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  1. #1
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    An economy based on happiness?

    I wonder if we could judge our economy on the basis of Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product? One nation has tried to do this for more than 40 years, and the UN is holding high level meetings on the topic now. Andrew Revkin is providing good coverage of the topic in his blog.



    What do you think?
    • Is happiness the ultimate goal of humans, or should it be?
    • What would change if we based our economy on happiness?
    • Does having more stuff make people happier?
    • What can a nation do to make its people happier?
    • Would a nation be happier if people cycled more and drove less?


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    • Is happiness the ultimate goal of humans, or should it be?: Absolutely not. If people thought of nothing but happiness, we wouldn't have innovative companies, since no one is happy working 90 hours per week to start the next big thing. We wouldn't have cures to diseases, because working tirelessly for 20-30 years for the chance at big money.
    • What would change if we based our economy on happiness?: Our society would collapse....
    • Does having more stuff make people happier?: Yes, to an extent. As Daniel Tosh said: just try to frown when riding a jet ski
    • What can a nation do to make its people happier?: It isn't the nation's business to make its people happier. It is the nation's business to protect people's right to make themselves happy
    • Would a nation be happier if people cycled more and drove less?: Yes, but not because of anything to do with cycling. People would be happier if they exercised more, which is obviously a side effect of cycling

  3. #3
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    One of the links in the Dot Earth post is a must read http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-h...b_1391510.html

    But income is only one among many factors that explain the variation in happiness among people. As the report describes, income explains only about one-twentieth of the variation within nations that can be explained statistically, and across countries it explains about one-eighth of the explained variation. The other factors besides income can be divided into those that are mainly social and those that are mainly personal.

    Countries differ hugely in the strength of their networks of social support ("If you were in trouble do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them?"). They also differ in the degree of corruption in government and business, and of course in personal freedom and security. All these factors matter a great deal. So too does the state of the labor market. High and stable employment is extremely important. Therein lies the case for active labor market policies, job training, and various innovations in working hours flexibility.

    Turning to more personal factors, a crucial one is mental health. A person's mental health many years earlier is a better predictor of his current happiness than his current level of income. Policy-makers need to take note. Mental illness comprises more than 40 percent of disability in advanced countries, according to the World Health Organization. Yet even in rich countries, it is estimated that only around one-fourth of the mentally ill are in treatment.

    Physical health is also a major factor affecting happiness. It has to be a major priority in poor countries, and in rich countries for people in retirement.
    Many North Americans single mindedly pursue economic health as the sole indicator of happiness. But studies show that societies are happiest when there is a smaller gap between poorest and richest.

    This world might be a lot happier if we stopping pursuing "stuff" and helped the poorest among us achieve more wealth.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    The amount of money one has isn't what makes one happy. It is having plenty of money for one's situation with some big reserves. That might be just $200,000 for me and for somebody else it might be five times that amount. Unless somebody is living in an Amazon rainforest for their entire life, money is the foundation for happiness.

    I've got a job that is OK but not satisfying. If it paid plenty of money my opinion of it would change.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  5. #5
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    You need a new job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I wonder if we could judge our economy on the basis of Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product? One nation has tried to do this for more than 40 years, and the UN is holding high level meetings on the topic now. Andrew Revkin is providing good coverage of the topic in his blog.

    [/LIST]
    [*] Happieness the ultimate goal of humans, or should it be? Of course. There are some that think we must sacrifice happieness to gain achievement but this is folly. You can have both but too many people only attain one. Lets just say that no one want to be unhappy in life.
    [*]What would change if we based our economy on happiness? I suspect you would have to replace a capitalist economy with maybe a socialist one? Maybe even one based on religion but who knows. I remember Star Trek had such an economy where no one worked for money. Then again, that was a television show, wasn't it? LOL!
    [*]Does having more stuff make people happier? I'll have to say yes here. As you get older, your health matters far more. The young people find buying stuff makes them happy. The shopping mall were made for them.
    [*]What can a nation do to make its people happier? Do what prosperous countries like Germany is doing. Stay out of wars, focus on manufacturing, education and economic wealth.
    [*]Would a nation be happier if people cycled more and drove less? Maybe but more access to public transit can do the same. LOL! Just had to get my public transit advocacy hat on for a moment. I happen to think people are located or work in areas that require motor transport. They are conditioned to drive and if you asked the motor centrist are they happy, most would say yes if it ment riding a bicycle.
    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 04-03-12 at 06:12 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    You need a new job.
    I'm working on it. A guy I know has hired me to do marketing for him. It is so infrequent that I can't really call it a job. I've got other personal work projects happening but there is no telling when they will take off, if ever.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  8. #8
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    What do you think?
    • Is happiness the ultimate goal of humans, or should it be?
    • What would change if we based our economy on happiness?
    • Does having more stuff make people happier?
    • What can a nation do to make its people happier?
    • Would a nation be happier if people cycled more and drove less?
    Interesting questions.

