How to Buy Happiness Posted on April 25, 2012 by Yves Smith Yes, this TED talk tells you how. Hat tip Aquifer. Post navigation ← George Washington: Tarp Overseer Debunks Bailout Myths: Big Companies HAVEN’T Repaid Tarp Funds … And Funds to Help Homeowners HAVEN’T Been Disbursed Mirabile Dictu! Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein Makes Case for Breaking Up Big Banks → Subscribe to Post Comments 50 comments F. Beard April 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm I love it and I agree! The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:25 Here’s that link: http://www.donorschoose.org/ shtove April 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm My first thoughts. What about the happiness of receiving? In the Jewish tradition the real sin of Sodom was nothing to do with sex, but all to do with the refusal to share wealth. And there’s this reading of the parable of the talents, which I’m trying to get my head around: http://www.seattlemennonite.org/2011/11/unearthing-the-buried-treasure-finding-meaning-in-matthew-2514-30/ So I’ve shared my thoughts, but don’t feel any happier. Does it have to be money? F. Beard April 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm And there’s this reading of the parable of the talents, which I’m trying to get my head around: shtove Wow! I have never read a defense of the lazy servant till now. And taking interest from foreigners is allowed in Deuteronomy 23:19-20 so he did not even have that excuse. Yes, honest usury (not “credit”) is not socially ideal but it is way better than hoarding money. bulfinch April 26, 2012 at 6:56 am So how fine is the line separating the money hoarder from the saver? F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 11:53 am Good question. I’d say 8% – 10% of ones assets should be completely liquid if traditional banking is a guide. However, with common stock as private money the distinction between liquid and illiquid assets might disappear so that one could be both 100% invested and 100% liquid. bulfinch April 26, 2012 at 8:03 am “…honest usury…” This…is inexcusably silly. F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 11:43 am Hey, I’m the one who advocates usury-free money – common stock. I don’t like usury and never have. But what I mean by “honest usury” is interest for existing money – not interest for money created as it is lent. F. Beard April 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm Try money next time. :) The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath. Psalm 94:11 Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything. Ecclesiastes 10:19 [emphasis added] Heretic April 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm Ahem…. The sin of Sodom was rape…and the capacity to soberly rape a stranger must be accompanied by the a cruel or deprecative view of the other person. Commiemaniac April 26, 2012 at 2:49 am So you guys believe the Parable of the Talents is about investment banking? The Parable of the Sower is a lesson about small scale farming I suppose. *Jesus rolls eyes* F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 4:24 am Money hoarding is a widely acknowledged economic evil and no one said anything about investment banking. But if the “Talents”, for example, represent talent (inborn ability) then what do the bank and the interest represent? Can I drop my inborn ability off somewhere as a passive investment and have it gain even more ability? amanasleep April 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm @F. Beard: I thought the point is that the servant has not risked personal loss for his master’s increase. Presumably, the first two servants would have been on the hook for Talents they had been given if they had traded unwisely, so they took great personal risk in attempting to increase the Master’s holdings in his absence. Similarly, the servant who took no risk has increased nothing. The message here being that even if you think your talent in Christ’s service is little, you should still devote your life to His service and to the increase of his Word among men. Saving only oneself is insufficient. This strongly implies that more is required of each Christian than the acceptance of Jesus as the savior. In any event, I think it’s reasonable to believe that the Parable, in both biblical and non bibilical texts, weights against burying money in the ground. F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm I thought the point is that the servant has not risked personal loss for his master’s increase. Presumably, the first two servants would have been on the hook for Talents they had been given if they had traded unwisely, so they took great personal risk in attempting to increase the Master’s holdings in his absence. amanasleep I presume they took only acceptable risks and thus would be blameless in the event of loss. And note, the Master is generous when they succeed. Is it likely then that He would have been hard on them as the 3rd servant implied if they had failed? And is this not the same Master who freely forgave a servant his enormous debt to Him? And the amounts are so huge it is not likely they could repay in any event if they lost them. Your theory is interesting though. Capo Regime April 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm I recall my Shabbat school teacher always said–Jesus saves but Moses invests…..by that he meant concern for saving the whole not