it is the road you pave for people with less humanism than you that is the problem. do not be blind to how your words and work can be exploited by others who have no interest in the careful symbolism and balance you create.


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Ayn Rand Acolytes == Objectivists (5.00 / 1) (#147)
by DangerGrrl on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:47:18 AM EST

If your going to talk about a population with such vitrol, you should at least know what they are called.

How much research have you done to form such a harsh oppinion anyway?

[ Parent ]

how much research? (2.00 / 1) (#173)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 05:43:03 PM EST

you suffer from a common failure.

you assume i must be doctoral level knowledge on the subject to debate the subject.

if this were the case, how many posts do you think would be on kuro5hin? ;-)

you may reject my words if this is your basis for intelligent debate.

enjoy your loneliness.

the fact is, the common interpretation of libertarianism is used to justify personal selfishness. shall i list my credentials for you in this context? or do i pass your vaunted academic tests now? do you deny that common interpretations of political philosophies are more important than academic ones in the real world?

that is enough for me. i am afer common libertarians, not academic level researchers. i am grateful at your excellent knowledge on the deeper historical meanings of things. as if meaning doesn't change over time, or as if popular understanding holds no value.

understand that. this is not an academic debate.

i suppose you will say that that is the problem with the world, no one takes time to understand something before shooting their mouth off.

yawn.

welcome to the human race. tell me when that ever became an impediment for anyone.

you either except that fact, or enjoy life in an academic ivory tower.


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

But a debate never the less (3.00 / 1) (#176)
by DangerGrrl on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:15:54 PM EST

You say:
the common interpretation of libertarianism is used to justify personal selfishness.

I ask for proof, examples, something, ANYTHING that supports this.

What you give is not an interpretation, it is a MISinterpretation of a political philosophy.

Even outside the academic realm you need to give evidence for your argument to stand up. If your going to hold strong oppinions you should at least have the knowledge to back them up under scrutiny. I'm not asking you to be a philosophy major, but if you have objections to the Libertarian party and the philosophy of Objectivism, you should at least be able to get specific on what it is you don't like. It's not like it takes a rocket Scientist to look up the Libertarian party website or ply Ayn Rand into google and spend 15 minutes reading up on the subject.

How's the bumper sticker go? "Beware of people who hold strong oppinions on things the do not understand."

Show me you understand this. Please.

 

[ Parent ]

i understand this (1.00 / 1) (#177)
by circletimessquare on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:25:11 PM EST

so, for you:

i have no point, i am humbled, i suck.

nothing i say is worthwhile to you.

you are 100% correct, and everything i have said about the libertarian party is false.

i have nothing good to say about the libertarians, i am merely a propagandist out to spread vicious lies.

happy now?

the question is, what do you not understand by taking your academic ivory tower as the arbiter of all things?

i fail to see how we will communicate past this point, as i am not willing to abide by your academic rules, and you fail to understand the value of common interpretations outside of academia. you say i need to show proof, links. i say to you anything i assert is easily findable on google. so what exactly is your point, that you want me to play your link fetching boy?

so my words will be useless to you, that is fine, i do not need to talk to unflexible academics. and you do not need to talk to lying propagandists, as you seem to understand me.

but know this: it is to your folly to not understand me as anything more than as a propagandist, not mine.

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

calculated selfishness (none / 0) (#120)
by m a r c on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:59:13 PM EST

"A selfish person in Objectivism terms would have no need to do horrible things to others. A Selfish person (again, using AynRandian English) would be able to use reason to see that it is not in their best interest to harm others. " - how would it not be in a person's best interest to harm others if they were to gain from it.
I got a dog and named him "Stay". Now, I go "Come here, Stay!". After a while, the dog went insane and wouldn't move at all.
[ Parent ]
Temporary gain (5.00 / 1) (#130)
by DangerGrrl on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:10:03 AM EST

Because there would be only temporary gain before others rose up against it. (Re: Hitler)

Gain from harming others is irrational.
Companies killing customers for profit destroys thier consumer base. Governments are forced to step in and put constraints on companies. (Re: Tobbacco)

On the smaller personal scale, define hurting others. Hurting someone's feelings? Punching them in the nose? What?

[ Parent ]

You can recycle people (none / 0) (#180)
by Viliam Bur on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:36:08 PM EST

You can have a strategy that involves destroying your customer... but meanwhile the customer will bring in 3 new customers. What's irrational about it? (Amway, Scientology,...)

The reasons why people join are often not rational, but the system itself is.

Hitler exploited his whole "market" too fact - it did not have time to recycle. A moderate strategy of attacking only one country after another, etc, could survive a longer time. (I am not giving an example here, because then I would seem to be anti-USian...)

[ Parent ]

The system isn't the problem (none / 0) (#195)
by DangerGrrl on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:42:17 PM EST

Right, and the people not acting in a rational fashion means they have no sense of self that they can not find the inherent flaw in the system.

Atleast, so says objectivism.

[ Parent ]

We are all born (none / 0) (#198)
by Viliam Bur on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 03:21:46 PM EST

without a "sense of self". It develops approximately at the age of 2 or 3. Unfortunately, for some people it takes incredibly more time - but this is the reality of the world we live in.

[ Parent ]
assuming equal power (none / 0) (#206)
by m a r c on Mon Apr 07, 2003 at 03:20:40 AM EST

people will only rise up against a system if they have the power to do it. In the case of hitler the german society were not the ones to rise up as they had their power taken away. The rest of the world did but the outcome could have gone either way for a while. If someone else had an inherent advantage over me(say intelligence, appearance, status) why would they not use this to their advantage? It would be a nice idea to believe that people who have an inherent advantage would be benevolent towards the rest, however i doubt it.
I got a dog and named him "Stay". Now, I go "Come here, Stay!". After a while, the dog went insane and wouldn't move at all.
[ Parent ]
It is sometimes rational to cheat (none / 0) (#183)
by Nelziq on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:09:08 PM EST

But this is patently untrue. If you believe that you have a reasonable chance of not getting caught and the pay-off is worth it, it would be perfectly rational to screw over the next guy. Also if you are in a position of power and the other guy is incapable of retaliating its perfectly rarional to take advantage of them. For example if you were in a hypothetical situation where you have a 1% of getting caught and spending a year in jail but a 99% chance of getting away with it and having a million dollars would you do it? The perfectly rational choice for most people would be yes.

[ Parent ]
Subjective happiness is a shoddy guide (4.20 / 5) (#58)
by Spork on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:19:31 PM EST

It's very British to think that personal happiness is the only goal worth striving for. That might not be wrong, but I think it's clear we should not be guided too much by personal assessments of happiness. These studies have some funny correlations.

