Re: Damned European Socialists ;-)

Bernard Hughes (
Fri, 13 Nov 1998 17:36:03 -0330

Steve Tucker wrote:

> Bernard Hughes wrote:

> My point was if we are trying to maximize our happiness, but our intuitions about what

> > makes us happy are flawed, then our strategies are likely to be flawed. Declaring
> > research nonsense because it doesn't meet our expectations doesn't seem to be very
> > rational. Since the reported research is not yet published, its hard to guess its
> > validity. But my question remains, would you change your strategy for increasing your
> > personal happiness if reliable research showed the currently accepted assumptions to be
> > flawed? Or are you trying to optimize some other factor than happiness? If you are
> > trying to optimize power for example, I would guess absolute values rather than rate of
> > change become most significant.
> I understand your point, and it's not the research I was declaring nonsense (sorry if I was
> unclear), but rather the extrapolation from it. I think it's quite a leap to postulate that
> because those who are forced to be quadriplegic may be quite happy as the propects of
> improving their condition improve, then self-impoverishment for other people will cause them
> happiness at the propect of struggling back to financial security (or at least their
> previous state) again. So where is the flaw in the "we should become quadriplegics"
> deduction that does not pertain to the "we should become impoverished" deduction?

Both deductions are extreme, and move out of the range where I think the theory holds. In the quadriplegics case, I would say the subjects score well on the happiness scale because.

  1. The disaster was accidental
  2. They are only a tiny minority in a society compassionate enough to provide resources, and do research which alleviates their condition.

If everyone followed that route, there would be no-one around to do research, or even provide help. A terminal condition.

I was not suggesting people become impoverished. However, I did see the research as validating my lifestyle of the last few decades, so I found it attractive. Typically, when my assets get large, I get rid of them and restart at a lower base. This lower base does however include obvious essentials like the latest laptop, a fast Net connection, and enough money to cushion small surprises. Note that I don't get rid of my *really important* assets like my skills and experience in systems design which give me my high earning power.

I noticed long ago that affluent executives I worked with would moan about how much they had to work to give their house new furniture, their yacht a new mast, their cottage a new roof, and their money a new home. The answer seemed to me to be, "ditch the possessions". When I found myself risen to the exalted state where I was mostly working to keep my possessions in the state to which they were accustomed, I followed my own logic. I've done that a few times, and it works well for me. I'm surprised how few other follow the same strategy, or do it only once and call it a "mid-life crisis".

If you are trying to maximize power though, its a poor strategy. Or you may have other goals for which lots of stuff is essential.

> A similar case might be a person on the verge of starvation. When presented with a sandwich
> his happiness may exceed anything in my common experience, but I don't see that as an
> argument for malnutrition.

Again, I wouldn't recommend anything that extreme. But I do find putting my sandwich in a backpack and hiking to the top of a mountain with it improves the taste significantly.



Bernard J Hughes
Timedancer Systems
 -- Creative Laziness at its best --