    Generally, happiness is our goal. But happiness is not found in getting all the goodies. Real happiness comes in giving and helping others. It's compassion based and goes beyond our selfish temporary perspective.

    We can still invent great stuff and conquer new challenges. But greed will be so yesterday. Everyone does their best as a gift to others. Taking the view of the greater-mind rather than the smaller-mind, WIIFE (whats in it for everyone) replaces WIIFM (whats in it for me). I am taken care of because everyone else sees that my well being is a reflection on them. And I return the favor.

    What a nation can do, if by that you mean a government, mostly it can keep the greedy out and let its enlightened people do their thing. Ultimately, a country governed like that will fade away, because people themselves have taken the up the needed tasks voluntarily.

    I don't think bicycling would affect happiness much, but it would be a byproduct of happiness. With a greater-mind attitude, you'd care about how you were transported not just about what comfort level you were transported with, because you'd acknowledge the costs of the transportation. You'd try to find transportation that put a light burden on Earth, public transportation, bicycling and walking.

    Is this idyllic? As long as there are greedy bastards trying to pull down everyone else, it won't happen. If money and stuff buy happiness, then the Koch brothers should be dancing on cloud nine. But they really don't get a great payoff there, and they are so naive that they just don't get it.

    Once I had a vision. Everyone was in a great river. No one could always stay afloat by themselves, it was too difficult. The only way was that everyone would help everyone else. Sometimes others would keep you afloat, sometimes you would keep others afloat.

    The term self-made-man is such an oxymoron. The concepts on maximizing happiness are not new. The Buddha laid them out thousands of years ago. But it's taking a long while for the ideas to spread because a lot of people think they have something to lose.
    Last edited by Artkansas; 04-03-12 at 12:21 AM.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    In every human society there are type A personalities and type B personalities. There are successful people and their are people who fail. But even if there were some magic government that tried to play Robin Hood they would have to make those who have been called greedy unhappy to make those that aren't happy. And no one will govern if there is no authority over others to do that governing. No one will enforce for that government if they aren't rewarded and given authority to enforce. So you get back to those who can will achieve and gain some happyness and those who can't who settle for a different happyness.

    It is the one glairing flaw in a total socialistic government. At some point half of the people will be working to support the other half. It is just how people are. look at just about any primitive culture we can study. The guy that had two stone axes and two spears was better off than someone that only had one. The guy with one tended to feel the guy with two was rich and living to excess. How was happier? In the Navajo culture sheep were a status symbol and some families had massive flocks. The US government came in and limited the number of sheep, including killing off some of them, and I can promise you that even if it made the status more equal it didn't make the people that lost the sheep happy. It didn't make the people that didn't have the sheep in the first place any happier either.

    Just my opinion. But I don't think anyone can put flesh on the idea and explain how it could work and that the government could support itself and conduct commerce with other governments.
    Last edited by Mobile 155; 04-03-12 at 10:34 AM.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

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    Senior Member BWWpat's Avatar
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    What is happiness in the first place? My 2 cents, take it with a grain of salt.

    Happiness is impossible because happiness is all in the eye of the beholder. Only the observer of their reality can create happiness in them selves. And the idea of "happiness" has been diluted into the sea of other emotions an example being lust.

    Case in point: A child lusts over a toy for a solid week, he needs that toy. Upon receiving that toy the child is in joy that he has obtained his object of lust. But that joy is not happiness, it is simply the appeasement of the lust and the toy suddenly lost its extreme interest.

    Can we determine such an emotion and response as happiness? What is happiness? Is the happiness in the act of want or in the act of appeasement of that want? now replace child with adult, and toy with money.

    Is happiness some where in the word safety? Are the two interchangeable? They say laughter was created as a sign that danger has passed. Maybe being secure and safe is happiness? But some people find happiness in problem solving. Being safe can be boring and unfulfilled.

