Friday, December 09, 2005

More on more money buys more happiness

There is more wonderful material on money and happiness in Dwight R. Lee's refreshing "Who Says Money Can't Buy Happiness?" in the Winter, 2006, Independent Review.

First, Lee reminds us that Adam Smith reminded us that ambitition moves us out of a zero-sum prisoners dilemma to animate comparative advantage and wealth and welfare. These, by the way, tend to make us less miserable.

Second, Lee reminds us that Voltaire reminded us that when we strive to accumulate via trade, we do much less pillaging.

He could have included WW II Germany and Japan, each of which made no bones of the fact that they were after resources -- and both of which belatedly discovered the path to wealth via trade. That lesson learned came at devastating cost them and many more of their victims.

Most people, it turns out, are not self-inflicting wounds by striving. And, Lee concludes, "[h]appiness can also be heightened and extended by taking a little time out from our struggles each day to appreciate how much we have achieved already and how blessed we are in comparison to most people who are alive today and almost all who came before us. Consider how much the pursuit of wealth has added to the length, comfort, health, beauty, and meaning of our lives and the lives of our loved ones. If that competition does not increase your happiness, then do not expect that higher taxes and more government spending on mass transit and recycling programs will do so."