June 10, 2008


The view of human nature and the good life that seems to prevail in some economic circles is one of endless growth and consumption and a rising GDP. Unquestionably, having an adequate standard of living in the society in which one lives is important and can contribute to happiness. Beyond a certain point, it's a little murkier.

There's something pretty flawed with a view that equates spending by itself with well being. In that scenario, as Bill McKibben notes in his excellent book Deep Economy,

Under the current system, as many have pointed out, all we do is add together expenditures, so that the most "economically productive" citizen is a cancer patient who totals his car on his way to meet his divorce lawyer.

Aside from sustainability, there are lots of problems with equating happiness with endless acquisition. One will be perfectly obvious to anyone who has ever watched (or been) a child at a commercially driven Christmas celebration. After endless anxiety about presents and the final orgy of opening them, a feeling of letdown prevails and the child sometimes derives more entertainment from playing with the boxes.

One term for that endless pursuit of happiness by means of stuff is the "hedonic treadmill." As anyone who has ever exercised on one of those infernal devices will attest, one works really hard without ever reaching an endpoint. Often, we are conditioned to think that if we only have the latest goo-gaw, bliss will be attained. But there's always another goo-gaw and bliss is always one goo-gaw away.

(Disclosure: El Cabrero has plenty of goo-gaws--almost enough, in fact. Just a few more and I'm set.)

ROBOT LOVE. Speaking of goo-gaws, how would you like a robot to love?

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, here's an article from the AFLCIO blog on 75 years of the Catholic Worker movement.

WHOSE NANNY STATE? This item shows that, contrary to free market ideology, government plays a role in the success of market outcomes.

GOOD THING THE COLD WAR ARMS RACE IS OVER. Global military spending has gone up by 45 percent in the last 10 years. Half of that would be the US. So that's where the butter went...

URBAN GARDENS MAKE A DIFFERENCE. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuban urban gardens have helped fill a nutritional and economic void. As the global food crisis deepens, these deserve a second look.



1 comment:

Yennob said...

lol, love the bsg tag. urban gardens are the wave needed to bring back into the cities. I have no idea what the kids are gonna do if the corner store closes and they can't get their food in a bag anymore....