Firozali,If you're commenting from Tanzania, very cool. It's a bit of a mystery why there are not more contributions to blog comments and discussion boards originating in the USA from a broader range of non-USA countries, given that there are many millions of people on the internet for fun and communication in these countries. Brazil tends to be a notable exception (and they're not even common wealth!). I would expect more posts from people native to and living in countries like India, Nigeria, and the Phillipines.

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Yes sir. They had love.

No sir after the IT we have the rich love rich and poor... they are pests.

This is what I read..Since the 1980s, wealthier people have moved to the suburbs while the poor remain in inner cities, the JRF added.

Society polarised

Looking at wealth patterns over the past four decades, the JRF found that the gap between rich and poor actually narrowed in the 1970s.

But during the 1980s and 1990s inequality had increased, as a "polarisation" in British society had occurred.

Sir. Darfur is dying. Somalia and Sudan are beleived to be breeding grounds of Taliban. We are not sure but the countries are to be included in the charter of African unity. Sounds all crazy but there it is.Hence yes and no.

Firozali A.Mulla MBA PhDP.O.Box 6044Dar-Es-SalaamTanzaniaEast Africa.

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"Nowadays, the debates usually go in the other directions, with people on the left being less positive about material progress and people on the right saying that things are great now and are getting better."

I don't think these debating positions really contradict the historic pattern of the left being more materialistic than the right (as Bertrand DeJouvenel pointed out in "the Ethics of Redistribution"). Some of the arguments about whether we're better off materially are just directed at the incumbent administration: if you don't like the president, you claim that he's wrecking the economy, and vice versa. And the left continues to go on at length about redistribution. The right's answer to this, in Chesterton's time and today, is, at least in part, "money isn't everything."

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Hunter-gatherers get wiped out because ag societies support larger populations, and of course urbanized and metal-using socieities (and later fully industrialized ones) produce weapons that allow for the more complete military domination of such societies. So they disappear. Chesterton lacked both the knowledge and the imagination to go all the way back. The Middle Ages were quite sufficient for his shockingly conservative argument.

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Barkley Rosser,You put in a caveat about the absence of agricultural society. Given the choice, as in colonial North America, disproportionately more people flow to the hunter-gatherer society than to the agricultural.

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I didn't label Chesterton as a "rightist." I called him a "Christian conservative." A conservative can be anti-capitalist. Depending on the social and political context, support for capitalism can be a liberal or a conservative position.


I suspect Chesterton used the Middle Ages as a comparison to be provocative--to make the point to progressive socialists such as Shaw that material progress is not the solution to happiness. I doubt he would've picked the Stone Age, or anything B.C., as his comparison point.

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Why compare with the Middle Ages? If one is going to push such comparisons to the limit, why not go all the way back to paleolithic man? Marshall Sahlins in his _Stone Age Economics_ presented evidence that in hunter-gatherer societies, in fact people had considerable amounts of leisure time. Humans had physically and socially evolved and adapted to that sort of economy; we were suited to it, and it is not clear that we have been as physically suited to any society as much since. Also, drawing on the happiness lit, given that there were no societies around with agriculture or industrialization to dominate and provide a demeaning comparison, people were free to be happy in their "primitive" but well-adapted states, probably much better off psychologically than in either the Middle Ages or now.

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Joseph Delaney: I'll send u the links, send ur address to bbrittonva@yahoo.com

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According to this book, the effects of income on happiness look like this:

1) The effect of absolute income on happiness is non-linear; money has decreasing marginal utility. Raising the income of the desperately poor has a bigger effect on happiness than raising the income of people who already have more than enough to meet basic needs such as food and shelter. Being rich won't make you happy, but being poor will make you miserable.2) The effects of relative vs. absolute income actually have been quantified. If everyone gets a raise, your gain in happiness is 2/3 of the increase that you would have if only you get the raise. Because people do care about both relative income and absolute income, people will tend to try to earn more income than is socially optimum. Therefore, the income tax is actually a Pigovian tax on a negative externality and actually increases net happiness.

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Re-reading the other comments, I think you can see why my definition (which I of course think is the proper one), is somewhat wealth independent. People in many states and stations can be happy in the moment ... and if they are much of the time, they are happy in general.

I think this explains the decreasing returns, wealth-to-happiness, and might be a prescription of what to look for when you have a little wealth put by.

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Having just read Timeline, it strikes me that it may be the real Michael Crichton above. If so, cool.