For example, education correlates very negatively with happiness. The more educated are far less likely you are to be happy, other things being equal. (It has also been shown that atheists report being far less happy than religious people, but since the same studies show atheism is strongly concentrated among educated people, it's probably the education itself that is to blame.) So according to a simplistic interpretation of the study, education is actually bad because it makes you predisposed to say that you're not very happy.

But that seems to me an absurd conclusion. Clearly, something can be good for a person even if it doesn't make that person happier. Knowing stuff, for example, might not make you (say you are) happier, but even if it doesn't, knowledge is worth striving for.

I think the only legitimate goal of a state is to make sure that its citizens flourish, and happiness is one component of flourishing. However, it's too simplistic to put all our eggs in that basket.

Having said that, I acknowledge that personal happiness is a very important component of flourishing, and that the suggestions of Layard are very much on the right track in describing the responsibilities of a state. A state that doesn't see to it that its people flourish is neglecting its only duty.

I agree, however I find your argument is flawed (3.66 / 3) (#76)
by halfStarted on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:25:40 PM EST

Wow, you got me to reply...

I have been a lurker on K5 for a good while now but have I have never felt that I had anything worth adding, until now that is. Even though it is not the point that you are trying to make in your comment I personally believe that education does in fact have a very strong and positive impact on one's ability to achieve happiness and that the correlation that is seen in the studies that you are referring to is a statistical aberration more than it is education being causal to unhappiness.

My argument, which I freely concede, is based more on philosophical belief than on studies. I propose that education increases ones happiness in two major ways. First, I believe that at its base levels an individual's happiness is caused by one's ability to satisfy his or her physical and emotional needs. In addition to this I believe that to varying extents humans have a fundamental need for knowledge. Through its ability to satisfy this need education can aid in increasing the happiness of an individual. Secondly and quite possibly more importantly I would argue that by possessing a greater understanding of the world we live in we possess a greater ability for enjoying the world we live in. Granted there are many ways to acquire knowledge beyond a formal education but in general I believe that it is one of the most effective ways to accomplish this.

Finally I would argue that simplifying the findings of studies claiming that first most atheists are well educated and secondly that most atheists are unhappy supports the conclusion that an education causes unhappiness does not hold. The major flaw in the argument is that while the studies support (or seem to from the claims you have made) that atheism is causal to unhappiness they do not show a causal relationship in education leading to atheism. Now had the studies first show that most educated people are atheists and then that most atheist are unhappy, well then I should shut up and go mind my own business.

In closing I do in general agree with the premise of your comment but the use of a pore argument (and one which I strongly disagree with) hurts the point you are trying to make.

Cheers.

[ Parent ]
Quick response (3.50 / 2) (#171)
by Spork on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 02:35:56 PM EST

I'm glad you thought about the argument. I'm afraid I won't provide any links to studies, but the fact that educated people report a lower personal happiness is so well documented (in repeated studies that span decades) that every single undergraduate psychology textbook presents it as something completely uncontroversial.

About the atheism: This is discussed less frequently (except in Christian propaganda, and there, with profound distortions). Atheists are as happy or slightly happier than religious people with a similar education background, according to studies I've read about. However, atheists report a significantly lower personal happiness than religous people when you don't adjust for education. Why? Because atheists have, on the average, vastly more education than religious people. This again is fact that flows directly out of huge demographic studies, and not something which we are in a position to dispute.

People who know how to distinguish between correlation and causality can read from this data that atheism doesn't cause autobiographically-reported personal unhappiness, but that education does--contrary to religious propaganda which refuses to control for education as they should.

But my overall argument, which might have gotten lost in the details, is that the standard of autobiographically-reported happiness is not always useful when you need to decide what's good, because education is good even if it does cause people to say they're less happy.

[ Parent ]

observation on geographical mobility (4.25 / 4) (#61)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:29:55 PM EST

maybe it's true elsewhere, but I disagree that ease of mobility increases crime. I was born and still live in Southern California. I'm practically unique. About 90% of the people I know are from elsewhere, especially Massachusetts and Rhode Island (go figure). So California is one of the major destinations of these mobile people, and frankly, they're all pretty cool. I now live in San Diego, which is often regarded as a navy town (you can't get more mobile than that), and the quality of life here is fantastic.

Now, the one places that I would avoid are the places where the people have NO chance of mobility: Compton, South Central LA, and those environs are among the most dangerous places in the world. They are also among the poorest, and the least able to be mobile.

I don't want to suggest that affluence breeds virtue, but I think that if people can afford to pick up and move, they are less likely to resort to crime to get what they want. The LA riots of the early 90s didn't exactly take place in Bel Air and Malibu.

-Soc
I drank what?


What? (none / 0) (#90)
by PhillipW on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:07:17 PM EST

Compton, South Central LA, and those environs are among the most dangerous places in the world.

What world are you talking about? South Central and Compton may not be nice, but they certainly aren't the among the most dangerous places in the world. I've been through both of them a few times, and never had a problem.

-Phil
[ Parent ]
Drive through wearing a red shirt (none / 0) (#99)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:45:21 PM EST

I dare you.

I am exaggerating, but I think my point stands. Did you feel safer in Malibu or in Compton? Tokyo or Tijuana?

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 0) (#174)
by PhillipW on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:10:15 PM EST

I'll take you up on that offer, and will make a point of doing that. Being a scrawny white guy, I really doubt that I'll be mistaken for a gangster.

I am exaggerating, but I think my point stands. Did you feel safer in Malibu or in Compton?

Certainly I feel much safer in Malibu than I do in Compton. But then that doesn't really make Compton unsafe. The "danger" in being in places like Compton is vastly overstated. I mean, sure, there's less crime in Beverly Hills, but on the scale of the entire world, I'd have to say I'd rather be in Compton than somewhere like Colombia.

I've been to Tiajuana before, and I saw no reason to be afraid of anyone. I know people who go down to Tiajuana to drink and have a good time. Can't say I've been to Tokyo, though.

-Phil
[ Parent ]
Happiness and Progress (4.50 / 4) (#63)
by NFW on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:35:36 PM EST

He shows that despite an increase in wealth and rise of living standards, the level of happiness has stagnated.

I doubt that's true when you take population increase into account. The sum of happiness of the global population is increasing exponentially. We also live a lot longer than we used to, and it could be argued that when a person dies at 70, they die after experiencing twice as much happiness as one who dies at 35.

Back in Anthropology 101 I was really surprised to learn that the average hunter-gatherer spent far less time working for food than the average farmer. It turns out that farming is far more work, per mouth - it only become popular because it supports a lot more people than hunting and gathering. So, in exchange for a larger population, we paid a price of a lot of liesure time. I thought that was interesting.

The author does make some interesting points about individual happiness though. It seems plausible to me that the average individual today is not significantly happer than at other times in history.


--
Got birds?


