Absence of Nuisance, Increased Options, and Happiness
I am reading Arnold Kling's recommendable Learning Economics. Perusing his chapter on "Can Money Buy Happiness?" prompted me to rephrase my view of the happiness-matter. I wrote these encapsulating comments in the margins:
Happiness is finite in all stages of human and civilisatory development -- unlike the inclination of human beings to extend freedom from nuisance and increase the options available to pursue one's developing interests and preferences. One cannot be infinitely happy or content, but there are no limits to man's ability to improve his lot by shielding himself from nuisance and attaining better options.
Painless dental care or the right to choose freely among a large number of occupations rather than being forced to pursue one's father's occupation -- the attainment of aims such as these will not move the ceiling of happiness any higher than advancements achieved at earlier stages of human development. Yet, they will be pursued because they remove nuisances and widen the range of options from which one may choose.
This assessment is based on my anthropological views, whose core tenet states that
man is the animal that adjusts to its environment by constantly developing new desires, needs, interests and preferences.
Humans are neither built to enjoy permanent rapture, nor is their personal and social weal dependent on constantly high levels of happiness. What is far more important for human wellbeing is (a) the absence of nuisances and (b) the presence of fruitful avenues for personal development; both of which conditions will be accompanied predominantly by low levels of emotional involvement - think of the meditative quality of much of what one likes doing -, though they may lead to an overall situation associated with words such as "happiness" or "contentment".
Two Meanings of Happiness
Happiness as the object of assessment and happiness as an emotional state are two very different kinds of animals. The former will tend to refer to a cluster or series of episodes most of which do not involve high levels of emotionally present happiness.
While writing this post, I am largely free from disturbances and enjoy the pursuit of a large range of options (to argue this or that, to do something else) allowing me to apply myself to activities that I feel drawn to. None of these components of the overall activity are of an emotional quality that I would designate as "happiness". In fact, it is not rare that pain and effort are involved, as when I fail to find the right words or discover contradictions in my beliefs.
It is the overall activity, including the satisfactory result brought about by it, that I tend to refer to when speaking of happiness - happiness as the object of assessment. And this seems to be rather in keeping with my anthropological theory: to be in balance, man does not so much need a permanent stream of ecstatic feelings but the ability to adopt to his environment by creating and fulfilling new desires, which is why I do not read the same book a million times and do not stop playing tennis after the first match, but look for renewed challenges.
So, happiness can be either (1) a localised feeling, mostly of high intensity, or the object of a broader assessment, in which latter sense it is (2) the expression of a balance between our manifold human faculties and the surrounding in which we find ourselves. In its second import, happiness is not necessarily an event of high emotional intensity; in fact, it may be deemed pleasant precisely because it lacks the grip of passion.
At any rate, while happiness as a localised feeling, mostly of high intensity, is finite both in its intensity and frequency, and a mere component among many other components of wellbeing, happiness as expression of a balance between the human and her environment is infinite in its permutations, a challenge to be approached in an infinite number of ways, and a complex achievement comprising many components of very different kinds. Striving for happiness in this sense is part of human nature, and does not lose its high significance for a person because she has surpassed a certain level of income or wealth.
Happiness Research and Behavioural Economics
Happiness research and behavioural economics tend to be popular with those who believe in a world view that seeks to infantalise and hospitalise the average man, i.e. turning him into the subject on which political paternalism is eager to perform its human experiments.
The happiness researchers' perfidious argument then runs like this: our studies show that an income/wealth level above $ 50.000 does no longer increase happiness; so it is fine to take income/wealth above that threshold and to redirect it to those who at lower levels still stand to enhance their happiness either by receiving the redistributed funds directly or by the help of authorities thus funded.
"The rich" are thieves of happiness; they misappropriate resources that are needed to make other people happy. Wastefully happy, "the rich" are denying "the poor" their share of happiness, as the latter are lacking the very resources squandered on the richmen's exhausted capacity for happiness.
Headline: "Economic Research Shows Politics Needed to Achieve Just Distribution of Happiness" - when in fact, there is no economics involved whatsoever, but a highly biased, agenda-driven, and ill-thought through concept of happiness.
Behavioural economists, in their turn, work ardently on "proving" that human beings are (far more) irrational (than previously thought) and hence dubious candidates for responsible action that need to be taken custody of.
The logic of modern technology underscores the importance of liberty for the advancement of our civilisation.
In an article well worth reading, Larry Downes argues forcefully that "largely absent from the platforms of Republicans and Democrats" there is an urgent
need for a radical shift at all levels of government, from laws and policies that delay and deflect disruptive change to an agenda that maximizes the profound potential of technological inventions to improve the human condition. [...]
There’s a better and safer way to protect and encourage disruptive innovation. First and foremost, governments must recognize severe limits in their ability to shape the destination, if not the trajectory, of disruptive technologies. Technology and policy run at different clock speeds, and the gap is getting wider. Even with the best of intentions, the most nimble regulatory agency still can’t keep up with the pace of change in consumer markets. When they try, the result, more often than not, is the invocation of the law of unintended consequences, where rules intended to encourage such noble goals as enhanced competition or the public interest wind up doing just the opposite.
A pro-innovation agenda begins instead by recognizing that markets are far more likely to resolve market failures than regulators, and to do so at a lower cost. This is not because markets are perfect, or appropriate subjects of uncritical reverence, but simply because markets react more quickly than do governments to the negative but usually short-term side effects of disruptive innovation. The next generation of technology is far more likely to remedy consumer harms than regulatory intervention can, and with considerably less economic friction. [...]