just oneself. But seriously, great lecture. toxymoron April 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm I am not moslim, and don’t read/write Arabic, but the Koran says something like ‘what you give to others is yours forever, what you keep for yourself is lost forever’. This talk gives “scientific proof” of the truthness of that statement. Thank you for sharing this with us. craazyman April 25, 2012 at 7:38 pm Happiness for sale! Gauranteed to make you happy overnight or your money back. We offer 4 levels of happiness at fees designed to fit any budget: The Ecstasy Forever Platinum Package at $39,999 The Delerium Silver Package at $29,999 The Steady Contentment Set at $19,999 and for those of you starting out in life The Fabulous Future is Yours for three easy payments of $3999 Don’t let happiness pass you by! Your hapiness is our hapiness. We guarantee it. Don’t wait for hapiness to find you. Send cash or certified check today to: Happy Times Forever Enterprises attn: Delerious Tremens, Certified Happiness Planner PO Box 8 St. Louis, Oklahoma 3834747 Valissa April 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm Happy Bear explains happiness http://www.savagechickens.com/images/chickenhappybear.jpg Couchyogi on total happiness http://www.toonpool.com/user/2605/files/couchyogi_total_happiness_1041165.jpg Happiness couched http://www.glasbergen.com/wp-content/gallery/happiness-cartoons/mh6.gif Is happiness is overrated? http://www.selfhelpmagazine.com/psychtoons/glasbergen/Happiness/overratedhappiness.jpg Happiness strategy revision http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/hsc3351l.jpg John L April 25, 2012 at 9:43 pm Thanks Yves for giving us that rare but welcome uplifting post. diptherio April 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm Strangely, this is the one concept that a lot of Western Buddhist and Yoga practitioners have a difficult time getting their heads around. They want happiness and have heard that meditation is required. They buy themselves a zafu and a special meditation alarm clock… They have a saying in Nepal, “simple living, high thinking.” Here in America we seem more comfortable with the reverse, “high living, simple thinking.” I have to say the “science” seems a little bit sloppy, though he did say he is from a business school, which would explain it. Christophe April 26, 2012 at 12:48 am Perhaps the business school connection also explains why he makes no mention of the fact that money is not the only thing that can be given away. Most people have have ample evidence stored in their own memory banks that they felt most happy when giving of their time, affection, attention, skills, caring, interest, training, effort, ideas, knowledge, resources, creativity, talent, etc. The greatest happiness probably comes from giving those things away for no monetary recompense; thus leaving money out of the loop. That won’t leave you with much money to give away, but you already gave people what money can’t ever really buy — yourself. Aquifer April 26, 2012 at 1:11 am There have been studies done on that as well – what really motivates people, one aspect of which is the need to contribute. Sometimes being paid actually gets in the way … Aquifer April 26, 2012 at 1:08 am The interesting part i find about this concept is conservatives use it to justify making more bucks or having lower taxes – “The more i make/less gov’t takes the more i can give away …!” F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 4:45 am “The more i make/less gov’t takes the more i can give away …!” Aquifer That’s not defensible if the money is essentially stolen in the first place. Our money system allows the banks, corporations and other so-called “credit-worthy” to steal purchasing power from everyone else, especially the poor. Of course, Biblically speaking, it is much better to be a generous crook than a selfish one: And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. Luke 16:9 simpleton April 26, 2012 at 7:13 am One might not necessarily buy something for someone else for selfless reasons but to influence that person, or hope to do so. I had various relatives who attempted to ‘bribe’ me in that way, buy my love, and the pressure was so great, I began turning them down. (This is quite apart from the example that the speaker noted of men hoping for…something else…from their girlfriends.) In other words, the power is with the giver in a giving relationship, one reason I speculate the Third World is not as ‘grateful’ for foreign aid as the donors expect 2) The study lacked the control of buying a good versus buying an experience, and with $5 to $20, there are a limited number of experiences one can buy in Canada. The Ugandan example of lifesaving health care is not open since health care is already socialized in Canada, although I suppose one could always buy a diabetic without a drug plan a round of insulin. (I count insulin as an experience, not a good, for the health experience it buys.) 3)Again on the theme of a good versus an experience, we have ** buy good for self, (GS) ** buy experience for self e.g. travel (ES) ** buy good for others (GO) ** buy experience e.g. travel for others (GE) As I typed “buy travel for others” it occurred to me, does buying something for someone else that one might not have make one as happy, less happy, or happier? If one is already healthy, buying a clinic visit for someone else is one thing; if