Increasing work and consumption opportunities?

Increases happiness   2 votes - 50 %
Has no effect on happiness   2 votes - 50 %
Decreases happiness   1 vote - 25 %
Increases wealth   2 votes - 50 %
Has no effect on wealth   1 vote - 25 %
Decreases wealth   0 votes - 0 %
-   0 votes - 0 %
Anthropocene is a good idea   3 votes - 75 %
Anthropocene is a bad idea   1 vote - 25 %
 
4 Total Votes
That last bit presents an interesting question by lm (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 04:52:09 AM EST
Is there a valid difference between subjective and objective well being?

I'm not really well read on the matter, but I think there are a number of recent psychological studies that suggest that dissatisfaction increases as the number choices increase. During a time of want, one is ecstatic to have any healthy meal. During a time of plenty, one is always thinking `I'm not really in the mood to eat this. I should have ordered the other thing.' Or so the theory goes.

Perhaps Plato and Aristotle were on to something when they suggested that wealth has a golden mean. Too little and life sucks. Too little and one makes oneself miserable.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Subjective and objective wellbeing by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 05:25:45 AM EST
Most current research seems to rely on asking people to assess their own well-being. They claim though that this is somewhat validated by brain scans and comparisons across cultures.

I think the problem with the happiness research is that if you take it literally you end with something very like "Brave New World". People are happiest when their material wants are met, and their expectations are met. So a rigidly stratified society where everyone knows their place from birth, yet with a strong social safety net, seems to be the optimum society to maximize happiness.

So basically there seems to be a trade-off between happiness and freedom.

However, the obvious alternative to accepting that trade-off is to say there is a Platonic "true happiness" which is different to the "false happiness" reported by research, and explain that "true happiness" is not inconsistent with freedom.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

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happiness by ucblockhead (3.00 / 2) #3 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 06:03:56 AM EST
Unless you can show some way in which that "true happiness" manifests in a measurable way, that seems like a complete cop out.

I don't think happiness is so incompatible with freedom. I don't think it takes a rigid society. I think it takes a *stable* society.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
How does that work? by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 07:01:04 AM EST
(I agree that the "true happiness" explanation is a bit silly, but I think it will be attractive since it avoids the trade-off problem).

Layard and others have shown that social status is very important element of happiness.

The Ferrante paper I linked to shows that unfulfilled expectations are an important element of unhappiness.

Status is a positional good. There's only so much high status to go around in any society, since it's purely relative to other people.

So now consider a rigidly stratified society, versus a merely stable society, that otherwise are as equivalent as possible.

Both socities have the same amount of happiness due to status.

Both societies have the same amount of happiness due to wealth.

However, in the stable society, the Ferrante results suggest that the lower elements in society will be unhappy because of unfulfilled expectations.

In the stratified society, the lower elements will not be so unhappy because they never had high expectations in the first place.

So overall, the stratified society will have greater happiness than the stable society.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"Rigidly stratified society" by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #6 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 09:27:25 AM EST
I know of no "rigidly stratified society" that was so rigidly stratified that people had no aspirations. Even the serf hoped to marry the pretty girl next door. True, no serf could become king, but every society has had at least some minimal mobility within the stratifications. With that mobility comes the unfulfilled aspirations. I question whether people in rigidly stratified society have fewer aspirations than those in modern democratic aspirations. They merely have smaller ones. The disappointment is as real in either. It's just that one person is unhappy because they didn't get the $200k salary and the other is unhappy because the pig died unexpectedly. The peasant who dreams of selling the pig to by a new tunic does not feel his dream less than the businessman who wants a new BMW.

In most real rigidly stratified societies, unhappiness comes from instability, i.e., from the passing enemy army burning the fields.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

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I think I might have misled you by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #10 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 10:57:46 PM EST
When I said a "merely stable society" I didn't mean to imply that the stratified society is less stable. If you look at the Indian caste system it seems to have been around for about 3,000 years... rigidly stratified societies seem to be pretty stable.

Now if you read the abstract to the paper, he cites specific evidence that "education and access to stimulating environments may have a perverse impact on life satisfaction." Now if that's true, then simply reducing the education of the lower-status classes should make them happier.

