Monday assorted links

1. “…the relatively recent increasing gender parity in association presidents of ASA and PAA but not AEA.”  and “…socialization at home can explain a non-trivial part of the observed gender disparities in mathematics performance…

2. Scott Sumner thinks about economic growth.

3. Cities reading list.

4. “Mr. [Robert] Ryman was perhaps peculiarly American in being an autodidact who never took a single art course. His art education consisted of seven years as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.” (NYT, and RIP)

5. Alzheimer’s and portfolio decisions.

6. Intergenerational mobility in Africa.


#4. I wonder why Rauschenberg never erased one of Ryman's paintings.

Unbeknownst to most members of the Army Special Operations Force (ARSOF) community, that moniker was adopted by the Special Forces in the mid-1950s."

If you're the NYT, and you've picture Judge Kavanaugh as Adam Lanza, you've compared global warming to Palestinian Intifada, you've put kindergarten shooting as government shutdown in your headlines in your past. And now, you put "and behold him" as "government shutdown," the only choice you have is to be a traitor to country or to be a Nazi. So pick.

#3 - Can't help thinking about Mr. Bean.

sorry - I meant #4

There I was.

It was almost 25 years ago, a Friday evening after a hard week. The six year old youngest son was upset that he wasn't going to see the Bean movie as his elder brother with friends.

Feeling sorry and having nothing else to do, I brought him and sat through the movie. At least the Warden wasn't there.

After about half an hour, I turned to him and said, "You owe me." He still owes me.

Your stories suck. Long setup, not enough punchline.

Sorry to disappoint. I'll simply cry myself to sleep.

#5: "the genome-wide association studies (GWAS) process that generated the Alzheimer’s Disease PGS failed to fully account for the ageing process": is it ever sensible to assume that authors do a competent job in accounting for confounding variables? How can one check?

I'd be suspect if they claimed they were able to fully account for aging. We just don't know enough about it.

2. At least Sumner asks the question. What looms over the question about economic growth is tech. There's no question tech has made life more convenient (getting a ride, a room, or a table at a restaurant), but has tech actually contributed to economic growth to the same extent it has contributed to the wealth of those who are owners of it? I think not. It's no secret that I'm not a big fan of tech; indeed, I predict people will look back on this era and ask: "What were they thinking?" In other words, tech better start delivering or its days are numbered. Remember a couple of years ago when tech (Apple, Google) was determined to build a driverless car? That didn't last long, once tech realized that building a reliable mechanical device is damn hard. So Google decided it would be more profitable deploying its boy wonders to turning the driverless car into a billboard. If you don't know what I mean, you aren't paying attention. Of course, there is the possibility, no matter how remote, that tech will eventually do more than collect, store, and mine data. If tech does, it's even possible that people will look back on this era and observe: "Boy, did those folks underestimate the contribution to economic growth by tech!"

I'll never stop being amused when rayward types his Unabomber anti-tech manifestos...on the internet. And that's good because he will never stop doing them.

Again, low country cradle Episcopalian divorced lawyer Luddite guy: stick to baseball

I've recently been arguing that technology has become a new form of corporate art. Executives want to go in front of a group peers and show what grand tech they've commissioned with no real business improvement.

"In other words, tech better start delivering or its days are numbered"

Says the guy using his computer to post comments to a blog site.

"Remember a couple of years ago when tech (Apple, Google) "

Do you mean the two largest companies on Earth and who coincidentally are high tech companies? Those two companies?

"was determined to build a driverless car? That didn't last long"

Say what?

"Waymo gets the green light to test fully driverless cars in California -Oct 30, 2018"

The value that makes them big companies lies in the trust of their tech IPs, not necessarily in actual revenues. It's like saying God exists, since people even built churches for him.

"not necessarily in actual revenues"

Maybe, but Apple and Google also have very large revenues.

3. Are there ever any books critical of urbanism? Because this woman just seems to repeat a lot of the usual urbanist ideas (suburbs are bad, people didn't really want to leave the cities, etc.).

A few years back a MR commenter coined the phrase, "more mental masturbation."

People actually make their livings thusly.

Are there ever any books critical of urbanism?