Anyway, I'd agree that classifying Chesterton as a rightist seems a bit weird. He was very conservative in religious and social terms, but in matters of economics, he was a distributist, and his writings are full of venom directed towards capitalists. So he doesn't map onto current political categories very well.

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Is my definition of happiness unique? It is:

"Are you happy living in this moment, or would you rather it be some other moment?"

If you are very unhappy, you'll very much want another moment.

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Bruce Bitton:

"I can send you the links for the figures if you want."

I would highly appreciate it.

"However, your paragraph on the physics analogy -- I'm not sure what you are getting at there."

What I was trying to say (badly) is that when you have a large range over which a variable is measured (i.e. the range of wealth from homeless person to Bill Gates) then there can be effects that dominate at one end of the range. These effects could could lead to misleading inferences if you compare the two ends of the distribution.

Air Resistence is almost always ignored in physics problems because it is small compared to other effects. However, very small objects with a large surface area are a case where this small (but highly non-linear) effect has a strong effect on the results.

So, what I was wondering about with wealth and happiness is if the weak correlation could be partially due to multiple effects (all of which make sense independently) but, across the large range of wealth, could lead to counter-intuitive conclusions.

So, perhaps, this is a problem best tackled with analyzing across a restricted range? I do not know; I am just speculating.

"An important qualifier seems to be that if you make comparison processes salient -- hey, I'm not as rich as him -- you get more effects."

This would be very depressing if a large portion of the positive emotional effects of wealth were due to relative effects and not absolute effects of wealth. This would suggest that absolute increases in wealth don;t help much and that happiness for one person is at the expense of another.

I would have a strong personal bias against accepting such a view!


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What were 'the colossal walls that were built to keep happiness in,'

and is it really true that 'humanity never produces optimists till it has ceased to produce happy men,'

and when did we 'impose a holiday like a fast and drive men to a banquet with spears.'

Spears?? What?

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Joseph Delaney: Yes, the relation between wealth and happiness is a fascinating research problem. I didn't mean to give the impressioon that they 'anti-correlate', instead , there is a very weak, slightly positive correlation, often not even statistically significant, and in any case, not linear at all. But as you suggest, the positive correlation is quite high if you just consider the low end: countries where people don't have enough to eat or a living place or have war are much less happy than those in countries where they have the basic minimums of enough to eat and a place to live, and no war. Where the correlation disappears is at the higher levels of wealth, in that the very wealthy countries are not noticably happier than the mid level ones. I can send you the links for the figures if you want.

One proposed explanation that economists can live with is the diminishing marginal utility of consumption -- once you have one car the second car is not as valuable to you as the first, and the third is even less valuable, and by the time you get to the fourth, you're like -- whoa dude, stop already with the cars! That's a soft limit on the effects of wealth on happiness. There are also two hard limits, one being that even rich people have only 16 hours a day to be happy in, and the other is that they can only do one thing at a time, so if they have 6 houses, they can still only be in one at a time. Also we can add that the determiners of happiness seem to be largely temperamental, in other words, you are doomed to your level of happiness, also that two other main determiners of happiness, namely anti-depressant medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy to stop doing things that make you unhappy, are so cheap they are available to everyone.

An important qualifier seems to be that if you make comparison processes salient -- hey, I'm not as rich as him -- you get more effects.

However, your paragraph on the physics analogy -- I'm not sure what you are getting at there.

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I agree that left/right boundaries are fluid but at any given time they seem to mean something. I agree that Orwell and Chesterton both criticized Shaw and Wells as being essentially silly and not understanding human nature--one could call that a conservative critique. On the other hand, on economic and social issues, Orwell favored socialism and class levelling, which was certainly not Chesterton's position. So I guess I'd say that Orwell and Chesterton had similar criticisms of Shaw, but Chesterton's was consistent with his "right" perspective and Orwell's was consistent with his "left" perspective.

Just as, in the 1960s, the "new left" was criticized as self-indulgent both by traditional conservatives and traditional liberals: conservatives criticized the self-indulgence as a rejection of tradition, and liberals criticized the self-indulgence as a distraction from the political fight.

I think the Nazis, at least in the beginning, are characterized as a populist right-wing party. Once they took power and were running the country, I agree that they were beyond left or right. (Similarly, it would be difficulty to put Stalin, Mobutu, and other dictators on a left-right scale; it's hard to judge this in the absence of political competition).

Liberal and conservative represent actual policy positions but are also often defined as opposition to the other, which creates instability and definitely makes it difficult to align across countries and over time.

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