Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0126, May 26, 2017


How To Be Happy

Copyright 2017 by S.W. Paul Wyszkowski

     The regular, everyday, "real life" economics as taught in schools and almost universally practiced by individuals, families, corporations and governments, has to do with production and distribution of "objects of desire", that is, the stuff we think we need and/or want.

     "Higher" economics, on the other hand, has to do with production and just distribution of stuff we actually need to be happy. By "happy" I mean feeling good about self and the world as it is now, as we remember it, and as we anticipate it may be in the future; in other words, being as healthy, in body and mind, as we can be under the circumstances. (I make the conventional but dubious distinction between "body" and "mind" with the caveat that neither can work without the other. Nor can we switch around brains and bodies because they're grown together as intricately and uniquely matched sets.)

     Obviously, the economic state of the world, by any criteria, is, shall we say, less than perfect. Perfection is not achievable in any case but, by the same token, there is always room for improvement. The question is, which economics shall we employ to improve the world we live in?

     While the "higher" economics may seem the obvious choice, it turns out in real life that choice is not possible. What we think and believe trumps what is actually the case every time. It simply does not matter what is actually the case. What motivates us is what we think and believe, rightly or wrongly, and only that. Besides, there is no way of knowing for sure what will make us happy. We have some inklings from tradition, experience, and lately from science as well, but they are dim and incomplete and easily distorted by any attractive passing notion that we wish to believe for whatever incidental reasons.

     That said, situation is not hopeless. It's a matter of a) paying attention to what we believe and b) paying attention to what is actually the case. Our understanding of the world and of ourselves can grow with time and experience reducing the gap between what we think and what is actually the case. When that gap becomes sufficiently narrow, our economic choices begin to approximate "higher" economics.

     The problem is that at the present stage of our evolution only a small minority of us reaches sufficient maturity to be able to practice effectively something like "higher" economics with view to increasing happiness globally for everyone. We are not born equal, we are not educated equally, we are not treated equally, we do not have equal opportunities available to us, and there is absolutely no way we can ever be all economic equals, no matter how economic equality is defined. Just distribution of goods and services is an unattainable ideal which we can only try to roughly approximate. And whatever we accomplish toward that goal will be inevitably accomplished by few against the wrong-headed opposition of many. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that public leaders and public servants come from the ranks of those who have reached adequate maturity. In a democracy, rather the opposite tends to be the case. In a dictatorship it is virtually guaranteed to never be the case, certainly not for long.

     So here we are. Collectively, we do have some (hopefully growing) understanding of our economic predicament and we even have the means to alleviate it. Getting it done though is a highly inefficient process fraught with potential for utter failure. But there is real potential for success as we learn and mature globally as a race. Can we evolve fast enough to grow up before we blow up? Stay tuned.

     P.S. Prickles is on a short sabattical leave. I expect she'll be back by the next M&R.

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