Sunday, September 12, 2010

Taleb's take on "Happiness" and why Less is Sometimes More

Iatrogenics of wealth: (LINK)

As a child I was certain that poor people were happier because they had less complicated but more social lives, huddled together in small quarters, and having no soccer mom (or the then-equivalent), they could just play in the streets etc. In addition, rich people use harmful technologies, go to the gym instead of playing in the streets, meet economists and other frauds, etc... So there were things money could not buy, in effect, money caused you to lose... Later on when I got a windfall check, in my twenties (before it became more common for people in finance to get big bucks), I discovered another harmful side of wealth: unless one hid the cash, it was hard to know who one's friends were...

But for some people, money can be beneficial –some. I am not convinced of the utility theory approach & results showing the absence of effect of higher income (in excess of lower-middle class wages) on happiness (the noise I see in the research papers is MONSTROUS, even if the "average" seems to accord with the findings). Also, I am not quite certain that "happiness" is refined enough an expression. People don't quite understand what being human means. There is the unhappiness that's natural to mankind, sadness from heartbreak or the loss of a family member (Why do so many people read sad love stories?) and the unhappiness of working in an office building, commuting, sitting in a structured classroom, captive in a technological nightmare... more later.

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