Beyond this.. (4.00 / 2) (#75)
by Kwil on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:12:02 PM EST

..the hunting/gathering lifestyle really doesn't offer a lot of room for gains. Such lifestyles are often on the move as they follow the game and plant seasons, which means that advanced permanent shelters are generally not well developed because people aren't around long enough to develop the infrastructure

This in turn means that when it rains, gets cold, etc there's not a lot you can do but hope what you've got is enough to take the worst edges off. Farming allows stability, which allows the time to build more serious infrastructure and housing, which leads to things like good temperature control, plumbing, etc.

So we didn't just give up less work for more people, but also for increased stability and all the benefits that come along with that.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Beyond that... (none / 0) (#85)
by NFW on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:45:53 PM EST

Floods and droughts can (did, still do) cause lots of starvation for rooted agricultural societies. Hunter/gatherers just move on to dry/wetter/greener places.

Granted that permanently mobile societies don't have a chance to develop many technologies, but sometimes it's a wonder to me that people way back when chose to put down roots and work their asses off rather than keep on hunting and gathering.


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

It's not like they got to vote on it (5.00 / 2) (#116)
by Peter Maxwell on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:08:15 PM EST

Farming won because it supports more people per acre than gathering. It might make sense to be the first farmer in your region - you get to pick the very best bit of land for a start. It's only once your decendents have filled the land up to near its new, higher carrying capacity that life starts to get hard again, but by then it's too late to go back to gathering - the rules have changed - the land is all claimed, farmed and full of people.

At the frontier though, at the border between farmers and gatherers, there is a way out for a hungry farmer - grab a bit of unfarmed land. Most hunter gatherer societies didn't choose to put down roots, they were out competed and replaced by the higher population density and growth of their farming neighbours, who claimed a little more of the land every generation.

Recorded history and human population genetics show that farmers spread and replaced gatherers, it wasn't just the idea of farming replacing the idea of gathering. Recent examples include the last 300 years in Australia and much of the Americas, but this story has been playing itself out around the world for thousands of years. For the details see Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel".

How many people did choose farming while gathering was still a viable alternative? Well I don't know but agriculture was invented something like 9 times, so there's a lower bound.

[ Parent ]

what about survival? (4.33 / 3) (#69)
by Fen on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:52:07 PM EST

If one group puts aside happiness for an opportunity to kill everyone else, doesn't that group win?
--Self.
Not really. (none / 0) (#96)
by gilrain on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:37:12 PM EST

If that group's survival wasn't threatened by their victims in the first place, then no they wouldn't.

Survival is a powerful goal in any animals life, including humans. Much more powerful than petty happiness, when it comes down to it. However, survival instinct just isn't triggered very often in our society.

Certainly, if humanity's survival was suddenly threatened (or was percieved to be threatened) by something, and a group of people destroyed that threat, they would have "won" and it would probably increase their happiness for some time.

On the other hand, simply maintaining the satus quo of survival (eating, sleeping, etc) doesn't produce much happiness.

[ Parent ]

killing and happiness (1.00 / 1) (#111)
by Fen on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:36:08 PM EST

Survival is always threatened by others, so killing others should make you happy. After all, if you are able to kill them, they can't help you very much, right?
--Self.
[ Parent ]
hmmm, i'd say (4.00 / 2) (#77)
by tweetsygalore on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:28:23 PM EST


that what it ultimately comes down to is commitment, ie, it would obviously be harder to be happy if you only had a dollar than if you had a million, or even a negative a hundred grand and a billion.  

but the point is, it's not impossible.  and it is even ideal, i think, to be happy despite your circumstances and not necessarily --- though it is hard, of course --- because of them.

anyway, i've seen people become more insecure as their net worths and savings have increased, which tells me that money only provides financial security up to a certain point.  beyond that, it doesn't guarantee emotional, spiritual, social and intellectual security.

anyway, i think that one of my favourite sayings on money is this

      money doesn't hide people.  it brings out who they really are!

best
C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan

this story makes me very happy (nt) ;-P (2.33 / 3) (#79)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:54:33 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

they already tried it (4.00 / 3) (#82)
by 5pectre on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:00:09 PM EST

http://www.bhutanstudies.com/pages/gnh/10account.html

"Let us kill the English, their concept of individual rights might undermine the power of our beloved tyrants!!" - Lisa Simpson [ -1.50 / -7.74]

The 10 shall rule the 90 (1.50 / 2) (#84)
by auraslip on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:35:35 PM EST

forever
124
For years philosphers trying to define happiness (4.50 / 2) (#89)
by hex11a on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:59:16 PM EST

and along comes an economist and beats them all by defining it in economical terms. I bet that's made them happy. However, I agree with some of his ideas, such as the idea that an employed person feels happier than one out of work and so forth. But the concept of the sum of happiness is a bit worrying, especially as we could get one person being incredibly happy outweighing thousands living in slight misery.

Hex

The real objective here... (3.25 / 4) (#93)
by Rahyl on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:25:29 PM EST

Would this be Lord Richard Layard?

http://www.lse.ac.uk/people/r.layard@lse.ac.uk/

The material from his lecture seems interesting up until this point:  "So the polluter should lose 30 pence out of every 100 pence that he earns - a tax rate of 30% on all additional income."

It's at this point that we realize Lord Richard Layard is simply looking for an excuse to increase the size and scope of government, ie:  raise taxes.  It's class warfare tried and true.  People that earn more than you are "polluters" and you should support our efforts at raising their taxes.

I'd be willing to bet millions that Lord Richard Layard couldn't find a job outside of government or education if his own life depended on it.  I'd almost be willing to bet millions that he's on the government payroll, something that should come as no suprise considering his "pollution" label attached to those that earn a lot of money.

Not that this theory is without merit.  If you *willingly* subscribe to his philosophy and *willingly* part with extra money to "fix" the problem of this "pollution," there's no problem.  It's once this man's beliefs become the foundation for public policy that the people have a real problem on their hands.  It doesn't matter how many sugar coats get placed on it:  as soon as it involves taxes and government, the element of forced compliance enters the picture.  To put it simply, if you disagree with them, they'll force compliance with fines, prison time, an ultimatly death.

Here's another simple analogy for Layard's philosophy:  find a group of people that aren't going to support your philosophy.  Draw up a proposal to take away their money and give it to those that do support your philosophy.  Make sure you include lots of funny-math, sketchy scientific references, and a noble-sounding cause.

Please note, this is not a review of this article's author, gyan.  Gyan did a good job of presenting the material so I'm giving it a thumbs up.  It's the "economist" that I disagree with :)

micro econ 200 (4.00 / 1) (#144)
by SlamMan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:17:10 AM EST

I doubt he's doing this from the stand point of increasing government income.  What he's doing is looking at a way to better acount for negative externalities, which is basically when something I do disrupts how the free market work from some in a different market.  It falls into the category of a market failure.