one, oneself, needs that clinic visit…. Similarly, suppose one longs to see Paris, but one gives the trip away…possibly to someone who has already seen Paris. SHARING the trip, say taking a simpler trip but with two over one, I can see, but sacrificing versus giving might be another category. Giving is a relationship, fraught with the usual problems of relationships. But the motivation part grabs me: hoarding, i.e. doing nothing, is not the same thing even as spending on oneself. simpleton April 26, 2012 at 7:19 am oops, in 3) above that should have been: Buy experience for others (EO) and not, (GE) like I typed. proximity1 April 26, 2012 at 7:41 am curmudgeon, here, Okay, I bit and watched the video–the whole thing, attentively. My reaction? It struck me as really naive and in places sadly ridiculous. For example, if you’re paying attention, it’s made very clear that virtually anyone other than one’s self qualifies as this “other” on whom the happiness-yielding “gift” is bestowed; did that strike you as incongruent? It ought to have because it puts everyone, regardless of place, position or need on the same level. Thus, the “happiness ‘payoff'”, we’re led to suppose, is the same whether you give your stock-broker gold cuff-links or the blind man on the street one dollar and fifty cents. There’s no apparent reason to do one more than the other —at least as the presentation here gives us the data and their interpetation. If you dispute this, please watch it and point out where the presenter puts any emphasis on the virtues of one recipient over another again, as far as the ‘happiness’ “pay-off” ‘ is concerned. Now, again, on naiveté–we have a presentation on the benefits of “giving” as seen from the “return-on-investment” point of view. This R.O.I. is just figurative, it’s ridiculously explicit! For crying out loud! Need a reason to be “altruistic”? Well, pal, your sales teams’s results will improve (+78% !!!) if you “spend” (what was given to you by some other in the first place!, rather than something you actually give– did you notice that?) Moving on, excuse me, but, since when is “‘Tis better to give than to receieve” a major “scoop”? As I watched, I couldn’t help thinking of the average net worth of these TED audience members, of their getting a “feel-good” “high” from listening to this over-the-top politically-correctness-ness served to them in those comfy auditorium seats. Afterward, they can go off to the nearest Starbucks and give some culture-clone a free free super mocha cappaccino and get a lovely altruism buzz as they sip their own coffees from paper cups. Or, more likely, it’s off to the one-to-three-star restaurant where they have a reserved table waiting. The price of dinner would supply a month of groceries for a family of three, but, as these beautiful people will explain, they earned every dozen million dollars they own, so they’re entitled to enjoy themselves “a little”. Besides, they give–and not just gold-cuff-link to their stock-broker. No. They give to the museums, the symphony, the ballet, the opera, and to the alumni fund–their grand-children are at Yale, Harvard or Princeton or Stanford, just as they and their children were, too. Now, if you’re so churlish to point out that every one of those forementioned gifts was also a very welcome tax-write-exemption, well, all I can say is, “What a churl you are!” People give for the warm glow they get, not the tax exemption. So, please, find for me any major exception–cases where serious money is/was given for and zero tax benefit for the donor was involved. Or, even better, and more difficult: where’s the charitable oraganization which dispenses its philanthropy on beneficiaries again, without regard for the tax exempt status of the giftss grants, etc? I say, you won’t find one, or, if one, more than one. So, my take on this very superficial talk is, “Feel-good” giving is cheap and you can give your stock-broker gold-cuff-links and get the same jollies if those are what you’re really interested in, rather than in doing genuine social good. Charitable giving, like war, has varied outcomes for both those who “give” and those who “receive”. Some people go to war and get killed, while others “go to war” and make a bazillion dollars in arms sales “to defend the country”. They some of their spoils they give to the theatre, the art museem or opera, and they get a tax exemption. In the past thirty years, the distribution of wealth has seen incredible concentration in the uppermost 1/10th or 1/20th of 1% while the rest of the population below the average income has seen poverty grow in proportion as well as absolute terms. I hear that John D. Rockefeller, that great man, used to hand out dimes to passers-by on the street. Today, billionaires don’t walk down the street–or much of anywhere else where they’re liable to have to encounter someone who isn’t a member of their private clubs. laughlinlvr April 26, 2012 at 8:56 am I didn’t go to a one-to-three star restaurant last week. But I bought a friend some jewelry last week. I’ve not been feeling on top of the world since the weather in the northeast turned colder this week. Waking Up April 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm proximity1, you have made very interesting points. If someone is doing “feel good” giving are they really “giving”? Aren’t they “giving” in order to get something for themselves, whether it’s accolades from their peers, networking