Try Sprawl: A Compact History. Not so much anti-urbanist as anti-anti-suburbs. The Amazon reviews are predictably bi-modal (the pro-density crowd really appear to hate it).

There's also Joel Kotkin's The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, which is also characterized by a lack of anti-suburb hostility.

I read that book a few years back, and IIRC, he pointed out the spreading out of cities has been occurring way before the automobile.

Yes. Pliny the Younger was commuting from Rome to his suburban villa 2000 years ago:

YOU are surprised that I am so fond of my Laurentine, or (if you prefer the name) my Laurens: but you will cease to wonder when I acquaint you with the beauty of the villa, the advantages of its situation, and the extensive view of the sea-coast. It is only seventeen miles from Rome; so that when I have finished my business in town, I can pass my evenings here after a good, satisfactory day’s work. There are two different roads to it: if you go by that of Laurentum, you must turn off at the fourteenth mile-stone; if by Astia, at the eleventh. Both of them are sandy in places, which makes it a little heavier and longer by carriage, but short and easy on horseback.

Pliny's account of time at his villa is one of the homeliest (sic) pieces of classical literature I've ever read. The quiet pride of an established gentleman in his homestead, with its simple pleasures and scenes, reaches out across the centuries and is touchingly recognisable to us moderns.

I'm reading Zeugel's take on building cities for walkability and in general agreeing, but how the heck am I supposed to get to my job 20 miles away from home, and my wife get to her job 20 miles away from home in the opposite direction, walkably?

Walkability makes far more sense for single-income, permanent-job households. Great if you're single, trying with a significant other, crazy when you're married unless your marriage pool is solely people who are going to have permanent work in the same neighborhood as you.

#5 Alzheimer's is just end stage narcissism. Yes, I have ample experience with it. It runs in families because narcissism is memetic. Genes are just a vector for memes, E. O. Wilson has explained this thoroughly, I won't even try to sum it up here.

Narcissists hoard resources human, material, and other because they do not see any capacity for the generation of these resources within themselves. Which is not to say that they can't or don't generate them. They are perceptually alienated from it. This will tend to a self fulfilling prophesy in many areas of their lives.

CD's have low yield, but the principle is secure. It's the same preference they have for relationships & lifestyle. They bury the talent.

I would be very careful making this generalization about Alzheimer's and narcissism. Do you have a prevalence/incidence statistic? Narcissism is too complicated to be relegated solely to memetics. There are many people with Alzheimer's who do not have "narcissism" or associated traits. Also please be careful to delineate the traits from the personality disorder. Thanks.

Your take is different from mine? That's cool. Carry on with it if it's working for you.

it's not just working for me, it's just how neurology, psychiatry and medicine are set up. Sorry to break it to you. Perhaps outside of these sectors, your nomenclature could be more used more loosely.

sorry I meant to say "general medicine"

I am Christian in some ways and I am not in other ways. What I've come to learn is that while the Bhagavad Gita is quite an intellectual mediation on suicide, the Christian Faith, specifically the art that has been rendered offers powerful absolutes. Such that all hate crimes are war crimes. Such that suicide, as a child obviously could, is never to be used as a bargaining tactic. One wonders in Maureen Dowd's column who she actually thinks the enemy of America is? As John Gunther wrote, "nothing at all alarming [is] indicated." Besides, an editorial is not a piece of art; it presumes the national interest. Suicide should therefore not be used as a metaphor, such that dreams are vision, or anything else to evoke personal sentiment. It is ultimately derangement. This same ethos that led to the collapse of communism and the fall of the Third Reich.

maybe you should stop wearing orange clocks

The Vedic and Upanishadic texts are more of a meditation on suicide than the Gita. The story of Arjuna offers allegorical musings of the human spirit, often associated with mysticism.

3: On Robert Moses and _The Power Broker_: "Next time you're in NYC you won't be able to walk more than a few blocks before catching Moses' name on some plaque or carved into a building."

I read a post-apocalyptic science-fiction short story where the character was wandering the streets of a ruined unknown city, which we readers soon realize is Manhattan. Much of the signage was illegible but they could make out the letters "ashing" and realized that "ashing" was an important person, but all they could do was wonder who he or she was and what they did.