Polution is the easiest example of this.  Say I'm making a thousands of pens that sell for $100 a peice, but cause $50 damage to the nearby river that I'm dumping my material waste to.  The standard way of fixing this si to impose a $50 fine on every pen.

This guys's just looking at a different way tto handle that.

[ Parent ]

maximize your ass (1.22 / 9) (#95)
by turmeric on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:29:56 PM EST

look, u stupid math fuckheads, happines sis not a fucking equation you find the inflection point on.. goddamnit, if you stopped trying to rule other peopels lives and maximize abstractions that they dont fit into in the first place, WED ALL BE ALOT FUCKING HAPPIER. except for you because youd be out of a job. TOUGH SHIT. tkae your unrealistic models and shove them up your crack, you konw, the same one billions of people will always fall thru when your gigantic egghead brainiac doesnt match perfectly whats going on in reality.

and even if (none / 0) (#98)
by elias on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:40:47 PM EST

and even if u catch us in one equation or another. watch us go.

[ Parent ]
Reads like an extreme right wing argument? (1.00 / 1) (#107)
by BerntB on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:10:36 PM EST

I thought turmeric was left wing?

[ Parent ]
He's a troll (3.00 / 2) (#136)
by RyoCokey on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:38:16 AM EST

He'll post with whatever wing will get him a response.



Pacifism in this poor world in which we live -- this lost world -- means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
-- Francis Schaeffer,
[ Parent ]
Thanks, sorry for stupid question :-) (1.00 / 1) (#141)
by BerntB on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 04:26:09 AM EST



[ Parent ]
maximize your ass (1.00 / 1) (#110)
by dforsey on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:35:42 PM EST

Not a happy camper....

[ Parent ]
The Decleration of Independance.. (3.50 / 6) (#101)
by MuteWinter on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:50:34 PM EST

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

I think that says more than I could ever say about this topic.

However, I'm not going to step so far as to have the government and academics tell me and others how to pursue happiness or try to make me happiness. Fuck, giving everyone prozac would make everyone alot more happy, wouldn't it? This is about as scary as the Patriot Act.

Why maximize the sum of happiness? (4.75 / 8) (#105)
by the on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:02:42 PM EST

Firstly I think that the whole notion is nonsensical. It's the sort of thing that happens when someone who is very naive about mathematics tries to use it. Happiness isn't a number. Sure, you can make questionnaires and score people. But then you just measure what the test measures. And why 'sum'? Why not the product? Or the max? Or the min? Or the nth root of the sum of the nth powers and so on? It's a completely arbitrary choice. Even if you manage to measure something through some new-fangled neuroscientific meter why is there a connection between what its display shows and ethics? To make such a connection is surely to make the naturalistic fallacy.

What is really going on is that these people have some very simple mathematical models and they simply want to shoehorn the multiplicity of human behaviors into it. You know the old saying. "If all you have a ... everything looks like a ...".

And the fact that people don't appear to be happier than they were 50 years ago should be the big clue. It's not where you are that matters, its what you strive to be. If we were all already truly happy - well, why would we try to do anything else?

--
The Definite Article

Answer these three questions (4.00 / 4) (#153)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:59:48 AM EST

Are there differences between the societies existing today?

Are all societies equal when it comes to happiness?

Can this difference, if it exists, be analysed and understood?

I would certainly rather live in a happy society than a wealthy one, if there's a contradiction. I do not think that these models in any way represent the full complexity of a modern society. But they may on some structural level be relevant.

[ Parent ]

Answers (3.00 / 3) (#172)
by the on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 02:40:51 PM EST

(1) Are there differences between the societies existing today?
Yes, of course. In some societies the boss guy wears feathers on his head. The President of the US doesn't.
(2) Are all societies equal when it comes to happiness?
I don't understand what you mean by 'equal'. Define it and I'll answer. Do you mean "assign a happiness rating to each society and define two societies to be 'equal' if they get the same rating"? Well I've already explained why I think that's nonsensical.

(3) Can this difference, if it exists, be analysed and understood?
If you mean the numerical difference from question (2) I've explained my position. If you mean difference as in question (1) then I'd say it may be possible. If, as I suspect, you are conflating these two meanings then I can't answer.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
you sir (none / 0) (#203)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 04:32:09 PM EST

are brilliant, but i'm concerned about your closing remarks. if we can never attain such happiness, why should we bother dripping fourth blood effort sweat and broken teeth in motion towards a goal which we'll never be able to touch? i'm not happy where i am, and i'm not ever going anywhere else if i have anything to do with it...but i have enough to eat, and dial up time enough for my wants. there needs to be something said in defense of the 'now', the feeling of being alive. i'm not going all hedonist here, i hope, in saying this - i would more suggest a bhuddist approach of being at peace - nothing more, nothing less, than knowing where you are, knowing who you are, knowing where you are going, and putting forth enough effort so that you are in agreement with it, and with your effects... or mabye that's a crock, and it doesn't really matter, but i really think that blindly seeking a goal you can by definition never acheive is kind of pointless.

to sustain your happiness?, but why should you need to do anything else? you are happy? mabye you could have a pet project of trying to make others happy....


"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
Very interesting (4.83 / 6) (#106)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:09:20 PM EST

First off, thanks to the author for pointing out these truly interesting lectures. I definitely need to mull them over a bit longer, but I've got a few first impressions I can share.
  1. It is always nice to see an economist recognize that culture does, in fact, exist and that it might actually having some real bearing upon the study of economics. One area in which Marxist approaches have always had a leg up over (neo-) classical economics would be in their theoretical capcity to account for the complex interrelationships between economics, culture, and ideology. All too often economists are inclined to a kind of willful blindness toward those things they have no way of easily measuring. You can still see this tendency in Layard's insistence upon referencing the neurological work on happiness, as if we were really in need of MRI results to confirm that people do, in fact, feel happy. The neurological speculations he engages in have no substantive bearing upon his argument one way or another, and in going down that road he runs the very real risk of doing cargo cult science.
  2. His observations about adaptation and rivalry, the so called hedonic treadmill, should be intuitively obvious to anyone who has ever taken a class graded on the curve. In effect, he's arguing that the Bill Gates' of the world spoil the curve for the rest of us. An intersting argument, but I'm so sure how convincing I think it is.
    Surely, yes, once we've moved beyond a base subsistence level existence our happiness has at least as much to do with our relative social position as it does any absolute measure of wealth. On the other hand, an increased mean level of wealth has been a necessary factor in many industrial and technological advancements; advancements that have often disproportionately benfited the least among us (eg, medical technology, sanitation infrastructure, etc...). Were we to enact his preferred solution of a mad dash to the middle, more of us might be relatively wealthy, but then we might also spoil the future development of a technology which could drastically improve upon material conditions. Absent perfect foresight, utilitarian analysis can be pretty dodgy.
  3. That the percentage of people who self select for being very happy is independent of absolute wealth is indeed telling, but I'm not sure it is telling us what Layard claims it is. Were wealth distributed more equally who's to say that we wouldn't simply substitute some other measure of status? Forcing an economically egailitarian society might only force us to play a different status game, in fact, absent a compelling argument otherwise, that seems far more likely.
  4. Also, he simply assumes that more of us being stuck in the middle with nowhere to go will necessarily produce a greater net happiness than does our current situation, where the happiness of many is limited by envy. An argument can surely be made that the mere possibility of advancement is itself a source of happiness. Is mediocrity with hope for something better necessarily a worse condition than is a stagnant egalitarianism?
  5. Finally, he's to be commended for broadening his perspective beyond the usual confines of economics, but as soon as it comes time to suggest solutions he runs right back to those tools he's comfortable with: government and economic policy. He simply assumes that it is government that is best equipped to address the problems he points out.  

