Social Issues

Free, Happy People, Holding Hands

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Free people are happy people, sayeth Arthur C. Brooks.

For example:

Pundits and politicians on the left often tell us that a free economy makes for an unhappy population: the disruptions of capitalism make us insecure, and we would prefer the security of generous welfare programs and national health care. But for most people, it turns out, that isn't true.

To begin with, those who favor less government intervention in our economic affairs are happier than those who favor more. When asked in 2004 whether it was the government's responsibility to improve the living standards of Americans, 26 percent of those who agreed called themselves very happy, versus 37 percent who disagreed. When asked in 1996 whether it should be "the government's responsibility to keep prices under control," those who said it "definitely should be" were a quarter less likely to say that they were very happy than those who said it "definitely should not be."

More interesting stuff from Brooks here.

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  1. That’s some nice chicken soup there, but I wouldn’t go using it as a statistical source for the next liberal/libertarian mixer.

  2. What?
    It’s not the same thing to say that free people are happier as it is to say that people who prefer freedom are happier as it is to say that people who think they’re more free are happier.

  3. those who favor less government intervention in our economic affairs are happier than those who favor more.

    Smarter people are happier, perhaps?

  4. To begin with, those who favor less government intervention in our economic affairs are happier than those who favor more.

    Well, my question here would be, “What is the economic status of those who favor less intervention in economic matters vs. that of those who favor more?”. That could make a world of difference in why one group is happier than the other. And also why one group would favor intervention and one wouldn’t. I haven’t had time to RTFA, so if this is addressed, pardon me.

    But really, without supporting information, this strikes me as fairly useless data…

  5. Happy, unhappy, who cares? What I want to know is if the fourth Indiana Jones movie will suck. If not, then I will be happy.

  6. Yeah, gotta go with Pig here.

    If you’re already successful, you will be more likely to say that you’re happy, and will be less likely to see any pressing need for government intervention to help you succeed.

    I tend to think freer people will be happier, but don’t think a survey of this kind is a good way to demonstrate that.

  7. How do we know “for most people, this isn’t true”? Because people who favor less government intervention in our economic affairs are happier? Man, what?

  8. To begin with, those who favor less government intervention in our economic affairs are happier than those who favor more.

    Well Duh! Poor people are not as happy as rich people. Poor people are more likely to favor government intervention due to their failures to, prosper in the capitalist system.

    IOW, it ain’t the belief that makes them unhappy, it is unhappiness that leads to the belief.

    Positive feedback likely plays a role in all of this.

  9. Looking at the charts, people who think they’re free also think they’re happier?

    Delusional people are happier. Who knew?

    Of course, not too happy still wins within the margin of error for both sides.

  10. Actually, I don’t see how the information in this survey as it relates to the graphic actually shows anything remotely like what the conclusion drawn by it suggests.

    People who perceive the world to be how they want it to be are going to be happier than people who perceive the world to be not how they want it.

    That is to say, those who have higher standards of freedom may respond that they think they have a moderate amount of freedom, while those who think that we are currently as free as anybody could want think that they have complete or a great deal of freedom. Of course those who desire more freedom are going to be less happy than those who desire no more freedom.

  11. T, the colors are confusing, but I think the big wedges are the “pretty happy” wedges.

  12. Smarter people are happier, perhaps?

    It’s called “internal locus of control” vs. “external locus of control.” People who believe that they have control over their lives tend to be happier and more successful–even in situations in which they don’t have control.

    Psych studies have tested people for their relative locus of control and then put both internals and externals in a no-win situation. The internals performed better even though they couldn’t win.

  13. I dont believe in no-win scenarios.

  14. James T. Kirk is the most outstanding example of a man with an interior locus of control. Only wussy externals set their phasers to “stun.”

  15. What do you think…(cough)…of my solution?

  16. Smarter people are happier, perhaps?

    Not according to Kant.

    And wealthy people tend to be miserable jerks, and more than happy to share that with anyone they encounter. Just being able to buy a fancy condo is not sufficient for happiness.

  17. Funny, I always thought those East Germans standing in bread lines looked festive.

    “What is the economic status of those who favor less intervention in economic matters vs. that of those who favor more?”.

