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July 07, 2011



Well, I was born in the 20th century rather than the 21st and so, presumptively, I am going to be less rich than I otherwise would have been over the coruse of my life. I was born in the UK, rather than Singapore or Switzerland or Norway, so I am a little less rich. Does this imply injustice of some sort?

If it does (and we want to be consistent about it) we should destroy all economic growth and development right now, since the vast majority of the human race has always lived in poverty (and the past cannot be reformed to conform with social justice).

So I think income does come apart from justice at important points. Why justice is still relevant is not because of income inequality in and of itself, but because of the power relationships it sustains and reflects in a given society. Now do power inequalities reflect unhappiness? I think one experiment you talked about a few weeks ago suggests it might well do.

Charles Wheeler

Good God man. Get a life. These 'surveys' are meaningless drivel designed to pretend we can measure everything.

Try getting out more.

Tom Addison

“If so, then equality of opportunity for happiness might tell us no more than that the poor have adapted to their poverty.”

Yeah that’s pretty much what I was thinking as I was reading the above. All it shows is that people can still be happy despite their low level of income merely because they’ve adapted to the situation. There’s no way for them to know what “may have been”.

And it too could support the case that measuring equality by “happiness” would merely be a way for the rich to take money off everyone (or take a ridiculously large share of the pie) without anyone knowing.

“But you’re happy aren’t you peasant? Well then, what you are complaining about?! Run along now anyway, my two Bugatti Veyron’s aren’t going to drive themselves you know....”


Brilliant post. It's always struck me that the big problem with happiness policy is the assumed correlation between optimal happiness and a liberal society. Who is to say there is one? And if there's a conflict, which criteria should prevail? So if it was found, for instance, that mothers who stay at home and don't work are happier than those who do (have no idea if this is true but it's not entirely implausible) then should govt adjust policy to penalise working mums? Or are there, as you say, more important criteria than happiness maximisation?


Doesn't this work both ways though? If people adapt their happiness to circumstances, then the rich being less happy than you'd think is a corollary of the poor being happier.


Well intentioned policies to raise the expectations of the poor risks making the poor them less happy.

Tim S.

Of course, if Wilkinson & Pickett are right, then both rich and poor in the UK are less happy than they would be in a more equal society.


Pienso que no sois derecho. Puedo demostrarlo. Escriban en PM.


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