    So is happiness even something that can be "obtained" if it can be obtained then can it be given? And for how long do you keep it?

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    I don't agree with the notion that there would be no innovation were happiness our primary concern. Innovative people innovate because that makes them happy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hnsq View Post
    • Is happiness the ultimate goal of humans, or should it be?: Absolutely not. If people thought of nothing but happiness, we wouldn't have innovative companies, since no one is happy working 90 hours per week to start the next big thing. We wouldn't have cures to diseases, because working tirelessly for 20-30 years for the chance at big money.
      ...
    I take exception to your first point. A great many people happily work 60-90 hour weeks even without the promise of exorbitant future compensation. Have you ever seen what goes on behind the scenes at University research facilities? Many of us are simply driven to "solve the next puzzle". I suppose it simply makes us happy to do so. By the way, many of those "next big thing(s)" originated in government funded research facilities and were created by folks who don't even earn overtime for their extra hours.

    By the way, while I have never been on a jet ski, I believe I would frown while riding one. I don't care much for those sort of toys. Thankfully, no one is forcing me to play with one.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    I take exception to your first point. A great many people happily work 60-90 hour weeks even without the promise of exorbitant future compensation. Have you ever seen what goes on behind the scenes at University research facilities? Many of us are simply driven to "solve the next puzzle". I suppose it simply makes us happy to do so. By the way, many of those "next big thing(s)" originated in government funded research facilities and were created by folks who don't even earn overtime for their extra hours.

    By the way, while I have never been on a jet ski, I believe I would frown while riding one. I don't care much for those sort of toys. Thankfully, no one is forcing me to play with one.
    Do the researchers work for free? Do they ever quit because of pay issues? Do the take weekends off to relax. Do they vacation somewhere other than where they work? Does someone expect to get paid for the results of that research? That is a economy. Are the researchers happy when the director messes with their research? Do they complain about the "management"?

    I am not picking on you but I have worked in education for many years and I have never seen these Happy carefree workers you speak of. I have been to get togethers and listened to them talk about how hard a problem is and how hard it is to see funds cut and facilities closed. I have sat in contract negociations and no one is happy after that. Maybe we need a defination of being happy. If an economy was ever built on happyness how would we trade that with others? How would we fund the police who aren't there to make some people happy. How would the society protect itself from those who only want to take what others have to make them happy. (Think the Mongols, Alexander, Germany and Japan in the 40s? ) It is a nice thought but even in research facilities people expected to be rewarded for a job well done and a simple pat on the back will not keep people working 60 to 90 hours a week for free. Government can't ever fix that I don't believe. At least I have never seen anywhere or any society where it has.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hnsq View Post
    • Is happiness the ultimate goal of humans, or should it be?: Absolutely not. If people thought of nothing but happiness, we wouldn't have innovative companies, since no one is happy working 90 hours per week to start the next big thing. We wouldn't have cures to diseases, because working tirelessly for 20-30 years for the chance at big money.
    • What would change if we based our economy on happiness?: Our society would collapse....
    • Does having more stuff make people happier?: Yes, to an extent. As Daniel Tosh said: just try to frown when riding a jet ski
    • What can a nation do to make its people happier?: It isn't the nation's business to make its people happier. It is the nation's business to protect people's right to make themselves happy
    • Would a nation be happier if people cycled more and drove less?: Yes, but not because of anything to do with cycling. People would be happier if they exercised more, which is obviously a side effect of cycling
    Let me guess--you're a Republiocan!

    Well, whatever makes you happy...
    Last edited by Roody; 04-03-12 at 09:24 PM.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    If an economy was ever built on happiness how would we trade that with others?
    By giving it away.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  16. #16
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    The term self-made-man is such an oxymoron. The concepts on maximizing happiness are not new. The Buddha laid them out thousands of years ago. But it's taking a long while for the ideas to spread because a lot of people think they have something to lose.
    One thing the Buddha pointed out was that the more you have, the more you can lose. This is why affluence has never made anybody happy. It's nice to have material possessions, but the stress and anxiety of ownership usually cancels out the joy people find in wealth.

    "If you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose." Recently, some family members have had enormous tragedies that were beyo9nd their control. I decided to give them all my money to help them through their difficulties. I've been struggling with the feelings of insecurity that having nothing can cause. (Buddha said that both excessive wealth and extreme poverty contribute to human misery.) I don't have that cushion of savings that we are taught to rely on. But I do have a cushion in my human relationships. I know that the family members that I helped will do anything they can to help me, if the shoes are ever switched. To put it more bluntly, I knowI won't die alone. And both the Buddha and Jesus said that if you do something for others, you will be repaid in some way.

