I don’t expect you to read this entire post, but I do have a favor to ask. Will you – all of you – please leave a comment with the link to what you think is the best post you have written so far? Thx.

prdI was reading an article in MIT’s Technology Review today when I came across a sentence that pretty much summed up exactly what I was trying to say in my post a couple days ago, Against Populism:

One of the key insights of happiness studies is that people have a hard time being content with what they have, at least when they know that others have more.

I’m gonna make an assumption – one that susanitty! has already disagreed with me on: After survival and a minimum of comfort, happiness is the natural objective of our lives. Some have argued with me that they actually prefer being sad and while I do understand what they’re saying (I enjoy some melancholy myself at times), I would argue they are still enjoying their mood which is a form of happiness/contentment. So with that assumption in mind:

The economists Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer published an academic survey of the subject in Happiness and Academics in 2001. But the truly groundbreaking work on the relationship between prosperity and well-being was done by the economist Richard Easterlin, who in 1974 wrote a famous paper entitled “Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot?” Easterlin showed that when it came to developed countries, there was no real correlation between a nation’s income level and its citizens’ happiness. Money, Easterlin argued, could not buy happiness – at least not after a certain point. Easterlin showed that though poverty was strongly correlated with misery, once a country was solidly middle class, getting wealthier didn’t seem to make its citizens any happier.

Now I disagree. I think that, for some, money can buy happiness. I have a lot of friends whose idea of happiness is working hard and buying shoes, a car, nice rims, and video games or DVD’s or books. Many call that materialism, but I don’t think collecting shoes is any worse than collecting friends.

When we vote, it seems to me we mostly vote according to what will make us happy (or what we think will make us happy). If, for someone like HP that’s greater access to cheap products at Wal-Mart or more control over where to invest his retirement savings, then it makes sense to vote for a party here in Mexico like the PAN.

But if your happiness values economic equality and community interaction with local goods, then it would make more sense to vote for a party like the PRD. I think a lot of it has to do with brain chemistry. I can tell you I am much happier at our local farmer’s market where I buy my produce direct from local farmers, my chocolate flan cake from the same fat lady who calls me mijo, and probably soon some t-shirts from one of the hipster kids who make their own silk screens. It’s a terribly inefficient process, a farmer’s market, but the point is I enjoy it so much more than wandering around the UV lit labyrinth of aisles at Wal-Mart until I finally find the place with the 427 toothbrushes to choose from.

And I would think most Mexicans would agree with me, but obviously they don’t because they’re all rushing to Wal-Mart while stall by stall closes up at the local markets.

One of the key insights of happiness studies is that people have a hard time being content with what they have, at least when they know that others have more.

So what I was really trying to say a couple days ago, is that I don’t think my co-workers would be such a conservative group if they hadn’t been exposed to what they perceive as better: nicer cars, bigger TV’s, gourmet brands, well lit Wal-Marts. When you come across those things for the first time (it’s hard for most Americans to picture this), the immediate response is of course they are better. It takes much longer to learn that a material lifestyle like that will only bring happiness to some people.