It was easy enough to deduce that they'd come upon statues of George Washington or signs for Washington Street or the George Washington Bridge.

But they also kept encountering signs or placques that said "oses" and I couldn't figure out who "oses" was. Moses? This was before _The Power Broker_ came out; I still haven't read the book but I'm guessing that the short story was making a bit of an inside joke about Robert Moses (I'd have to guess that before _The Power Broker_ came out, only New Yorkers knew who he was).

BTW, Robert Caro wrote a terrific piece in _The New Yorker_ recently, giving vivid descriptions of how he uncovered information that was unknown, hidden, or outright secret, using a combination of dogged archival research, persistent interviews (human engineering skills are vital here), and a big enough memory to store all those factoids and put the pieces together.

I know hardly anything about how historians do their research, or biographers, or investigative journalists. But I think Caro's article gives examples of how to do it thoroughly and with a high degree of excellence. This might include moving to LBJ's dusty hometown and living there for three years. And also as one of his editors told him about researching documents: “Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page.”

Is he the guy who's written a three volume bio of LBJ, specifically excluding anything the subject had to do with the JFK assassination?

Heh heh

1b when they say they looked at families who use "fertility stopping rules" to choose male children, who are they talking about? This is a pretty specific group and not really representative of anyone else.

huh? what is "fertility stopping"?

#2: Sumner's comments remind me of one of my big philosophical questions, which I've never felt I've 'solved'.

It's true that in general people are more or less as happy as they were decades before when, if we believe in 'economic growth', they were living far less well than we do today. So 'growth' doesn't really increase happiness. If that's so, why are we so focused on that? Shouldn't we focus on making sure everyone has the basics covered, then maybe try to slow down the machine? Maybe trade less growth for more security and leisure like they do in Europe and Japan? We wouldn't be any less happy.

This might make the idea of taxing the super-rich more palatable, as they won't be any more or less happy with a little less wealth.

As I said, I've not reached any firm conclusions about this but it is worth pondering. Are we maximizing the right variable going for growth over everything else?

Yeah, the whole "hedonic treadmill" aspect of modern life is one of the better arguments from the left.

It seems to me that what individuals really want are to be able to cover their basic needs plus have a feeling that they are occupied in a meaningful way in moving in the right direction. Speed and absolute position (beyond getting out of poverty) are less important.

This goes against Tyler's vision of maximizing growth because of all the as yet unborn, which has little resonance to me compared to the actual people doing the actual living right now, plus those future generations will probably be rich and have hover bikes anyway.

Agreed re Tyler, strict utilitarianism (especially factoring in the utility of far future unborn people) doesn't do it for me either.

Just seems like common sense that once you have a billion dollars, it shouldn't matter if you pay a lot of taxes. It certainly shouldn't have any effect on your happiness.

What if what matters to people is relative status? I think the evidence overwhelmingly points in this direction.

If relative status is what matters for happiness, we are pretty screwed. As we get wealthier, larger and larger % of income will be poured into zero sum status games, like elite school admissions etc.

Robert Frank says the implication is that we can tax the rich since they’re only in competition between themselves. Which is cool but doesn’t really solve the problem.

Precisely (I've read Frank's stuff on this), but the 'problem' may be unsolvable. Can't stop status games but we can always skim some from the super-rich to help the neediest, as it won't change their relative positions.

Much to agree with here, at least as far as analysis goes. Less on policy.

Hopeful thought: Less status-motivated people can select out. They should prosper, away from the meddling of the status-conscious.

Status seeking is almost certainly a survival mechanism for living in small tribes. In the modern world it may even by deleterious, so there's no reason to assume we need it going forward....

The less status-motivated already do that! There are oodles of folks that just live their lives and don't care how much money Soros and Trump and the Koch's have. In fact most folks live that way. Only on forums like this do we politics and economics obsessed people argue about this stuff LOL

Less hopeful thought: social status is a luxury good for us primates. We will have more of it in our wealthy future.

See Hanson for dimensions of excellence and counter-argument, etc.

