Happiness (was Re: The meta-invisible hand)

Keith Elis (hagbard@ix.netcom.com)
Mon, 22 Sep 1997 10:27:24 -0400

Anders Sandberg wrote:
> The meta-invisible hand: self-organized criticality and politics

Sorry, Anders, I like Invisible Meta-Hand better. :-)

Accepting Kauffman. . .

X <--- Y ---> Z

This is the current state of affairs (by the Sandberg Invisible
Meta-Hand Theory of Political Economy):

X is the free market.
Y is the locus of maximal policy fitness (in the U.S. system --
maximal economic growth).
Z is central economic planning.

Anders wrote:

> One problem is that even if policy fitness is maximized, it
> doesn't necessarily maximize human happiness or growth.

The problem, as you've lucidly framed it, is choosing a new X and a new
Z such that Y's maximization of policy fitness yields a corresponding
maximization of human happiness.

Now we find ourselves deep in modernist political thought. You left open
the possibility that maximal economic growth may indeed be the same as
maximal human happiness.

Let's juxtapose a couple of quotations from people who are not list

> . . . it is not without reason that [man] seeks out and is willing to
> join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to
> unite for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates,
> which I call by the general name- property.

--John Locke: The Second Treatise on Government, ch 9.

> 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.

--Thomas Jefferson: The U.S. Declaration of Independence, July 4,

Notice how the three most important things to Locke are life, liberty,
and property. Notice how Jefferson borrows the phrase but changes it
into "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This is pretty
telling commentary on how modern capitalist political economy is
justified. That is, one of the core documents in the democratic
capitalist tradition equates property with happiness.

So in maximizing economic growth some apparently believe the system
maximizes human happiness. Is this flawed in some way? Yes, to a certain
degree since abundant wealth only allows one more time and resources to
*pursue* happiness. This doesn't mean one will find it. Moreover, in
balancing the free market/government tension, the same system often
allows regulation of certain drugs that have the capacity to make people
happy right at the source, their biological substrate.


Can there be a direct link between people and happiness, or is some kind
of interposing simplestraction (Yudkowsky, 1997) necessary to make the

Will there come a point in time when owning property becomes obsolete
and there is not even a perceived link between wealth and happiness?

Is there one thing that will make everyone happy, and if so, how do we
maximize it?