Walton’s fault

because he’s annoying me with his insistence that capitalism is so superawesomely good for our quality of life, here’s some actual science on that subject:

money can’t buy happiness, but it makes you more stressed

community makes people happy

men mostly want to work less, but can’t

sense of neighborly community important for teen wellbeing

income irrelevant to well-being; consumerism disruptive to fostering social relationships

everybody working isn’t good for the family

Consumerism and structural violence (pdf link!)

generic conclusion

in a nutshell (including some stuff from studies i didn’t link): most studies show that consumerism isn’t correlated with happiness, or is negatively correlated with it; income is only relevant up till it satisfies basic needs, then it’s only relevant in relative terms, and greater social gradients make correlation with relative wealth more pronounced; membership in a community and cooperation, self-determination and ability to express oneself, and stability and security are all more or less strongly positively correlated with health and happiness, but are rarely found in the modern economy, with the exception of co-ops. Economically invisible labor (gardening, child-raising, productive hobbies etc) can have positive effects on wellbeing, but the effect is suppressed where economic status is seen as important.

Whatever good thing capitalism has done for us in the West it ha reached its pinnacle decades ago, and well-being has decreased for the majority of Westerners since then. Outside of the West, capitalism is mostly creating ecological crises, and re-creating the early industrial working conditions that anti-capitalist forces have managed to abolish in the west (extremely low wages, extremely long working hours, extremely dangerous work conditions, slave-like rule of bosses/managers over workers; child labor; etc.), destroying indigenous and local economies and social support networks, etc.

and it’s not offering any solutions to the agricultural and industrial resource depletion and climate change.

it’s a fucking disaster, and if that’s the best we can do, we’re royally fucked.

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28 comments on “Walton’s fault

  1. David Marjanović says:

    May I engage in a little thread drift?

    On the one hand, I don’t think I can steal all the time needed to read all of these papers. On the other hand, your summaries of them don’t surprise me, so I’m tempted to just say “I knew it already and don’t need to read the articles”. On the third hand, what kind of scientist does it make me when I simply assume the evidence for my opinions instead of actually learning about it?

    Help! :-)

  2. Jadehawk says:

    read the abstracts, that shouldn’t take too long :-p

  3. Jadehawk says:

    and since we’re threadjacking my own thread, I suspect that these happiness/community studies explain why religion is so stupidly popular in the U.S.; after all, it’s the last kind of community that has survived the capitalist/libertairan “divide and conquer” strategy; neighborhoods are dead, work socialization is discouraged, unions are reviled, families have been reduced to the nuclear and below, and everybody is told they’re competing for their very lives with everybody else; religion is the last vestige of cooperation and non-competition (sort of; some competition happens there, too of course), so it flourishes despite the nastiness of its nature otherwise

  4. David Marjanović says:

    read the abstracts, that shouldn’t take too long :-p

    Hmmm. How stupid of me not to have thought of this myself :-]

    I suspect that these happiness/community studies explain why religion is so stupidly popular in the U.S.; after all [...]

    Very good observation. Considerably less stupid of me not to have thought of this myself.

  5. Paul says:

    Another point to consider (unless one of your currently linked papers covers it) is the negative correlation between happiness and income inequality that Knockgoats has brought up a few times (there’s a book on it, as I recall). I don’t have a link handy, but it’s been something I’ve been intending to look into. Never enough time…

  6. Jadehawk says:

    yeah, I didn’t mention that because I’ve previously linked to the information about this on Pharyngula, but that is a big part of it too of course.

    There’s indeed a book, and the authors have a website with the info here: http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/why/evidence

  7. Jadehawk says:

    I talked about this with the boyfriend, and I think he made a really good point: often it’s not that having stuff makes people happy, but rather than not having stuff makes them unhappy. And consumerist capitalism has created a plethora of things a person will never have, no matter how wealthy and successful one is. There is always more stuff you don’t have.

    Consumerism is like an addiction, and in the consumerist culture it actually takes a lot of mental effort to detach oneself from this effect of wanting stuff you don’t have and “deserving” having stuff you don’t have, and becoming validated by stuff you are getting (but not stuff you have; the getting validates, not the having), but it’s something that people need to learn, because they cannot and will never have anything there is to have. And soon enough, there number (but not the variety)of things that can theoretically be had will shrink so that even fewer people will be able to have them, thus creating even more unhappiness.

    This effect is probably an aspect of why more inequality creates more unhappiness; if everybody’s stuff varies only slightly, there’s less visibility on stuff that you can’t have, whereas in a highly inequal society, there’s fucktons of visible stuff you can’t have. so even if the amount of stuff you have is the same in both situations, the latter creates more stuff-wants than the former, thus creating more unhappiness.