benefits by attending a charity party, a tax write-off, etc.? If the benefit is ultimately for themselves, the “happiness” factor will also be reduced. However, the ends justifies the means in those cases as the receivers will ultimately benefit. I have far greater respect for the person who as Christophe states above gives not only a monetary donation (or not), but, also gives of their time, attention, ideas, etc. On the other hand, I detest people such as Bill Gates who push a corporate agenda (or have an agenda) such as Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds as a way “to feed people in developing countries”. Perhaps the best giving to achieve happiness is where a person gives of themselves and expects nothing in return. proximity1 April 27, 2012 at 9:24 am Yep. But the “society of spectacle” (see Guy Debord’s trenchant analyses) just eats such absurdly superficial stuff up. That is why there’s a TED talk about it in the first place. This gets the thumbs-up from the culture mavens who run so much of the media BS in which we swim. The whole point, really, is instead to present something esthetically pleasing and appealing to this audience and has, ultimately, nothing really to do with making the world a better place. It’s already clear what is so cryingly lacking in that respect—social justice, with force backing it up. But the privileged audience members are themselves key factors in keeping that social justice stymied, or, more often, simply off the media “radar screen”. Instead, we’re offered this superficial feel-good pap which is properly called “clap-trap”. Klassy! April 27, 2012 at 10:39 am Thank you– I just reserved an anothology containing the Debord essay. I too had some problems with this talk (beginning with the fact that it was a TED talk!). I can’t articulate just what those feelings are except they seemed to be mingled with some bad aftertaste after reading the New Yorker article on Stanford. All I know is that the word “transformative” usually makes me recoil. (can’t remember if the word was used in the talk but it came into play in the New Yorker article) proximity1 April 29, 2012 at 3:30 pm I hope you find the book interesting. Check your anthology just in case it also contains a text Debord wrote later called “Commentaries on The Society of the Spectacle”. Also, as I’m nearly finished reading it, not only would I be interested in your comments on it, I’d be ready to help to the extent that I may be able in offering some rephrasings, some interpretations, of Debord’s book. I confess that numerous parts of it are not easy for me to grasp. At places, I’m sure I haven’t really understood clearly all that he’s intending. Note: by the way– Debord writes much about Marxist party development and history. He had clearly studied this and knew it from both study and from personal experiences of his time. If that section is difficult for you, I recommend turning to C. Wright Mills’ text, “The Marxists”, in which Mills presents not only his summary explanantion of Marx’s main thought and Marxism (as yet the best brief presentation of Marxism that I’ve seen anywhere) as well as varieties of “marxism”, but also presents numerous excerpts from the speeches and writings of various leading figures–including Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Eduard Bernstein, Kautsky, R. Luxemberg, Stalin, Khruschev, Mao, and Che Guevara. Written in 1962, it’s the last publication of Mills’ before his death. By amazing coincidence, I was reading “The Marxists” and became bogged down in the sections of excerpts by leading marxists because, simply, so much of their writing is so unbearably doctrinaire and wooden. Reading Lenin’s speeches and essays is just punishingly dreary. So I turned for relief to Debord’s “La société du spectacle” and was immediately stunned to discover that it is both relief from and enlightening insight into the texts and ideology that Mills has presented in excerpts in “The Marxists”. This was sheer chance, as I had picked up Debord over a year ago and not read it; I had no idea until I began it how completely relevant it was/is to nearly all of my most recent reading. Thus, I recommned Mills’ “The Marxists” to you for historical background to the people and events concerning Marxists’ party history to which Debord refers. (though neither makes plain what the reference to “Cronstadt” means. For that, we have to dig in other sources.) —- proximity1 April 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm RE: Cronstadt / (Kronstadt) a rebellion in 1921 in Kronstadt, a naval fortress on Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland that served as the base of the Russian Baltic Fleet and as a guardpost for the approaches to Petrograd See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kronstadt_rebellion — proximity1 April 26, 2012 at 7:43 am “This R.O.I. isn’t just figurative,” … skippy April 26, 2012 at 8:59 am Happiness is just outside my window Would it crash blowing 80-miles an hour? Or is happiness a little more like knocking On your door, and you just let it in? Happiness feels a lot like sorrow Let it be, you can’t make it come or go But you are gone- not for good but for now Gone for now feels a lot like gone for good Happiness is a firecracker sitting on my headboard Happiness was never mine to hold Careful child, light the fuse and get away Cause happiness throws a shower of sparks Happiness damn near