    Anyway, back on topic, I don't think it's a coincidence that the country that came up with a National Happiness Index is a Buddhist society.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  17. #17
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    In every human society there are type A personalities and type B personalities. There are successful people and their are people who fail. But even if there were some magic government that tried to play Robin Hood they would have to make those who have been called greedy unhappy to make those that aren't happy. And no one will govern if there is no authority over others to do that governing. No one will enforce for that government if they aren't rewarded and given authority to enforce. So you get back to those who can will achieve and gain some happyness and those who can't who settle for a different happyness.

    It is the one glairing flaw in a total socialistic government. At some point half of the people will be working to support the other half. It is just how people are. look at just about any primitive culture we can study. The guy that had two stone axes and two spears was better off than someone that only had one. The guy with one tended to feel the guy with two was rich and living to excess. How was happier? In the Navajo culture sheep were a status symbol and some families had massive flocks. The US government came in and limited the number of sheep, including killing off some of them, and I can promise you that even if it made the status more equal it didn't make the people that lost the sheep happy. It didn't make the people that didn't have the sheep in the first place any happier either.

    Just my opinion. But I don't think anyone can put flesh on the idea and explain how it could work and that the government could support itself and conduct commerce with other governments.
    Why do you think that happiness is a zero sum game? What governing principle says that one person becoming happier means that another person must become less happy?

    I don't think that a socialist government is necessary for happiness. We do need to teach people that looking out only for yourself will NOT make you happy in the long run. (Mainly because you always have to worry about all the other people who are thinking only of themselves.) We also need to stress that takiing more than your fair share, at the expense of others, is a no-no--whether you're a banker or a bank robber.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    Do the researchers work for free? Do they ever quit because of pay issues? Do the take weekends off to relax. Do they vacation somewhere other than where they work? Does someone expect to get paid for the results of that research? That is a economy. Are the researchers happy when the director messes with their research? Do they complain about the "management"?

    I am not picking on you but I have worked in education for many years and I have never seen these Happy carefree workers you speak of. I have been to get togethers and listened to them talk about how hard a problem is and how hard it is to see funds cut and facilities closed. I have sat in contract negociations and no one is happy after that. Maybe we need a defination of being happy. If an economy was ever built on happyness how would we trade that with others? How would we fund the police who aren't there to make some people happy. How would the society protect itself from those who only want to take what others have to make them happy. (Think the Mongols, Alexander, Germany and Japan in the 40s? ) It is a nice thought but even in research facilities people expected to be rewarded for a job well done and a simple pat on the back will not keep people working 60 to 90 hours a week for free. Government can't ever fix that I don't believe. At least I have never seen anywhere or any society where it has.
    I think you need to fine tune your definition of happiness. It isn't a zero sum game, it isn't the same as socialism, and it doesn't involve letting people walk all over you.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  19. #19
    Senior Member ro-monster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I wonder if we could judge our economy on the basis of Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product?...
    What do you think?
    Is happiness the ultimate goal of humans, or should it be?
    His Holiness the Dalai Lama says that it is, and I'm very much inclined to agree. The wish to be happy, and to not suffer, is what lies at the heart of almost all our actions. But people fall into a belief that happiness depends on external phenomena -- a good job, material wealth, social status, desirable relationships, the adulation of other people, intoxicants. But that's mistaken; happiness is a way of seeing.

    What would change if we based our economy on happiness?
    I don't think it would be possible to base an economy on happiness in the same sense as it can be based on money. The concept of economy implies trading things with others who want those things, and to do that, you must have a limited supply of said things. Happiness is infinite in nature, and is multiplied by giving it away freely, so it would make a terrible currency!

    Does having more stuff make people happier?
    No. Having stuff that enables you to do things you enjoy might be considered an indirect cause of happiness. But often, possessions seem to enslave people. They spend most of their lives working to obtain and maintain these things, losing sight of the fact that possessions have no inherent value.

    What can a nation do to make its people happier?
    It's more a question of culture than national politics. A change of values would be needed. Kids would need to grow up in a structure that emphasized cooperation rather than competition. We would need to weave the awareness that all that lives is interdependent into the very fabric of our society. From that would grow a culture that placed caring for each other above selfish gain.

