Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  
UptonStellington

Happiness/Standard of Living Scales

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

It seems like the most common defense or accusation against the "capitalism" of the United States is that it has failed, which is evidenced by the fact that the standard of living is something like 11th in the world according to most polls, and that the average US citizen ranks somewhere in the 40's or something like that as compared to the citizens of other countries (ie, that the US population ranks 40th in terms of happiness).

Something about these claims strikes me as being bullshit. I remember reading somewhere that it was actually Haiti that ranked number 2 on the happiness scale or something like that.

Anyone have any opinions on these polls? How do they determine if people are happy? Why are those people happy -- because it seems like the 'happiest' people tend to live in more oppressive regions...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "standard of living" is designed to negate the leading position that the US has in per-capita wealth. This involves throwing in non-economic factors such as "educational standards" and presupposing socialism as the goal of a society (so that it is better to have a society with an average income of $30,000 per capita where everybody makes exactly that, than it is to have an average income of $30,000 where the vast majority of people make $25,000, a bunch make next to nothing, and a small set make $100,000,000). Happiness indexes are simply the absurd end of the "productivity doesn't matter" ethos.

A better metric is tied to the notion of purchasing power, i.e. how much can you get from a year's work. Versions of that include the "Ipod index" and "Big Mac index". The US is up there in the top, by those measures. One thing to remember is that the US is not capitalist. Compared to France, we are more capitalist. I don't know how to compare the US economy to that of various Gulf states like Qatar. It's quite possible that the Qatarian economy is freer than the current American economy. The US has slid into a deeper socialist slump than during Rand's life, so it would not surprise me to find that some other country has become what the US used to be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It seems like the most common defense or accusation against the "capitalism" of the United States is that it has failed, which is evidenced by the fact that the standard of living is something like 11th in the world according to most polls, and that the average US citizen ranks somewhere in the 40's or something like that as compared to the citizens of other countries (ie, that the US population ranks 40th in terms of happiness).

Something about these claims strikes me as being bullshit. I remember reading somewhere that it was actually Haiti that ranked number 2 on the happiness scale or something like that.

Anyone have any opinions on these polls? How do they determine if people are happy? Why are those people happy -- because it seems like the 'happiest' people tend to live in more oppressive regions...

Some psychological research indicate that happiness depends on wealth of country just to the certain degree. When the country pass some threshold, there is not a correlation between wealth and happiness.

Happiness of people in country may depend on other things than wealth - religion, political and personal freedom, customs...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

sNerd and Inspector, thank you very much for those articles -- both were very valuable.

That Stossel report is interesting -- I will have to read the actual thing (I only read what was on the message board). .. it's funny, because my professor, when speaking about that WHO list where the US ranks 37 in healthcare, said that it was compiled based on "very objective and broad-ranging criteria"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
it's funny, because my professor, when speaking about that WHO list where the US ranks 37 in healthcare, said that it was compiled based on "very objective and broad-ranging criteria"

In my experience "objective" and "broad-ranging" are contradictory. Red Flag

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The "standard of living" is designed to negate the leading position that the US has in per-capita wealth. This involves throwing in non-economic factors such as "educational standards" and presupposing socialism as the goal of a society (so that it is better to have a society with an average income of $30,000 per capita where everybody makes exactly that, than it is to have an average income of $30,000 where the vast majority of people make $25,000, a bunch make next to nothing, and a small set make $100,000,000). Happiness indexes are simply the absurd end of the "productivity doesn't matter" ethos.

Ohhh... That makes sense. I remember reading in "Ayn Rand Q&A" (I think), she was asked "How do you respond to Sweeden's enormous productivity?" or something like that, and she responded with a "Statistics can prove anything. I'd sooner believe they were all walking on their heads." (paraphrased).

A better metric is tied to the notion of purchasing power, i.e. how much can you get from a year's work. Versions of that include the "Ipod index" and "Big Mac index". The US is up there in the top, by those measures. One thing to remember is that the US is not capitalist. Compared to France, we are more capitalist.

Are you serious? That's insane.

I don't know how to compare the US economy to that of various Gulf states like Qatar. It's quite possible that the Qatarian economy is freer than the current American economy. The US has slid into a deeper socialist slump than during Rand's life

I don't know, she lived under Chairman Roosevelt. I'm not 100% sure, but from what I know, it was more socialist then. Do you know if it was less?

, so it would not surprise me to find that some other country has become what the US used to be.

Hong Kong is the most free market place on the planet, according to The Index of Economic Freedom (http://www.heritage.org/Index/).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a Tara Smith article, titled "Money Can Buy Happiness" that's relevant to this topic.

I was reminded of the "money can/cannot buy happiness" theme when reading a recent article about the guy who became rich after selling Minecraft. Every granting some journalistic sensationalism, it sounds like he thinks the money did not bring him the happiness he expected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Money never brings happiness... not directly.

 

IF you know WHAT makes you happy, it enables you to put yourself in that position.  It certainly provides more opportunity/ability to put yourself in that position.

 

 

So if you love living in a shack and hunting deer... drinking cheap beer...  money cannot stand in your way to getting a nice cabin, cheap beer etc.

 

 

Clearly if you do NOT know what actually will make you happy, there is no reason on earth to simply assume buying an insanely opulent house in Beverly hills WILL suddenly make you happy.

 

 

As for people.... yes good rational moral people are hard to find.  But there are a good many of them out there... and many who would be more than happy to drop by your cabin, hunt deer, and drink cheap beer with you.

 

 

The problem with these stories about money not buying happiness is that they often tell the tale of a sorry person without enough self-esteem to know what they want in life and what they should do with their money to support that life... and the author is free to imply money actually buys misery, changes your personality, or otherwise is the "root of all evil".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×