Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Money does too buy happiness

Material wealth doesn't bring happiness? Bollocks. Explain away that map over there from the New Scientist, and the related study.

Not only is freedom what the have-nots haven't got, without it they ain't got lashings of happiness or prosperity either. Turns out generally that the more there is of one, the more of the other. And happiness is what we're here for, right?
According to the analysis, a country's happiness is closely related to its wealth, along with the health and education levels of its people... "There is a belief that capitalism leads to unhappy people," [says the author of the study]. "However, when people are asked if they are happy with their lives, people in countries with good healthcare, a higher [earnings] per capita, and access to education were much more likely to report being happy."
Back in the nineteenth-century an otherwise sane but particularly rationalistic German 'scientist' Wilhem Ostwald tried to establish a mathematical formula for happiness. This was a serious undertaking -- he was German. It looked something like this:
HAPPINESS = E2W2, "where E denotes the energy spent intentionally and successfully, and W that spent with dislike." Note the squares.
Now the New Scientist has shown the formula for per-capita happiness is, quite seriously, more likely something like this:
FREEDOM => PROSPERITY = > HAPPINESS, where the equation has a causal 'arrow' from left to right.
Happiness Studies. Where Ethics meets Politics meets Science.

LINKS: Wealthy nations hold the key to happiness - New Scientist [Hat tip Will Wilkinson]
Happiness & Public Policy [don't laugh, or try not to] - Cato Institute

RELATED: Ethics, Politics, Science


  1. I would add that if Happiness (H) is to be a positive quantity, the Energy quantity (E) must be greater than the dislike quantity (W) at all values of E & W. With such constrain imposed on the happiness equation, it is guaranteed that the individual can never be depressed thus he/she avoids getting a negative value for Happiness (H).

  2. i think it would be more simply stated prosperity=>happiness. that way we don't have to explain why Saudi Arabia (where citizens enjoy great wealth, but particularly draconian laws) is in the deep red.

  3. Yeah, I knew someone would have to oint that out. Bloody Saudi Arabia does rather fuck up the full theory, don't it. (Not the only thing it fucks up, either.)

    Perhaps I could fall back on the 'I haven't seen the full figures yet' line to help try explain it away? Surely all those one-handed Saudi serfs can't really enjoy having their noses pressed to the glass by their feudal lords?

  4. Ah yes, here we go:

    The Happiness Planet Index (HPI) = Life Satisfaction x Life Expectancy/ Ecological Bloody Footprint

    I might have known there'd be a strong element of wetness appearing in a British study. Live hand to mouth and wtch your EBF plummet and your HPI climb. Live the life of Riley, and watch the reverse happen.


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