    Would a nation be happier if people cycled more and drove less?
    Probably somewhat happier. Driving is rather dehumanizing; it seems to foster a sense of isolation from other people and from the world around you. I think this is more costly, mentally and spiritually, than we generally realize. Cycling brings transportation to a much more human scale, and feels much more connected with your surroundings.
    Last edited by ro-monster; 04-03-12 at 11:24 PM.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I think you need to fine tune your definition of happiness. It isn't a zero sum game, it isn't the same as socialism, and it doesn't involve letting people walk all over you.
    Then I ask you to define it. An economy based on Happyness that is. We may agree that from a religious point of view mankind sould be more selfless. But point out the society where happyness is an economy. I have worked with the underemployed before and sat with people in the corporate world. I can't even tell you how many in the first group would rather be in the second. But I can tell you how many in the latter want to have less.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    I take exception to your first point. A great many people happily work 60-90 hour weeks even without the promise of exorbitant future compensation. Have you ever seen what goes on behind the scenes at University research facilities? Many of us are simply driven to "solve the next puzzle". I suppose it simply makes us happy to do so. By the way, many of those "next big thing(s)" originated in government funded research facilities and were created by folks who don't even earn overtime for their extra hours.

    By the way, while I have never been on a jet ski, I believe I would frown while riding one. I don't care much for those sort of toys. Thankfully, no one is forcing me to play with one.
    I understand what you are saying, but I disagree. I know there are some people out there who work long hours for the fun of it, but the majority of people who do very essential jobs to our economy do so because of the money. If we had an economy based on happiness, how many people who work 9 hours a day in 120 degree heat laying down roads? How many people would work in a factory on a line that makes steel? Very basic jobs that are essential to a functioning society are simply not fun. Take away hard compensation, and those jobs are not completed.

    When it comes to managing people, if the job itself is not inherently rewarding, hard compensation is the only motivating factor. Many, many absolutely critical jobs are not rewarding in and of themselves.

    Following the strategy in that article would result in a society of dreamers who are happily watching the infrastructure of their world crumble around them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Let me guess--you're a Republiocan!

    Well, whatever makes you happy...
    I have never voted for a republican in my life. I am libertarian. I understand the concept behind what the article is saying but to be frank, I just think it is extremely naive and unrealistic. It seems like something some 19 year old college student who has never seen the real world would write.

  22. #22
    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    It is hard to make any comment here without triggering a political rant. But you could say appropriate economic and political goals in a free society are the attempt to REMOVE the things that prevent happiness from being achieved by most people. And, that list might include, fear of violence, fear of financially devasting illnesses, fear of no access to education, fear of discrimination, fear of corruption, fear of exercising free thought and opinion, fear of poverty, and on and on.

    So society protects you from facing all these fears without some regulation and a societal safety net, and economic opportunity, but the rest of the happiness equation is up to you.

    Obviously, there is no concensus that this is the correct focus of our economy and government.

  23. #23
    Senior Member
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    Do the researchers work for free? Do they ever quit because of pay issues? Do the take weekends off to relax. Do they vacation somewhere other than where they work? Does someone expect to get paid for the results of that research? That is a economy. Are the researchers happy when the director messes with their research? Do they complain about the "management"?

    This is all true, but is simply an indication that the economy under which their efforts are taking place is not ideally suited to them. It is the economy that causes their problems. Change the economy and these problems would go away.

    (The obvious answer then is change the economy to what? And the reality is that no theoretical economic systems actually exist that are at all faithful to the theory. "Capitalism", "Communism" and other theoretical systems are pure theory and cannot exist in the real world. All real world systems have to make accommodations for the behavior of human beings and that behavior doesn't follow the theory. The flaw of every system is man. On paper, they all work fine.)
    Last edited by jon c.; 04-04-12 at 08:38 AM. Reason: insert ital

  24. #24
    Senior Member BWWpat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jon c. View Post
    The flaw of every system is man. On paper, they all work fine.
    Very true.
    Oh so very true.

  25. #25
    Fat Guy Rolling dcrowell's Avatar
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    I think unhappiness drives change, and often progress.

    If that were always true, I'd be very progressive.
    Car-Free IT Geek
    My blog: fatguy.org

    Bikes: Surly Big Dummy, 1980s Raleigh Record single-speed conversion, Bacchetta Agio

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