Arnold Kling  

Will Wilkinson on Happiness Research

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He writes,


the complex biochemistry of good and bad feelings suggests that there are many more than two dimensions even to hedonic well-being, and so trade-offs among them are inevitable. The noise, bustle, and danger of a big city are no doubt a source of higher levels of cortisol and thus stress. Which is one important reason some people would rather live in the country. But cities can also be a greater source of stimulating novelty...

The late Bernie Saffran used to have a quote on his door from George Bernard Shaw: "Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you. They may have different tastes."

There is much more in Wilkinson's essay, including a discussion of Tyler Cowen's claim that markets satisfy the human need for status-seeking by providing many dimensions along which humans may compete for status.

The problem comes, in my view, when there are people who compete for status along the dimension of telling other people what to do. I would like to say to Richard Layard or Robert Frank, "You can have all the status points you want, if you would just agree to shut up about public policy." But, given their tastes, such an offer is self-contradicting.


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COMMENTS (7 to date)
Buzzcut writes:

>>I would like to say to Richard Layard or Robert Frank, "You can have all the status points you want, if you would just agree to shut up about public policy." But, given their tastes, such an offer is self-contradicting.

Amen, brother. Amen.

Robert Frank is pure eeevil.

a Don Ymous writes:

[Comment deleted for supplying false email address. To request having this comment restored, email the webmaster@econlib.org --Econlib Editor]

conchis writes:

Yup. That's right. All lefties' policy opinions are merely tools in their endless quest for self-importance.

Anyone else think this sounds suspiciously like one of those nasty Type M arguments Arnold purports to hate so much.

Type M arguments are about the alleged motives of individuals who advocate policies ... Type M arguments deny the legitimacy of one's opponents to even state their case. Type M arguments do not give rise to constructive discussion. They are almost impossible to test empirically.

Pots, kettles, etc.

TGGP writes:

It's true that Arnold does go for a type M here (and does deserve criticism for the cheap dig), but I'd add in his defense that it's a tangent at the end of his post, and if you excised the last paragraph this post would not really lose anything. In a post whose subject was Richard Layard or Robert Frank (I don't know who either is) it would be less forgivable.

conchis writes:

TGGP,

Maybe I'm wrong, but I guess the reference seemed more than tangential to me, given that Layard and Frank are two of the biggest proponents of the whole line of happiness research, which is precisely what the whole post is about.

On the other hand, I do think there's an interesting question about the potential value of type M arguments. If we're interested in overcoming bias, then reasonable assessments of others biases are likely to be very valuable. The problem is (as I suspect Arnold is here) that we tend to be biased in those assessments.

TGGP writes:

I stand corrected on the relevance of Layard and Frank.

Michele Moore writes:

Interesting posting! What ever happened to the simple, eternal, universal truths that have proven through time to bring happiness and spiritual success..

"Be Guided By Goodness • Fuel Your Life With Fun • Passion Is Empty Without Compassion • Profit From Your Mistakes • Beating Yourself Up Reinforces Errors You Want To Avoid • Drive Discipline With Desire • Make Decisions Not Judgments • Schedule Your Time Not Your Tasks • Be Driven By Desire NOT Duress • See Obstacles NOT Problems • Focus On How You Want To Feel • Touch Each Person You Meet With A Positive Spirit • Love Propels Happiness

The key to lasting happiness is learning how to make yourself happy, not in trying to find things that make you happy. The first is an internal skill set, learning to create our own happiness, the latter requires us to look outside of ourselves for happiness.

Michele Moore - author of
How To Live A Happy Life -
101 Ways To Be Happier
http://HappinessHabit.com
http://HappinessBlog.com

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