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March 08, 2006


"If we design a society that doesn't address the unhappiness of those at the very bottom, it will be sure to fail even more readily than communism did in the Soviet Union."

Society is not a product of human design, it is a product of unplanned, spontaneous human interaction, the Soviet Union failed partially because they failed to realize this.

Society doesn't address peoples problems, individuals address their own problems. Also, you claim that in order to be happy we must have higher status than others, by this definition there must necessarily be people on the bottom.

A society of any size will contain subgroups with their own status rankings. In some cases these rankings will run very differently from the ones of the overall society. A prime example would be the outlaw bikers who still identify as 1%ers 50 years after the American Motorcycle Association claimed 99% of riders were upstanding citizens.

A society of any size will contain subgroups with their own status rankings.

I was thinking the same thing when I wrote my blog post. This wasn't the case when we were cavemen, so modern man sometimes gets confused.

There are people in the ghetto who have no status overall in society, but they may be the Big Man in the ghetto and therefore they get to father many children.

This post's analysis is incomplete. Is HS saying happyiness = pleasure? If that is the case, then it would be pointed out that many activities that leads to pleasure are dangerous.

What about those people are naturally cautious who refrain from engaging from pleasure seeking behavior in exchange of longer lifespan? Wouldn't their genes be more likely to survive?

Those people who believe that they should have children because that is the way to ensure their genes live on forever is sadly mistaken. In 5 generations, there is less than 2% of the original genes sequence left.
So much for self-expression on the individual level.

Really enjoying the HS archives on Sociobiology and happiness. I would not be surprised if the status-equals-happiness theory was particularly prevalent among unhappy law school grads. It wasn't until law school that I really took to heart the concept of zero-sum. One starts wondering, "Hey, what if *everything* with people works like this!"

I feel better if I tweak it slightly: Happiness depends on how people are *treated* by the people around them. That explains how a person can have high status compared to the general population, but still be very unhappy. Your king-of-the-ghetto theory, but in reverse. It removes the zero-sumness, because good treatment (respect, love, a decent living standard) is (theoretically) available to all, whereas status is just relative. The guy with no shoes may feel better compared to the guy with no feet, but it sucks for both of them. What's really important is not your status level, but what level you need to be treated well. In a winner-take-all system, the majority will be below the crucial line, regardless of their relative positions.

I find conservatives tend to hate this theory even more than liberals do. This is probably because they like to believe happiness results from individual character strength, and that success is available to all with the requisite merits. But, they certainly have no monopoly on the create-your-own-reality pandemic. There's a big overlap in that Venn diagram with the liberal self-esteem freaks.

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