Monday, August 22, 2005


The one finding from happiness research that seems absolutely secure is that happiness is to a large degree relative. The latest article to that effect is here. Having more of some desideratum like money than others around you do seems to matter much more than the absolute amount of that desideratum that you have. Note this quote, however, "Another survey, by Town & Country magazine, found those with more money tended to have better marriages, were happier with their friends and found their jobs more interesting."

And note that this report shows that although money in general may not buy you happiness, SOME of the expenditures that a higher income enables DO make you happier. And this article summarizes the same set of findings as: "Money can buy happiness and the best investment advice may be as simple as the sports shoe slogan: just do it. That's the conclusion drawn by researchers who set out to identify what sort of spending made people happiest. The psychologists, from Cornell University and the University of Colorado in the US, compared "experiential purchases" – things such as holidays, concerts or dining out – with "material purchases" such as clothing, beauty products, stereos or personal computers."

And money can have an indirect role too. There are here some excerpts from an anti-individual, pro-Green rant by an Australian professor that nonetheless had this good point in it: "The findings fit those of other studies that have shown people for whom "extrinsic goals" such as fame, fortune and glamour are a priority tend to experience more anxiety and depression and lower overall well-being than people oriented towards "intrinsic goals" of close relationships, self-understanding, acceptance, and contributing to the community. These results are, in turn, consistent with other research that shows materialism - the pursuit of money and possessions - breeds not happiness but dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, anger, isolation and alienation. In short, the more materialistic we are, the poorer our quality of life." And that is where capitalism comes in. Because it makes us all richer, it enables us to concentrate more on non-material things instead of spending all our time scrabbling for a living. I have shown elsewhere that materialistic ambition is highest in poor countries and lowest in rich countries.

So we have three mutually-contradictory findings from happiness research so far: 1). Happiness is static. Nothing much alters it for long; 2). Happiness can be improved, but only at the expense of others doing less well than us; 3). Some things can make us happier in absolute terms regardless of what others do. If that does not represent strong confirmation of my previous conclusion that happiness research is still in its infancy and hence not useful for guiding policy, I don't know what would. My suspicion is that what we will eventually find is that happiness is like most other personality traits -- mostly genetically determined but with some room for environmental influences.

In the meantime, however, as this article says: "Psychologists and 'happiness researchers' are using the finding that Calcutta slum-dwellers and Masai nomads are as happy as American businessmen to argue not only that wealth doesn't necessarily make you happy, but that this shows that investment in economic growth should be replaced by social programs. The trouble is that one conclusion doesn't necessarily lead to the other." Or as Tim Worstall notes with only a touch of sarcasm: "So-called 'happiness research' has been discussed at length recently with economist and TCS contributing editor Arnold Kling writing and blogging about it, and economist Tyler Cowen responding at his blog. That exchange, and the mention of a new book on the subject piqued my interest and some further research led me to the answer: 60% marginal tax rates, that's what will make society happy."

In other words, Leftists are arguing from the findings about static happiness that "If we take your money away it won't hurt". Odd that people do seem to get really peeved if you rob or defraud them, though! And ask anybody if they would rather spend their own money or have someone else spend it instead and there is not much doubt about what the answer will be. And that's the point: What people want matters. If some arrogant git claims that he can spend my money better than I can, he deserves to be treated like the con-man he is. The fact that overall level of happiness is mainly a personality disposition or trait which remains fairly stable across a wide range of circumstances does NOT mean that people are uninterested in improving those circumstances or getting the occasional "high". But Leftists don't care what people want, of course. "We know what's best for you" is their arrogant mantra.

When Leftists argue from the relative nature of happiness, however, they have a slightly better point. There is some logic in saying that if everybody had exactly the same amount of money, nobody would be made unhappy by others having more. Leaving aside the totalitarian nature of a society that would be needed to achieve such a situation, however, it overlooks that there are heaps of ways that people envy one-another. If they did not envy the next guy for having more money they might envy him for having better looks etc. Trying to equalize people is just a battle against human nature. But Leftists have always ignored the evidence about human nature of course.

I am going to call my posts on happiness to a halt here but there are some further interesting readings here and here and here and here and here



Janet Napolitano, governor of Arizona, says: "There is a real emergency at the Arizona-Mexico border. Law enforcement and other county and city entities have been pleading for assistance, and I could not wait any longer for the federal government to do its job. That’s why I declared a state of emergency in Arizona last week. It allows us to allocate more state money to much-needed border enforcement. Arizona’s border with Mexico is in drastic need of federal attention, but the federal government has done little to shore it up. As a result, criminality is alive and well along the border, preying upon Arizonans as well as the people desperate to get into the United States."

We mate with people who are genetically similar: "The reason our friends seem a bit kooky, and our mates may seem strange compared to ourselves, is that opposites attract. Right? Nope. A large body of research suggests that we pick our friends, as well as our mates, because underneath it all they are very much like us. So if our friends are kooky, and our mates a bit strange, chances are we are too. And the latest study in this ongoing research takes it a little further. We can blame it at least partly on our genes. People tend to like others who have the same inheritable traits, so we often choose friends and mates who are genetically similar to ourselves. "People prefer their own kind," says J. Philippe Rushton, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. "Extroverts favor extroverts; traditionalists, traditionalists."

What goes around comes around: "The "Chuppies" of China are quite prepared to "Buy American." A public opinion poll of China's emerging urban middle class found that high-quality personal care toiletries and consumer electronics lead the list of most desired American products. Apparel and fashion accessories and music and videos are close behind... "These findings show the urban consumer market in China has a great potential for foreign, and especially American, exporters," said Fei-Ling Wang, International Affairs professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "It confirms there is a sizeable group of urban residents in China with considerable disposable income who are developing brand-name consciousness, becoming savvy consumers and acquiring a taste for foreign goods."

I have just put up on Leftists as Elitists a good article by Andrew Bolt about the taxpayer-funded high life of Leftist intellectuals.

For more postings, see EDUCATION WATCH, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. Mirror sites here, here, here, here and here. And on Social Security see Dick McDonald


Practically all policies advocated by the Left create poverty. Leftists get the government to waste vast slabs of the country's labour-force on bureaucracy and paperwork and so load the burden of providing most useful goods and services onto fewer and fewer people. So fewer useful goods and services are produced to go around. That is no accident. The Left love the poor. The Left need the poor so that they can feel good by patronizing and "helping" them. So they do their best to create as many poor people as possible.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch)

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