destroys you Breaks your faith to pieces on the floor So you tell yourself, that’s enough for now Happiness has a violent roar Happiness is like the old man told me Look for it, but you’ll never find it all Let it go, live your life and leave it Then one day, wake up and she’ll be home Home, home, home…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgKslXz30U0 Skippy… Happiness is just a drug in your body… F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm Happiness is just a drug in your body… Skippy No it isn’t. I’ve had drugs (legal) that consistently made me outrageously happy but I eventually gave them up because something was missing: peace. skippy April 26, 2012 at 6:56 pm “Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities.” Susan B. Anthony Skippy… superanus… one word… that has probably caused more delusions…. than…. the rest put together. skippy April 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm “No it isn’t”… anecdotal factually incorrect assertion. Skippy… individual thoughts or experiences dressed up as facts are an indication of delusion. F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm It’s not just my experience; many people have given up even addictive drugs like heroin, nicotine, alcohol and crack cocaine spontaneously because they got tired of them. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet skippy April 26, 2012 at 8:23 pm Read again, your comprehension is off by quite a bit, more bias projection OYP. Skippy… your body produces chemicals ie. drugs. F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm So it does. And for a long time I took monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) to prevent the destruction (reuptake) of those chemicals and to allow their build up. The ones I took, Nardil and Parnate, even blocked the destruction of dopamine, the pleasure chemical, along with serotonin, the sociability chemical, norepinephrine (concentration) and some other neurotransmitters. I felt grand taking those drugs but there was aways something lacking. So even natural “happiness chemicals” are not sufficient in my experience for true happiness. skippy April 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm Seeking happiness seems too be an issue for some, delusions are a key to manufacturing it IMO. Skippy… “always something lacking.” Your need is great, it seems. Aquifer April 26, 2012 at 11:37 am The level of cynicism here is a bit of a bummer …. I thought perhaps the discussion might turn around the idea of “giving” in a justice v charity context, wherein whether the “good feeling” that came out of “charity” could/should be transferred to the same benefits coming from “justice” instead, but i can see that is not where this is going … F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm Justice is demanded whereas charity is optional but very wise. And in the Old Testament, the poor did have rights such as the right to glean fields after harvest. To deny them access to ones field would thus be unjust, not merely uncharitable. Aquifer April 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm Yes, you have rather touched on it – charity is optional. So what needs of living things should be left to charity and what to justice? Do we indeed prefer to leave much to charity because it does make us happier to be its dispensers than does justice? F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm So what needs of living things should be left to charity and what to justice? Aquifer Justice isn’t optional; it is required and is defined by God not man. But what justice is for the poor beyond not stealing from them or taking advantage of them or otherwise oppressing them I don’t claim to know beyond the gleaning example I gave. In other words, I am weak on what positive rights the poor have even in a just society. But we don’t have a just society; we have one that has enabled the rich to subtly steal from the poor. Thus the poor are ENTITLED to compensation for theft in addition to their positive rights. Do we indeed prefer to leave much to charity because it does make us happier to be its dispensers than does justice? Aquifer Poverty is a reproach to a society and indicates something is wrong with it so no one should be happy with poverty. F. Beard April 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm But yes, some do apparently enjoy keeping the poor poor so they can be “benevolent” to them. craazyman April 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm no sweat acquifer. It’s a noble idea, but the dude in the video oozes the sort of glib enfatuation with a clever reductive simplicity duped into believing in its own profundity that seems to characterize the MBA mind — and even the TED tag line up top seems to have been written by a marketing department. It is a form of thinking evolution will surely wipe out, but how many innocents it will take with it is an open question. JC1948 April 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm Yes, Thanks Yves. This video/lesson was a pleasant surprise, and what made it especially productive was the listing of website, donorschoose.org, where the listing consists of poverty-stricken schools that have specific needs listed. There is no better skill to help a child out of poverty than to give him/her an education. I know this to be true first hand, and it has indeed served me well. 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