Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Pessimist's Theory of Happiness

The Pessimist's Theory of Happiness states that happiness can neither be created, nor destroyed, but can only move from on person to another. Put another way, there is a constant amount of happiness in the universe, and the only way to get more happiness is to take it from someone else.

OK, I just made that up. Well, not just, I came up with it some months ago, but that's not the point.

Of course the Optimist's Theory of Happiness states that happiness can be created willy-nilly without any particular consequence.

Somehow these theories make me think of conservatives and liberals, respectively. There is perhaps some validity to the Pessimist's version. For instance, if you raise taxes to provide services, sure somebody gets the service, but everybody also gets taxed more. Similarly, if you're rich and can convince the government to give you a tax break and pass the cost on to everyone else, you can manage to extract happiness from them that way. Of course, then you get into the Laws of Happydynamics, and see that when bureaucracy manages happiness, some of that happiness is irrecoverably lost to ambient heat.

I hear someone at the back shouting that, "money does not equal happiness." Perhaps not, but at least we have standard units of currency. What is the standard unit of happiness exactly? "I'd like one decagrin please." Money is irrelevant anyway, it's just a way of keeping score. The point is that a lot of people obtain their happiness by extracting it from others.

Now, on the other hand, there are people who create stuff that make a lot of people very happy. There are many wonderful authors who have written things that have surely made many people very happy, surely significantly in excess of whatever struggles were required to create it. That is one of the cool things about creating - it seems at least possible that you are increasing the total amount of happiness in the universe, while all the consumers / non-creators are busy just moving all of the happiness around until we achieve apathy-death.

Unfortunately, I don't recall if I actually had a point when I started writing this post. Certainly one has not arisen as quickly as I would have hoped. If you have any happiness you could send my way, perhaps I could find a way to wrap this up more satisfactorily. Thanks!

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