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


Point 2 (3.66 / 3) (#152)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:51:46 AM EST

I don't think the Bill Gate's really ruin it for us mere mortals. I don't think that is what Layard is implying either. You rival your "equals". For example, it disturbs me that one of my friends has slightly higher grades than I have, but I don't mind that another has completed the same education with straight A's, because she's slightly out of scope.

In conclusion: if your neighboor can take two weeks off and you only one, it will upset you. But if some hotshot hundreds of miles away has his own jetplane or not you couldn't bother less.

[ Parent ]

To some extent... (4.00 / 1) (#168)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:11:27 PM EST

...but reread the section of lecture 2 which addresses the effects of television and the way it essentially expands our group indentity to include those of higher class. Also, were he only concerned with the affects of variations of wealth within narrowly defined communities his comment about excess wealth above the mean being tantamount to pollution would make little sense, nor, for that matter, would his proposed 30% tax on such wealth.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
interesting theory, but.. (2.50 / 6) (#122)
by nickco on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:16:23 PM EST

i'm happy when i'm making other people unhappy.

Hey, me too! [nt] (3.00 / 2) (#128)
by NFW on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:46:25 PM EST

How could I resist?


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

I like the idea in general.... (4.66 / 3) (#132)
by akp on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:43:04 AM EST

though some of the specific conclusions I think could use some further investigation.

Regarding the observation about people not having gotten happier (or, at least, their reported happiness levels didn't change) along with the growth of GDP. On the one hand, this would seem to say that a country's per capita GDP going up doesn't increase the number of people who believe that they're happy. On the other hand, it doesn't necessarily show that an individual's absolute wealth has no effect on the individual's happiness. It's possible, for instance, that the large majority of the GDP growth during this time period went only to that percentage that already reported themselves as being very happy. Or that other factors, such as decreased job security, a shift of the tax burden more towards low and middle income families, or reduced vacation times, may have contributed to the failure of the increased wealth to result in increased happiness. Either of these factors could explain why, even with an increase in GDP, the happiness distribution of the people failed to change.

The Harvard student survey is similarly flawed; it could, for instance, show that people have internalized supply and demand enough that they realize that their relative monetary wealth is more important than their absolute monetary wealth, since, even if the person giving a survey says otherwise, prices will increase to meet demand if the supply is limited. The same could not be said for vacation time, though, since it's unlikely that somebody else having more leisure time will somehow result in your vacation being shorter than it already is.

All of this is not to say that people's perceived ranking in the economic hierarchy has no effect on their happiness, or even necessarily less so than their absolute wealth. Just that ranking may not be quite as important as these talks have made it out to be.

Let's see... Maximizing total happiness in a society seems to me to suffer the same possible problem as measuring GDP--it also doesn't take into account distribution. I would hardly think that most people would approve of a happiness optmization in which 25% of people's happiness increased by 4 units at the cost of a decrease of 1 unit of happiness in the other 75%. You really need to apply something like Rawls's veil of ignorance test in order to ensure that the happiness of the society is distributed fairly (though you would not have to follow Rawls in thinking that the rational response to said test would be to choose the one that most benefits the worst-off member of society).

Jobs and job security issues really need to take into account minimum income levels. The talks mention that up to a certain income (15,000, what, pounds? per year, or something like that) happiness is very closely tied to money, and that only once basic needs were taken care of did people start worrying about things like relative status and leisure time. So I'd be sure to say that, along with job security and low unemployment, it's also necessary that all jobs provide a full living wage. You're not going to be doing anybody any favors in terms of happiness if you make sure that they are always fully employed at a Nike sweatshop for starvation wages.

Of course, all that having been said, I have to say that it's important enough just to have people up there saying that GDP is not the be all and end all to economic policy. The purpose of work and money is to help people survive and to help make them happy. When maximizing profit starts getting in the way of the well-being of the people, then you know that something has gone wrong somewhere.

-allen



im happy (2.75 / 4) (#135)
by zzzeek on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:26:21 AM EST

but then, i cranked through all these formulas, and they say otherwise.  and we all know math is infallible.

life sucks !

Never cared for happiness (3.33 / 6) (#137)
by RyoCokey on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:41:15 AM EST

...as a goal of life. Hedonism always struck me as... pointless. Anyway, we already possess the ability to make our population extremely happy. Hell, with the right combination of anti-depressants and strong opiate-based pain killers, we could keep everyone very happy... well, until a large die-off, but they'd die happy, right? That's what counts.



Pacifism in this poor world in which we live -- this lost world -- means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
-- Francis Schaeffer,
Confusing hedonism and happiness (4.66 / 3) (#151)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:33:30 AM EST

If have friends who you enjoy spending time with -
If you feel creative -  
If you feel you're getting somewhere -
If you feel you can make a difference -
If you feel that you are finding out more about the nature of things -

it'll make you happy, right?

I find it very hard to say that life isn't about being happy. Hedonism is whole different story.

[ Parent ]

Something I don't understand (3.66 / 3) (#139)
by kholmes on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 02:50:31 AM EST

What does wealth have to do with happiness? What does leisure have to do with happiness? What does policy have to do with happiness?

I thank you in advance for your answers.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.

Well... (3.00 / 2) (#161)
by Kintanon on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:55:25 AM EST

If I take away all of your wealth, all of the time, you'd be starving and naked, hence less happy.
If after taking all of your wealth I forced you to dig salt with a spoon 20 hours per day, you would be much less happy than if I didn't do that.
And if my policy was to beat you with a stick while you were digging the salt, with a spoon, naked and starving, you would be even less happy that before.
Unless of course you're into sitting around naked digging salt and getting hit with a stick....

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

Hmm (4.00 / 1) (#175)
by kholmes on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:12:39 PM EST

"If I take away all of your wealth, all of the time, you'd be starving and naked, hence less happy."