    If you don’t like your economic status, maybe you should look for a solution that doesn’t involve reducing someone else’s freedom.

    I was happy when I was making $6/r schlepping pumps, saws, post hole augers and other assorted dirty heavy equipment around at a contractor’s supply store. Why? Because I was also going to school full-time and knew I would have a better future.

  18. When I was just a kid making $12/hour with a wife who didn’t work, living in a $300/month apartment, it felt like I always had cash in my pocket and could buy pretty much whatever I had a hankering to buy.

    Now that we both work and we both make (ahem) more than $12/hour, we totally never have any money.

  19. Those poor, deluded saps just don’t realize how miserable they are, and how much happier they would be if they gave themselves over to the State. They must be sent to re-education facilities at once. Or insane asylums.

  20. And wealthy people tend to be miserable jerks, and more than happy to share that with anyone they encounter.

    Only in a Jonathan Kellerman novel. My experience has been quite different. Most of the rich people I know are very cool**. Mr Burns might make you LOL but the stereotype is largely undeserved, at least in my little corner of the universe.

    **Except for those plastic bleach blond bimbos with Mattel tattooed on their ass who cruise around Newport Beach in the MBZ clogging up traffic.

  21. Jaybird,

    Lets see – 12*40*4 = 1920 per month, approximate gross.

    300/1920 = 15.6%

    Not saying this applies to you, but very few people can keep their house payments down to 15%. Mine, for example, is 25.1% (mortage+taxes+insurance), which is probably too high, but doable.

    Cash flow is key, high mortgage payments kill cash flow. Too many house poor people around.

  22. Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be

  23. Freedom’s just another word for nothin left to lose.

  24. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.

  25. wealthy people tend to be miserable jerks, and more than happy to share that with anyone they encounter

    I know what you mean, but I disagree.

    I think it’s possible to confuse “people who act angry a lot” with “people who are unhappy” and they’re not really the same. Sometimes they’re actually opposites.

    Wealthy people tend to think that they occupy a position of higher status in their day-to-day affairs that allows them to express their anger with impunity. Your boss can yell at you. You can’t yell at your boss.

    But being able to indulge yourself by expressing your anger probably makes many people happier than they would be if they had to keep their anger in.

    To use a personal example, my wife thought for a long time that I did not enjoy going on long trips in the car, because I would yell at other drivers when I did not like their behavior or demeanor. She attempted to make me “happier” by having me stop doing this. What she did not realize was that if someone made me angry in the first ten minutes of a three hour car ride, if I immediately yelled at them, I would forget about it right away and have a perfectly happy time – but if I kept my mouth shut and did not yell at them, I would seethe for the entire drive and probably longer. Eventually I explained the issue to her correctly and went back to my road raging ways.

    This board is another example. If you went by the tone of posts or by the sentiments expressed, you might think that I am not enjoying myself here. But yet I come here every day, right?

    Trust me, those rich people acting like completely unsatisfied and angry dicks you encounter are loving every minute of it.

  26. Fluffy has just described Donald Trump perfectly. He has to be enjoying himself.

  27. Donald Trump is actually a dick. Anyone who would sic the eminent domain people on an old lady to steal her house for a limo staging area is a class A Dog Dick. Then he tries to have IJ busted off the case because they didn’t charge the woman to represent her. He’s a Dog Dick bastard and I don’t care if he’s happy or not.

  28. Fluff, I am on board with that yelling at other drivers stuff. Some people (especially my friends when I was young and single) find the creative use of epithets and swear words amusing, but Mrs TWC really hates it. I mean she HATES IT! I try to stifle myself but it is really difficult. Doing better, though.

  29. I work in a casino with high rolling jerks. Gotta agree with Fluffy on this one. Shoe fits and what not.

  30. This confuses a free market with a free people Things like economic prosperity and health expand freedom. A poor person is not free to buy what he wants, to travel, or do any myriad of things that a rich person can do. An infirm person is not free to enjoy all the physical activities that a healthy person can enjoy. When the “free” market misfunctions and an economic crisis throws many into poverty, it contricts freedom. Libertarians go wrong by deifying the market. It’s just a construct.

  31. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.

