Re: Damned European Socialists ;-)

Steve Tucker (
Fri, 13 Nov 1998 20:44:09 -0600

Bernard Hughes wrote:

> 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"
> 8> deduction that does not pertain to the "we should become impoverished" deduction?
> 22>
> 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".

I agree both deductions are extreme, it's a method I use when testing new new ideas. I certainly agree with your other points. Someone who is striving for gain only to maintain their possessions or their image may have forgotten that those things should not be ends in themselves, but means towards happiness. If I were in the situation of doing work I did not enjoy to maintain my possessions, I am no longer working for myself but for inanimate objects! It is hard to imagine this as a likely route to happiness. Hopefully I would in time wake up and ditch those possessions that did not bring me joy, and find better uses for the resources I had been putting into maintaining them. However, I don't know that I would find it necessary to divest myself of those resources. It seems that the satisfaction of achieving goals would increase with the scope of those goals, as that increase in scope is allowed by the resources acquired in the meeting of previous, more modest goals. For me, happiness consists in part of experiencing growth, moving the mark higher and trying to achieve more, rather than diminishing myself and then once again striving to reach my prior state.

- Steve