But what of primitive peoples, like certain island tribes and our own early ancestors? Doesn't it seem to be the case that the uhappiness isn't in the lack of wealth, but rather, in having the wealth taken away from you that previously belonged to you? In fact, I may say that that isn't unhappiness but another emotion that I can't find a word for, but I suppose is the opposite of joy, which you feel after gaining wealth. And I don't think joy and happiness are one, either.

"If after taking all of your wealth I forced you to dig salt with a spoon 20 hours per day, you would be much less happy than if I didn't do that."

That would depend on what you'd spend your time otherwise doing, no? A person who naturally torments himself would be happier digging salt, I think---and such people do exist!

"And if my policy was to beat you with a stick while you were digging the salt, with a spoon, naked and starving, you would be even less happy that before."

I think you can be happy and in pain, like starving children who learn to forget their condition can be happy. We adapt and perhaps happiness has something to do with not having to adapt to any more displeasures than we experience now.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
[ Parent ]

Works as intended... (3.33 / 3) (#140)
by gnovos on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 03:14:44 AM EST

My own personal happiness is a particularly srtong brand.  When I am VERY happy, it is equal to 10-20 million other people's "average" happiness level.. So in the interest of maximizing the sum of happiness, I should be the dictator and have my every whim fulfilled.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
In a happy society, (3.50 / 2) (#142)
by fhotg on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:02:50 AM EST

economists are not allowed to speak about happiness, publicly. How childish is the basic assumption of the article that happiness were dependent on material gain in the first place ?

Its worse than statisticians talking unqualified crap about the environment.

Poor guy (2.80 / 5) (#143)
by scart on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:13:34 AM EST

Socialist economists are always good for a laugh.

If you are always happy, what would be the point of striving to better yourself?

Minimize suffering (4.25 / 4) (#145)
by 8ctavIan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:22:15 AM EST

the purpose of public policy should be in order to "maximise the sum of happiness in society"

I assume that by public policy he means "government". Since the late 1970's the Western world has been dominated by what is popularly known as "right-wing" policy, or at least somewhat right of center. Within the last decade the right doesn't even hide the fact that they pursue a policy of increasing happiness, but they generally restrict this to those who they feel are worthy of this happiness. If you look at the US Declaration of Independence, you'll find the oft-quoted phrase talking about the right to the "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". This was a change made by Jefferson for PR reasons. What he really wanted to say was "life, liberty and property", which he got straight from John Locke. If you look at it from this perspective, you see where the right wing gets its definition of happiness. Those who have property should be happy. Those who don't, should get some property first.

Lord Layard pointed out that the level of happiness has not increased. I think it's because government is straying away from what its real mission is. The reason man created government is for protection, basically. This is obviously protection in the literal sense but it can also mean the minimization of suffering. Happiness is too vague a concept to be the the purpose of public policy. Most forms of suffering are easily identified and so their elimination can be specifically dictated into public policy. Less suffering creates a climate where people can then tend to their own particular "brand" of happiness.


Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken

Harvard students were subjected to a survey... (3.00 / 4) (#146)
by enterfornone on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:40:29 AM EST

Their choice makes perfect sense. Money is valuable relative to the amount of money everyone else has. If you had $100k a year and others had double that, you would be poor because the rise in everyone elses income would cause massive inflation. Whereas if you have $50k and others had half that, you would have twice the buying power of everyone else.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
Sigh (none / 0) (#149)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:19:24 AM EST

The survey was not about macro economics 101

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Even so... (none / 0) (#155)
by enterfornone on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:28:27 AM EST

YOu would hope that a Harvard student would know enough to realise that $100k in a society where everyone else earns 200k is worth less in real terms than $50k where everyone else earns $25k.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Yes, agreed. (4.50 / 2) (#158)
by tetsuwan on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:27:58 AM EST

One could refrase the question to something like:

$50k when almost everbody you know earns $25k
or
$100k when almost everbody you know earns $200k

and say that the sum of money in the economy would be the same in the two alternatives. This type of question would be more relevant to the study IMHO.

[ Parent ]

"prices are the same" (none / 0) (#204)
by melia on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 05:59:34 AM EST

by "prices are the same" i took it to mean that you could buy equal amounts of goods per dollar, so in real terms the people with 100k in world 2 are twice as wealthy as the people with 50k in world 1.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
Leave me alone. (4.14 / 7) (#148)
by avdi on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:07:22 AM EST

Liberty makes me happy.  If you want to make me happy, leave me alone.  Don't try to force me to enjoy my "contribution to the social product".  They've already tried that - in North Korea, in China, and Russia just to name a few examples.  The trouble is, to create an environment in which people can be made to understand the importance of the "social product" you wind up having to kill and/or imprison an awful lot of incorrigibles who insist that all they want is to be left alone.  And for some reason, that just makes people even less happy.

Layard lists contradictory goals as items that public policy (i.e. government) should address.  The last item is "political freedom" - but the ones preceeding it are employment, job security, geographical mobility(!), and mental health - all things which would require drastic increases in regulation - and the requisite decreases in freedom - in order to be implemented in a society like, say, the US.   It amazes me that people can say things like this without seeing the inherent contradiction in their words.  Government cannot achieve social goals (other than liberty) without increasing regulation.  Regulation cannot be increased without an equal or greater loss to freedoms. That's just the way the world works.  

Not to mention that he's flat wrong on his statistics.  A recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly (hardly a partisan rag) featured the results of a recent global study of wealth versus happiness.  The findings of the study where that happiness does, indeed, have an absoluate relationship with wealth - but that that the increase of happiness starts to level off at a certain amount of wealth.  So the happiness of people making $50,000 in a western nation is vastly greater those living in poverty in the third world.  On the other hand, those making millions aren't signifigantly happier than those making merely hundreds of thousands.  The study puts to rest the notions of certain hardcore leftists who suggest that the third world doesn't need western advances like electricity becasue they are "happy as they are".

In the final analysis, what we have here is just another socialist who is suprisingly candid in his advocacy of the notion that people's lives should be controlled by people smarter than them (like, say, Lord Richard Layard), for their own good.

--
Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir

I know I shouldn't get involved in this (4.83 / 6) (#170)
by akp on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 02:02:19 PM EST

But there are some interesting enough points here that I just can't resist.

Layard lists contradictory goals as items that public policy (i.e. government) should address. The last item is "political freedom" - but the ones preceeding it are employment, job security, geographical mobility(!), and mental health - all things which would require drastic increases in regulation - and the requisite decreases in freedom - in order to be implemented in a society like, say, the US. It amazes me that people can say things like this without seeing the inherent contradiction in their words.