Now I don't think that's a good idea. I think you have to say that freedom has a value, and that you should give people freedom and opportunity, even if it means that on aggregate people will be less happy. So maximum-happiness alone is not a good policy goal.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"stable" by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #11 Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 06:57:36 AM EST
I mean stable for individuals in the society. I'm not talking about the stability of the society itself. It's not whether the society exists in the same state in 100 years. It's whether I, as a member of the society, have to worry about surprise problems.

In most highly stratified societies, life is very unstable for the lower classes because there are few protections from the members of the higher classes. In my mind, that's the basic problem with those sorts of societies. Life is often very unstable for those at the bottom.

In regards to freedom...it seems to me a cop out to just assert it is a good and leave it at that.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

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I don't see why that should be so by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #12 Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 08:32:11 AM EST
For instance, suppose from the results of this paper, we restricted free education to the age of 14 only.

The lower classes would not be able to afford education. Since the study shows education reduces their happiness with unrealistic expectations, the average happiness would rise.

This would increase social stratification, since it would be harder for them to move into the upper classes.

However, that would not itself render them any more vulnerable to victimization from the upper classes, nor would it render their lives more unstable.

We're not talking about a return to pre-industrial civilization or economy where people are at more risk from plague and barbarian invasions and such. The technology level and amount of wealth should remain the same.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
technology level by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #13 Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 08:51:13 AM EST
Replace "barbarian invasion" with "layoff".
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
I'm replacing it by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #14 Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 09:09:04 AM EST
But I still don't see how it helps.

Remember that we're talking about empirical data here.

If the extra education boosts happiness in the way you say (by reducing the chance of layoffs) that effect ought to show up in his empirical data.

However, his data shows that education reduces happiness amongst this class. That suggests the reduced-layoff effect either does not exist, or is outweighed by the false-expectations effect he talks about.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Sorry, I'm not clear. by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #15 Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 09:40:54 AM EST
I'm not arguing against the idea that reduced education will make people happier. I'm arguing against the idea that social stratification will make people happier. My contention is that stratified societies tend to make things less stable for those at the bottom and that this swamps any lowered expectations effects.

In a sense, unrealistic expectations is a subset of instability. People get unhappy when life doesn't turn out as well as they expect. This can be because their expectations are unrealistic, or it can be because life is random enough to block expectations. Thus, in my view, the way to promote happiness is to create a society where expectations are generally met and negative events are minimized. This, in my view, is hard in a rigidly stratified society as those on top tend, when given the power, run ragged over those on the bottom, creating lots of unhappiness generating negative events.

I do think that "freedom" in modern societies is overrated in that most fixate on the political definitions of the term. I.e. freedom of speech, of religion, voting rights, etc. What is usually ignored is that economics has a huge impact on freedom. Someone without health insurance, no job and massive medical bills has little freedom of action.

In my view freedom in this broader sense of freedom of action *does* promote happiness in that the more choices (true choices, not theoretical ones) you have, the more likely you are to be able to avoid/deal with negative events. In other words, if I have $10k in the bank, I have more freedom of action then if I had $0 in the bank, and thus if some negative event occurs (like I get laid off) it should make me less unhappy I can reduce the effect of this event on my life. Stability == happiness.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

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"on their way to a by ammoniacal (2.50 / 2) #5 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 08:47:10 AM EST
funeral for a friend who had died - a 44 year old woman with a nine year old daughter."

That bit struck a chord with me. It's a side-effect that people who put off having their first children don't seem to want to address. Why are these people in such denial about mortality rates?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

The death rate isn't that high by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #7 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 09:35:03 AM EST
If you have a kid at forty, you have a greater than 95% chance of surviving to the kid's high-school graduation. The chance of two forty year old new parents leaving their kid orphaned by the time the kid turns 18 is less than 0.25%. (Given US mortality rates)
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
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Not considering orphans. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 10:13:08 AM EST
One surviving parent should suffice, but that 5% of kids are dealing with a lot of crap and I believe it's a significant issue.

Not to argue from anecdotes, but my mom's & niece's dads died when when they were in high school and it was a horrible experience for them.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Conversely ... by lm (4.00 / 3) #9 Sat Feb 02, 2008 at 12:42:56 PM EST
... it RTFO to get your inheritance when you're still in your twenties or thirties rather than in your fifties or sixties.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
is it by garlic (2.00 / 0) #16 Mon Feb 04, 2008 at 10:36:36 AM EST
significantly worse than divorce?


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