Question on happiness

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Thu May 3 15:34:11 PDT 2001

Jacob Segal wrote:

>Forwarded article from Robert Samuelson in this week's Newsweek. He refers
>to a study on the "happiness" of people in the US versus Europe. My
>question is what do people think about the validity of self-reporting on
>happiness, given the being unhappy is something of a mark of shame for many
>people in this culture.

Pollsters say answers to "global" questions are extremely unreliable. And answers to one as loaded as this one - it's un-American to be unhappy! - has to be extremely unreliable.

> By and large, Americans see the United States as a more "mobile
>society than Europe," write Alberto Alesina and Rafael Di Tella from Harvard
>and Robert MacCulloch from the LSE. Americans think they "have more
>opportunities to move up (or down)" than Europeans, who are more fatalistic
>about their place on the economic ladder.

Yeah, they think that but it isn't true. American society is no more mobile than European societies.

>The United States is a middle-class nation, and most Americans want
>it to stay that way.

Another untruth. Measured in income terms, the U.S. has a smaller "middle class" (hi Carrol!) than any other First World country. All those bad redistributionist social democracies have much larger middle income brackets than the Land of the Free.

> No one wants a society starkly split into "haves" and
>"have-nots." The obsession with "rising inequality" plays to these fears
>without addressing them. It is mostly a moral self-indulgence: a way of
>demonstrating superior "caring."

I hope there's a special circle of hell for people who make arguments this spurious.

> It implies that the rich are somehow
>responsible for the plight of the poor

Heavens! Not that!!


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