Political freedoms are very different from freedoms in general. The particular example given by Laynard is for voter referendums and such. So you could say that a good government in this case would be one where the people themselves have lots of political power, and choose to use that power to implement a high minimum wage, laws to protect job security, etc. The people would also have the power to get rid of said laws, but the assumption is that they would be happy enough in that setup that they wouldn't want to. That would meet the definition of having political freedom under most paradigms. You could argue that another worldview, in which having political freedom necessarily contradicts ensuring job security et al., is superior to the one being used, but you can't really criticize something as irrational just because it relies on a different set of preconceived notions than your own.

Government cannot achieve social goals (other than liberty) without increasing regulation. Regulation cannot be increased without an equal or greater loss to freedoms. That's just the way the world works.

I never have quite gotten this argument. I mean, I can see why limiting your government to make sure that it doesn't, say, abridge freedom of the press, or completely disarm the populace, would help ensure that the people have more freedom. But I fail to understand why having said government prevent other entities, such as corporations, from curtailing the same liberties would somehow limit freedoms. Abuse of power is abuse of power, whether enforced by threat of imprisonment (government) or threat of starvation (private entities who control the land and resources). The only difference that I see is that with a democratically elected government you have some recourse other than violent conflict.

A recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly (hardly a partisan rag)

Well, since Michael Kelly signed on as editor and brought over a bunch of people from The Weekly Standard, it has become more and more of one, but, yes, historically it has not been a partisan rag.

featured the results of a recent global study of wealth versus happiness. The findings of the study where that happiness does, indeed, have an absoluate relationship with wealth - but that that the increase of happiness starts to level off at a certain amount of wealth. So the happiness of people making $50,000 in a western nation is vastly greater those living in poverty in the third world. On the other hand, those making millions aren't signifigantly happier than those making merely hundreds of thousands.

Umm, did you read the actual text of the lectures? From the first one:

Figure 5 shows the cross-section of countries. Income is on the horizontal axis and on the vertical axis is happiness measured by the average of two numbers: the percentage happy and the percentage who are satisfied with their life. As it shows, once a country has over $15,000 per head, its level of happiness appears to be independent of its income per head. For poorer countries, however, there is a clear impact of income on happiness, which is also borne out by the time-series in India, Mexico and the Philippines. When you are near the bread-line, income really does matter. But, for countries above $15,000 per head, the flat cross-sectional finding in the graph ought to bother economists just as much as the flat time-series.

Admittedly, the exact numbers are different, but the general idea is the same. I believe that the particular economic policy under discussion here applies only to already developed nations with enough resources to feed and shelter all of their people.

As long as we're here, though... These numbers would suggest that, if you are interested in the happiness of the people, then it is very important to make sure that all people (or as many as possible) in a society are provided with a minimum amount of wealth. Thus the part about jobs being available to all and job security, though I add that the jobs would need to be guaranteed to provide the said living wage. I suppose that as an alternative, you could disagree with Laynard's opinion of the dignity of working and instead propose guaranteed welfare instead of a minimum wage. Still, I don't see how, if you accept that the happiness of the population is important, you could look at these figures and not say that providing a secure minimum amount of income/food and shelter/wealth to as many people as possible should be a goal of a society. Heck, if you also take into account the lack of increased happiness produced by significant wealth over said minimum, then you might find yourself advocating a system like Sweden's, where a high standard of living for the poorest (giving high returns on increased happiness for them) is achieved at the cost of less wealth for the better off (which, according to these numbers, should result it little change in their happiness).

The study puts to rest the notions of certain hardcore leftists who suggest that the third world doesn't need western advances like electricity becasue they are "happy as they are".

Well, it depends; if a place has a local economy that manages to meet the minimum wealth requirement for happiness without western advances, then that argument would work just fine. It's just that it's really hard to think of any real world examples of that. Of course, this doesn't change the fact that many times, western "advances" like sweatshop factory labor are what are actually being provided to third world nations, and those usually work to decrease real wealth of the majority of the workers as they abandon their farmland to go to work in the city. But, yeah, actual investment in a local economy that produces wealth for the people who live there, rather than exporting it to people in other countries who already have enough money, is a good thing.

-allen



[ Parent ]
A further observation (4.75 / 4) (#150)
by avdi on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:22:47 AM EST

Leaving aside the innaccuracies and contradictions in this guy's opinions, and his presumption in thinking it's government's job to make people happy, I think there's a basic flaw in his idea of how to make people happy.  Layards' is a classic example of seeing a problem and then completely failing to address it's root.

Layard discards the faulty absolute of wealth=happiness in favor of another, equally faulty absolute: that social position relative to others in a society has a direct bearing on happiness.  And I think everyone would agree that this is true - for many people.  But not for all people - and this is where his theory breaks down.  In my experience, the happiest people aren't those who percieve themselves as occupying an enviable position in society, but those who have learned to "stop playing the game", and base their happiness on something other than social position.  If someone really wants to encourage happiness, they shouldn't do it by trying to fiddle the nobs of regulation - they should do it by campaigning to change people's attitudes.  Which is, in general terms, what any number of religions and self-help programs try to do, with a fair amount of success.  

--
Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir

That's exactly what he's saying (4.50 / 2) (#164)
by NoBeardPete on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:24:23 PM EST

Layard's whole point here is that government should help people to "stop playing the game". He points out that people spend a lot of time, effort, and resources to scramble for status. The problem is that there's only so much status to go around. When you take a look at the society-wide view, then, you see that a lot of resources are being sunk into playing a zero-sum game. If everyone would stop playing this zero-sum game, we would overall be happier. He's trying to figure out ways that government can set policies that will encourage people to stop playing the status game, or to at least not play it as fiercely.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

a shame (3.50 / 2) (#167)
by avdi on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:06:12 PM EST

Which is a shame, because now that he's got the right idea, there are better ways of spreading it.  It seems to be a curse of academics that once they get a good idea in their heads, the only way they can think of getting people to implement it is through coercion (yes, it's coercion if the government's involved, because you can't opt out without consequences).  

--
Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir
[ Parent ]
Only 30% where? (3.80 / 5) (#156)
by fluxsmith on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:47:23 AM EST

This seems to be arguing for a 30% tax rate. Show me an industrialized country with only a 30% tax rate when all levels of taxation are considered; I want to move there!

I guess if you buy his rationale, then it's obvious most governments are contributing to overall unhappiness by taxing in excess of 30%. That's a conclusion I can believe.

It's not stated clearly... (4.50 / 2) (#169)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:29:33 PM EST

...but he's arguing for an additional 30% tax on income above the national (regional?) mean. He equates excess wealth with pollution on the grounds that it induces envy in those who don't have it.

