Will Wilkinson on Happiness Research
By Arnold Kling
the complex biochemistry of good and bad feelings suggests that there are many more than two dimensions even to hedonic well-being, and so trade-offs among them are inevitable. The noise, bustle, and danger of a big city are no doubt a source of higher levels of cortisol and thus stress. Which is one important reason some people would rather live in the country. But cities can also be a greater source of stimulating novelty…
The late Bernie Saffran used to have a quote on his door from George Bernard Shaw: “Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you. They may have different tastes.”
There is much more in Wilkinson’s essay, including a discussion of Tyler Cowen’s claim that markets satisfy the human need for status-seeking by providing many dimensions along which humans may compete for status.
The problem comes, in my view, when there are people who compete for status along the dimension of telling other people what to do. I would like to say to Richard Layard or Robert Frank, “You can have all the status points you want, if you would just agree to shut up about public policy.” But, given their tastes, such an offer is self-contradicting.