Americans, especially those under the age of 30, are deeply cynical about the political process. They live in a universe where technology can be counted on to make the world better and more interesting every 12 to 24 months, where life is approached as a series of problems to be solved through clever hacks, where even impractical dreams can be realized in weeks through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Why should they trust policy-makers who don’t live in their world, or share their optimism for its future, and who can’t be counted on to do what it takes to maximize its potential? Even if that just means staying out of the way.
Scotland votes on independence on September 18 after centuries of being united with England. The referendum on devolution is being carried out in a constitutional and peaceful way, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
London agreed to the referendum realising that secession is better than forcing Scotland to remain in the union against the wishes of a majority of the Scottish population. A union is only strong if membership is voluntary. London’s response is more reasonable than Madrid’s reaction to the demands of Catalonia. Madrid claims that a referendum on independence among Catalans would be unconstitutional and illegal. It appears the Scottish referendum will be a close call with both sides neck-and-neck, but actual voting is often different to opinions given for a poll. Independence is also a road into the unknown.
Get the thought in your head, and you will find beauty of commercial origin everywhere.
The Apple Watch isn't a tech miracle. It requires a phone to work, creating an Occam's-razor moment for the consumer: Do I need another device if I still have to carry my phone around with me everywhere? Samsung has overcome this by offering a smartwatch that doesn't need a phone.
The Apple Watch's functionality isn't market-beating. It's a basic fitness tracker that can count steps, measure the heart rate and prompt the wearer to be more active. The device can handle messaging the way its competitors do. The Siri voice assistant makes an expected appearance. Though Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook seemed enthusiastic about the watch's useful features, they are too boring to discuss -- particularly in comparison to the Apple Watch's beauty as an object.
Oh, that's what it is. I guess we would have called it hard rock, in my days. The 20-year-old sun of a friend of mine has been to a "metal" concert recently, and I want to be sure I know what he is talking about. Not much different from rock as I knew it during the 1970s, "metal" seems to be perhaps more versatile, more eager to interpret different musical styles from classic music to German folklore or soft rock classics such as "Popcorn", though even such diversification was not uncommon in my youth.
Until just over a century ago, the idea that a company could be a criminal was alien to American law. The prevailing assumption was, as Edward Thurlow, an 18th-century Lord Chancellor of England, had put it, that corporations had neither bodies to be punished nor souls to be condemned, and thus were incapable of being “guilty”. But a case against a railway in 1909, for disobeying price controls, established the principle that companies were responsible for their employees’ actions, and America now has several hundred thousand rules that carry some form of criminal penalty. Meanwhile, ever since the 1960s, civil “class-action suits” have taught managers the wisdom of seeking rapid, discreet settlements to avoid long, expensive and embarrassing trials.
The drawbacks of America’s civil tort system are well known. What is new is the way that regulators and prosecutors are in effect conducting closed-door trials. For all the talk of public-spiritedness, the agencies that pocket the fines have become profit centres: Rhode Island’s bureaucrats have been on a spending spree courtesy of a $500m payout by Google, while New York’s governor and attorney-general have squabbled over a $613m settlement from JPMorgan. And their power far exceeds that of trial lawyers. Not only are regulators in effect judge and jury as well as plaintiff in the cases they bring; they can also use the threat of the criminal law.
Listening to some of my libertarian friends, I feel I am being asked to conclude:
So, America is a racist police state. And the best you can do about it is to hate and denounce government and its organs.
I doubt this is an appropriate way of looking at the USA.
In its assiduousness to promote the police state theme, tabloid libertarianism strikes me as implausible. I can't see any constructive efforts on the part of (too many) libertarians to understand the full picture, all sides involved.
I continue to assume that America is a great country to live in for its citizens, not least because America's police are working hard to help and protect all Americans, succeeding therein countless times every day.
Any reflection of that in the libertarian sterotypes? Any consideration of the fact that a police officer is confronted with difficult-to-handle extreme and border cases - sometimes several times a day - that an ordinary citizen may never encounter during her entire life time? Any appreciation that officers are almost permanently in danger while pursuing their proper duties, in particular being targets of persistent "racism" by virtue of their office?
No, the police are part of the state, so they must be evil.
Be this as it may, I'm glad to be living in a free country, where with conscious enjoyment I do feel free.
An important part of my freedom is this friendly and cooperative, mutually trusting and appreciative attitude between citizens and the police, and my being free from the presumption that something must be wrong with me owing to my showing respect and sympathy for the police.
We reap what we sow.
I came from poverty, growing up in a black neighborhood. I understand how cops were used as tools of government to oppress black people. However, as a student of history I'm smart enough to know that Democrats were and still are to blame.
For my knowledge of the depravity of Democrats, I was deemed a "coon-ass N*igga" by black Liberals, specifically a guy who supposedly was part of the New Black Panther Party, the authority on blackness.
The narrative had been established that Michael Brown didn't deserve to die...for any reason; at least not at the hands of a cop.
Ironically, if Brown had been killed by a gang-banger or from "beefin'" with some hoodrat, all would be normal in the hood.
In the "death by cop" scenario, however, Michael Brown was not to put in a negative light under any circumstances. Because in that scenario, the bigger issue is police brutality and the militarization of police. Those were the marching orders of the Left politburo.
Read more about "the real sellouts" at the source.