Interestingly, unlike most "tax the rich" proponents, he's fully aware that the consequences of this plan will be a less productive economy (reduced GDP). He's arguing that in order to maximise happiness we should create an economy in which we each have a relatively equal part of a smaller pie, as opposed to our current situation where we have a much larger pie, but each of our individual pieces are of greatly varying size.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
On the mathematics... (4.00 / 2) (#157)
by RofGilead on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:58:20 AM EST

I think it would make more sense to define happiness as a probability, the probability that at any given moment you are happy, and perhaps multiply this times a constant to get absolute happiness.

PHappiness = (Time of your life that you feel "happy") / (Time of your life total)

AbsHappiness = <Average Happiness> * PHappiness

How often you are feeling happy is a measurable quantity. To decide on how happy you actually feel in comparison to everyone else may be difficult, making AbsHappiness merely an academic idea.

How useful is this in deciding if things are going well, on a social scale? I think happiness is a symptom, not the thing we are wanting itself. I think what people want is freedom. They want the freedom to pursue what they want to during their life. Perhaps the person wants to pursue unhappiness? That would kinda schew the whole measurement thing. Although, maybe we don't have a right to the pursuit of unhappiness.

-= RofGilead =-

---
Remember, you're unique, just like everyone else. -BlueOregon

Money is a divisor (4.00 / 3) (#162)
by IHCOYC on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:11:00 AM EST

A. You get $50k a year and others get half that
B. You get $100k a year and others get more than double that

A majority preferred the first choice. Given this rivalry,it is not very surprising that the rich are happier than the poor,because from their "lofty position the people they compare themselves with include a greater fraction of people who are poorer than they are. And the opposite is true of those at the bottom of the pile."

As I've said before, to the stunned incomprehension of most readers, money is a divisor; or at least, fiat currencies are nothing more than that.

The value of a dollar is ultimately determined by the amount of real world goods and services it can command. Those goods and services, moreover, are fixed, or at least cannot be called into being by making more dollars. There is no such thing as the "creation of wealth;" the law of the conservation of matter and energy shows that kind of talk to be nonsense. In the world of things, your gain is always someone else's loss, and vice versa. More money just means higher prices.

The scenario where you get $50K and others get less means that there are fewer dollars in the system, and you get more than anyone else. The scenario where others have $100K and you only half that means more dollars in the system and you get fewer. The respondents quite rationally figure that the choice of these scenarios will impact what a dollar can buy, sooner or later. Even if they're told to assume that prices remain the same, they know they won't be so forever.
 --
The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.

Wrong (none / 0) (#165)
by NoBeardPete on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:36:15 PM EST

This article may not have made it very clear, but if you had followed the links, you would have understood. The Harvard students were asked which scenario they would prefer, given that prices were held the same. In this thought experiment, there are two possible worlds, one of which presumably has many more goods and services in it, because prices are the same despite more paper money existing. No one is suggesting that one world could change into the other, so the question of whether or not the level of goods and services can change is irrelevent.

I posted a comment earlier in the discussion about this. The whole point of this survey is that people would gladly trade material wealth for status. You've missed that point.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Correlation is not Causation (3.66 / 3) (#182)
by Nelziq on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:46:11 PM EST

Maybe Happiness causes Wealth?
Its quite possible that people who are well adjusted, are good at making and keeping social relationships, good at managing their time, control stress, and set goals/priorities will be happier in general. Those kind of people will also probably be better in succeeding in their material pursuits as well.

very well (1.00 / 1) (#205)
by tweetsygalore on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 10:55:06 PM EST


said.  :)  best, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
[ Parent ]
The problem with happiness (4.00 / 2) (#187)
by epepke on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:05:10 PM EST

One fundamental problem with this is that there is little if any evidence that individual people act to maximize their personal happiness.

I see people doing all sorts of strange things all the time. They get into codependent relationships. They seek money at the expense of their personal lives. They obsessively pursue courses of action that lead only to anger and despair. They worry about things that haven't happened yet. They feel guilt about things they can't change. They then take worry and guild far beyond any possible anticipatory and corrective value into realms where it just poisons them. They make decisions that they know at the time are going to bite them in the ass later. They nurture private hatreds that only hurt themselves. And I, being human, am one of them.

In the absence of evidence that most people seek happiness, what reason is there to believe that a society made of such people can or even should try to maximize happiness?


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


Nah, (none / 0) (#188)
by bjlhct on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:36:41 PM EST

it's just that they don't think.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
Well, then (1.00 / 1) (#190)
by epepke on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:53:58 AM EST

It's perfectly appropriate and utterly democratic then that we have governments that don't think.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Hmmmm, siggy. (none / 0) (#193)
by bjlhct on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:49:54 AM EST

Indeed, but a lot of people think that government can do better than the people governed thinking about things when it can't.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
So what then? (3.50 / 2) (#189)
by bjlhct on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:37:16 PM EST

The rich are held accountable for the insecurity of others?

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
Traditionally (4.00 / 1) (#201)
by holdfast on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 06:25:17 PM EST

The unhappy often blame the rich for their problems. Sometimes this is just jealousy. At other times it may have a glimmer of truth.

For example...
Who are the richest people in Iraq?
Do these people have any responsibility for the events that are unfolding there?

I think that the really wealthy crooks who ran Enron are responsible for the unhappiness of many others. I have no idea what to do about it though...


"Holy war is an oxymoron."
Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
blah (3.83 / 6) (#192)
by coryking on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:33:05 AM EST

Question: Please state the one true meaninng of happines.

Extra Credit: Get a country of 300 million people to agree on it.

Bonus Super Happy Fun Credit: Learn a bit of economics before you spout this. Our economy is not a zero sum game at all. In fact -- merely by trading goods and services, wealth is created.

A tip. (2.50 / 2) (#196)
by gyan on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:56:44 PM EST

Bonus Super Happy Fun Credit: Learn a bit of economics before you spout this. Our economy is not a zero sum game at all. In fact -- merely by trading goods and services, wealth is created.

 Really Super Fun Credit: read the article first.
The zero-sum refers to society's happiness, not its wealth.

********************************

[ Parent ]

I think it was Samuelson (3.00 / 1) (#199)
by dcodea on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 09:24:40 PM EST

who said that arguments about productivity always end in a blaze of amateur sociology. I guess we could add discussions about society's happiness.

Who Dares Wins

Indefensible. (2.50 / 2) (#200)
by vectro on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 04:37:01 AM EST

It is unacceptable to suggest that public policy ought to maximize happiness. If that were the case then the optimal government policy would be to force everyone to take happy drugs. We'd need only enough workers to ensure the production of drugs and enough food to keep people alive; everyone else can sit in pharmecutical bliss.

That, I think, would be viewed by most as a dystopian society; in fact, it'd be not too far from <EM>Brave New World</EM>.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger

Self-Interest and the Social Optimum | 206 comments (192 topical, 14 editorial, 1 hidden)
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