Saturday, 22 December 2007

Does freedom mean happiness?

Apparently not.

Stumbling and Mumbling reports the findings of a new report on the correlation between freedom and happiness. Among the points made:

1. We're bad at forecasting our future tastes. In particular, we fail to foresee that we'll adapt to our new circumstances.
2. We have positive illusions. We think we're better than we are; we exaggerate our ability to control our environment; and we are too optimistic.
3. We value hard, quantifiable, things like money more than less quantifiable but important things - which might explain why people prefer the drudgery of long hours in factories to rural life.
4. Because we're loss averse, and value what we have, we stay in situations where we're unhappy, like frogs who stay in water getting gently hotter until they boil to death.

Blind optimism and poor foresight seem to be two of the major reasons we are less happy when free, arguments such as the one above assert.

Are we really unable to make choices that maximize our happiness when presented with a wide array of choices? What does this say about our favored system of government, democracy? And what about choice and the free market? Ultimately, are we free humans really too inept to make the right choices? I do wonder whether there are better options. Perhaps we glorify freedom and democracy a bit too much — especially in the area of happiness — but what realistic conditions of existence would be better?


cwilcox said...

Wow Clearthought...goin' pretty deep on us. I pretty much think freedom is the only way to go. An option in a free society is to adopt those conclusions outlined in that study. A certain number of people in a free society will aspire to maximize their lives, some will settle at a comfortable level of achievement and others will fall victim to whatever fate sends their way. Without the ability to find our comfort levels, if they were dictated by another, I can't imagine a happier existance. In fact, I would imagine a certain number of people would view happiness as an over-rated goal. Are we too inept to make the right choices? Maybe but I trust my ineptness more than I would some appointed ruler.

cwilcox said...

Stopping back to say...Merry Christmas Clearthought!