    I ain’t been rich, but there is something to be said for not having to sweat the rent. We waited for quite some time to have kids. Careers were established and we got all the hard stuff out of the way. Then when the bambinos come nobody is stressed because the choice is buy food or pay the electric bill. It really makes the road a lot smoother when all the bases are covered and you can fight about the stuff that really counts. 🙂

  32. Yo lefty, I’ve heard it all before. No one can be free if they’re hungry, blah, blah, blah . . .

    I’ve seen Russia behind the Iron Curtain. Being hungry is not the same as not being free.

    Quit insulting the millions of people that actually struggled to get free.

  33. Equal opportunity is not a guarentee of equal outcome.

    Equal rights is not a guarentee of equal opportunity.

  34. A poor person is not free to buy what he wants, to travel, or do any myriad of things that a rich person can do.

    He’s free to become rich and then do those myriad things. He has no guarantee of success, but then neither did the rich person.

    Your boss can yell at you.

    My boss makes less than me, and in the unlikely event he yelled at anyone he’d be fired.

  35. Happy, unhappy, who cares? What I want to know is if the fourth Indiana Jones movie will suck. If not, then I will be happy.

    Bah! Who cares Heath Ledger’s Joker looks friggin awesome!!

  36. count me in the 23%. That is, if “not very happy” really means “extremely f-ing pissed”

  37. Fluffy | April 21, 2008, 12:11pm |

    To use a personal example, my wife thought

    Er… You’re a guy?

    Wow. I have sat here for who knows how long assuming you were a female. Sorry, man.

  38. OT & FYI:

    Monica Lovinescu, longtime critic of the former communist regime in Romania, has died.

    More here.

  39. count me in the 23%. That is, if “not very happy” really means “extremely f-ing pissed”

    I cant go thru life like that. Im almost always happy. If I lived in Cuba, I would probably be happy most of the time (or, more likely, dead – for trying to escape/assassinate).

  40. Katmandu, Nepal (AP)

    Nepalese soldiers and police guarding the slopes of Mount Everest are authorized to shoot to stop any protests during China’s Olympic torch run to the summit, an official said Sunday.

    This is what “not free” looks like, dear Lefty.

  41. Pundits and politicians on the left often tell us that a free economy makes for an unhappy population: the disruptions of capitalism make us insecure, and we would prefer the security of generous welfare programs and national health care. But for most people, it turns out, that isn’t true.

    No, it is true. Politicians on the left are unhappy with a free economy. There’s no denying this.

  42. Libertarians go wrong by deifying the market.

    We don’t deify the market. We deify liberty. The free market is merely a cornerstone of that liberty.

  43. I have sat here for who knows how long assuming you were a female.

    Don’t feel like the Lone Stranger, I thought Fluff was a babe for a while as well. Figured it out about six months ago (give or take).

  44. Oh yeah, and I thought Mo was a chick too. But I think that’s because I call my sister Mo.

  45. “When the “free” market misfunctions and an economic crisis throws many into poverty, it contricts freedom.”

    Funny, same thing happens when a “planned” market misfunctions. The poverty thing, that is. Not much freedom to constrict to begin with.

    Funnier even is the fact that closer examination of “market misfunctions” generally show that it’s the latter kind that usually happens.

  46. Seems to me that the happier people are the ones who DON’T want more freedom. If they think that they already have a lot of freedom, they are not the people seeking to create more. The unhappy ones are the freedom lovers.
    Who the fuck is this Brooks? His analysis sucks.

  47. “To begin with, those who favor less government intervention in our economic affairs are happier than those who favor more.”

    So people who are unhappy with their economic condition are more likely to think–rightly or wrongly–that government intervention will make it better? So what? How does this prove less government intervention will make people happier? (I’m not saying this isn’t true, only that *this study* provides no good reason to believe it.)

    “People who say they have more freedom are happy!” (Maybe people who are happy think they have more freedom?)

    This is the dumbest study I have ever seen.

  48. Fluffy,

    You’re right. I misread the graph. Apparently most surveyed are pretty happy. How odd.

  49. Don’t feel like the Lone Stranger, I thought Fluff was a babe for a while as well. Figured it out about six months ago (give or take).

    TWC, were you catching or pitching when you discovered this?

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