  8. Paul says:

    Are you planning on converting to Buddhism?

    Talking about how not having things makes one sad, and thus the solution is detech oneself from the desire to want things one does not have, seems quite reminiscent of basic tenets of Buddhism. Paraphrasing the first three Noble Truths:

    There is suffering.

    Suffering is caused by craving.

    Suffering can be ceased by cessation of craving.

    Your argument seems to follow a similar form here, except instead of craving it would be consumerism (and substitute sadness for suffering, I suppose). I can’t really comment further since I’m not really sure if you’re trying to further a point or advocate a policy here. I just couldn’t resist a little jab.

  9. Jadehawk says:

    yeah, I noticed it sounded like Buddhism, but it’s a valid point. That’s what “creating demand”, which is a major part of a consumerist society, means: make people want more and more, most of which they can’t and won’t have, but are told they could have if they just work hard enough. It’s a bit like those cartoons of attaching a fishing pole to the back of a dog to dangle a treat in front of him that he will chase but never get.
    And creating this addictive want via advertisements and the push to “keep up with the Joneses” and the creation of more and more products for which a demand needs to be created is a recipe for unhappiness.

    I’m not advocating anything in particular here, since I’d Dunning-Kruger myself if I did. I’m merely trying to make two basic points:

    One, that consumerist Capitalism doesn’t have the tools to prevent the coming resource and climate disaster, and therefore we REALLY need to look for a viable alternative.

    Two, that we really don’t have as much to lose by trying an alternative as it looks like, because consumerist capitalism is not as sniny as it’s reputation wants us to think.

  10. David Marjanović says:

    often it’s not that having stuff makes people happy, but rather than not having stuff makes them unhappy

    That’s one of those very good and pretty obvious points I tend to overlook because I’m unusually impervious to peer pressure, even self-imagined peer pressure of the “everyone has one, so there must be some good reason why I should have one, too, even if nobody tries to actually talk me into buying one” variety, or the “help, help, I’m now looking unusual/unfashionable because everyone else has changed something about themselves by getting new stuff” one. I’m just too introverted to be a sociologist, I suppose.

    Suffering is caused by craving.

    That’s obviously an oversimplification…

    make people want more and more, most of which they can’t and won’t have, but are told they could have if they just work hard enough.

    …which is an especially bad joke in the USA, where the minimum wages are so low (in most, probably all states) that people with three jobs can still be Working Poor, in many cases poorer than a completely unemployed EU citizen.

  11. Paul says:

    That’s obviously an oversimplification…

    Obviously, but close enough for my purposes and I’m not fluent in Chinese to be able to do a proper translation :-). I did say I was paraphrasing.

    …which is an especially bad joke in the USA, where the minimum wages are so low (in most, probably all states) that people with three jobs can still be Working Poor, in many cases poorer than a completely unemployed EU citizen.

    Tell me about it. I worked 2-3 jobs while I was an undergraduate, and couldn’t afford to go to grad school since I had enough debt and nothing to fall back on that I needed to just get out and find a job. Meh.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    Just to rub it in: if you don’t take too long, studying at a university is free in Austria. It’s considered a right (by the parties on the left), not a privilege.

    Chinese

    Pali. Buddhism comes from India.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    test
    test
    test

    I just want to see if I can do without the rather extreme line spacing.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    Test failed.

    men mostly want to work less, but can’t

    Finally read that page. The first two sentences of the text:

    “The canonical model of labour supply is used extensively for policy analysis. A central tenet of this model is that individuals have free choice over hours, selecting their desired utility-maximising outcome at any given wage.”

    What the fuck. This presupposes a severe, perhaps crippling, lack of workforce instead of the unemployment that characterizes the real world most of us live in.

    Policy analysis?

    Fucking seriously?

    money can’t buy happiness, but it makes you more stressed

    Is it the money, or is it the long, boring, and exhausting work in business? The abstract does specifically say “high income”, not “independent means” or the like. I don’t have access to the paper, however.

    If I’d win in a big lottery, I would certainly be happier than now: I wouldn’t need to worry about trying to find a job for years or decades to come, I could do science just so, unfettered by bureaucracies or concerns that I can’t afford to go see important fossils firsthand; I could donate so much that it’d actually make a difference somewhere…

    (Of course, there still is such a thing as “more money than one can spend in a lifetime”.)

  15. Paul says:

    Just to rub it in: if you don’t take too long, studying at a university is free in Austria. It’s considered a right (by the parties on the left), not a privilege.

    Do you have a soul, David? /sigh

    Thanks for the correction on Pali. I knew saying Chinese wasn’t quite right, but it’s not something I’ve studied deeply and couldn’t come up with the right origin off the top of my head.

    What the fuck. This presupposes a severe, perhaps crippling, lack of workforce instead of the unemployment that characterizes the real world most of us live in.

    This just in, policy analysis starts with axioms chosen by those with money. May not reflect real conditions, but they sure allow for one to screw the common man. News at 11.

    (Of course, there still is such a thing as “more money than one can spend in a lifetime”.)

    I propose a study to allow me to test this claim.

  16. Jadehawk says:

    “Is it the money, or is it the long, boring, and exhausting work in business? The abstract does specifically say “high income”, not “independent means” or the like. I don’t have access to the paper, however.

    you’re right, it’s income, not money specifically. independently wealthy people are not my concern though :-p

  17. Walton says:

    As Ogden Nash said:

    “Certainly there are things in life that money can’t buy. But it’s very funny – did you ever try buying them without money?”

    :-)

  18. Jadehawk says:

    yeah, capitalism tends to require money. and this goes against my point… how?

  19. Walton says:

    yeah, capitalism tends to require money. and this goes against my point… how?

    It doesn’t, particularly. I just thought it was witty. :-)

    I am gradually going insane. Law degrees have this effect on many people.

  20. Quotidian Torture says:

    Oi, Jadehawk! I know this is completely off topic, but I was reading through the Fulton thread over on PZ’s blog, and your replies to “ihatebigots” were so magnificent in their snarkiness that I couldn’t help but let you know how funny I found them.

    Keep it up! It’s appreciated, trust me.

  21. johannes says:

    > …which is an especially bad joke in the USA, where
    > the minimum wages are so low (in most, probably all
    > states) that people with three jobs can still be
    > Working Poor, in many cases poorer than a completely
    > unemployed EU citizen.

    Average monthly income on US minimal wage (5,75$ an hour): around 997$ = 774,75 Euro
    Monthly “Social Bistand” in Denmark:1.122 Euro minimum
    Monthly “social rent” in Portugal: 187 Euro
    Monthly Hartz IV combined welfare/unemployment benefit in Germany: 359 Euro (but these people are not always completly unemployed, they can be forced to do public works or the parastatal job agency hires them out to private employers for one Euro an hour)
    Monthly welfare in Slovakia: 36 Euro
    Monthly welfare in Greece: Nothing, zero, zilch

    There isn’t such a thing as an unified EU social policy.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    There isn’t such a thing as an unified EU social policy.

    I know, I didn’t try to imply there was.

    BTW, your numbers don’t include things like health insurance.

  23. johannes says:

    > BTW, your numbers don’t include things like health
    > insurance.

    Even if there is free, NHS-style health care – and Portugal has this, or at least had it before the reforms of 2002 – subsisting on 136 Euro in an industrialized western country is almost impossible. You will either need the help of your family, or a job in the informal sector.

    If you are a Roma in Slovakia and dare to walk into the village health care center – if you can cross the apartheid wall between the white and the Roma part of town in the first place – well, I guess the medical personel knows how to make you feel somewhat, er, unwanted… (But you will get a sterilisation for free)

  24. Anonymous says:

    Not applicable to all, but thinking that has brought me contentment:

    “I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.”
    Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller

    Antiochus Epiphanes

  25. Jadehawk says:

    Walton sez: “It doesn’t, particularly. I just thought it was witty. :-)
    I am gradually going insane. Law degrees have this effect on many people.”

    That explains SO much, especially about politicians :-p
    Anyway, sorry for snapping at you; the newscycle lately has made me very grumpy. While your quote was… implying a counterpoint to a point I wasn’t even making, it wasn’t substantive enough to warrant a snapping.

    Quotidian Torture sez: “Oi, Jadehawk! I know this is completely off topic, but I was reading through the Fulton thread over on PZ’s blog, and your replies to “ihatebigots” were so magnificent in their snarkiness that I couldn’t help but let you know how funny I found them.”

    thanks :-)

    johannes sez: “Even if there is free, NHS-style health care – and Portugal has this, or at least had it before the reforms of 2002 – subsisting on 136 Euro in an industrialized western country is almost impossible. You will either need the help of your family, or a job in the informal sector.”

    very true. while the US is a definite nightmare for the un- and underemployed, there’s no reason to claim that Europe as a whole is that much better, especially outside of the Central Core.

    Antiochus Epiphanes quotes Henry Miller: “I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.”

    well, I think this effectively offsets Walton’s quote, so we can call it even ;-)

  26. David Marjanović says:

    That explains SO much, especially about politicians :-p

    :-) :-) :-)

    So true. So obviously true… in my hindsight…

  27. Katharine says:

    Markuze = Pathetic.

    Go back to your mom’s basement, turd.

  28. Jadehawk says:

    oh, I guess I missed one when I was cleaning up his droppings. Fixed now :-)

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