That's plausible. Most people do care about status at least among their peers/neighbors/friends/family. Most don't care how much money Bill Gates has, he's beyond comprehension. But if your buddy has a hotter wife/bigger house/better stings a bit.

Ask your local gym rat, home chef, or fashionista, if income is the only, or even the best, status.

"It seems to me that what individuals really want are to be able to cover their basic needs"

One of the first things poor people buy when they can barely afford it is a TV and satellite dish.

After food, clothes, and shelter, entertainment is the next basic need. And TVs are extremely cheap.

And TVs are extremely cheap.

Oh, they are now, but that's only because we live in the current world, and not (thankfully!) in your hypothetical one where we tried to 'slow down the machine' and focus on stability rather than growth and improvement.

Missing the point, I was responding to and defeating your point that poor people like to buy TVs like that is some indictment of them satisfying basic needs. Entertainment is a basic need, and today cheaply provided by TV. In the olden days you had to do other things to entertain yourself, and you did, and you were about as satisfied with you life as the couch potatoes are today.

I threw my TV away 18 years ago

Best thing I've ever done

You'll never read a book a week with a TV on in the lounge room.

"It's true that in general people are more or less as happy as they were decades before"

People are just as happy when their children routinely died before age 5 before vaccinations, antibiotics, and municipal water/sewer systems? When they might spend nearly their entire lives in a 10 mile radius and never travel faster than the speed of a horse-drawn carriage? Just as happy as when books were hugely expensive and even a small library was something only the rich could afford? As happy as when motor vehicles were 20 times more deadly per mile traveled than now? As happy as when only Hollywood moguls had their own home theaters? Etc, etc, etc.

I should have also asked -- just as happy as when laundry day was just that, an entire day of hard labor. And then I could have linked this wonderful Hans Rosling video:

Actually, yes very much so. Read any literature on the subject. The reason is that was the world they knew. Happiness is always relative to what you know of the world, after the basics are covered. No one enjoyed washing clothes by hand, but then again if that's how that was done, and every one you know was doing it too, you would be more or less as happy as your socioeconomic counterpart today.

Our descendants will scoff that you and I could happily live without the many technologies they will have that we don't. And yet they will self-report being no happier than we do right now.

Sorry -- I'm astonished that you actually believe that people were just as happy when their loved ones died young, when their physical (and mental) growth was stunted by malnutrition, when they were illiterate and sickly and freezing in the winter and went through repeated periods of actual famine. You're saying that, in your view, every modern convenience, every advance in health and medicine, every increase in life-span is completely meaningless when it comes to human happiness?

Not me, the actual research done on the topic says that. Again, above basic subsistence levels unhappy, starving, freezing people are not happy, but the middle class in 1919 was as happy as the middle class today, yes.

This also bears out in international comparisons. Countries with far lower standards of living than the US have citizens who report themselves at least as happy as Americans do. I'm even talking places like Costa Rica and Cameroon.

Correction: unhealthy, starving, freezing

"Again, above basic subsistence levels unhappy, starving, freezing people are not happy, but the middle class in 1919 was as happy as the middle class today, yes."

If we assume that's true, then why should we redistribute massive amounts of wealth to the poor that's in excess of the 1919 standard you mentioned?

Because it’s relative to those around you.

I hate to say, by Msgkings may have a point here. He identifies limited expectations (no one imagines better is possible) and I would add that there were many compensating factors that we moderns have lost. Higher social trust, greater equality (at least as regards most people), and of course, an abiding faith in a benevolent God. Economics has done a lousy job of accounting for such things in discussing utility.

Now, I'm not utterly convinced that the historical middle class were as happy as the middle class today. Yes, yes, I believe Pinker etc, but I'd like to see more disproof than just a list of technologies and shouting "case closed".

"Higher social trust, greater equality (at least as regards most people), and of course, an abiding faith in a benevolent God"

Man, you really need to learn more about what was going on 100 years ago.

Wrong. The literature says exactly the opposite of that- that income increases happiness both within and between countries. It's an absolute intellectual failure that when someone asks you "Does having your children die below the age of 5 make you less happy?" You think "Uh, I read an article that money doesn't matter for happiness, so I guess not"

Can you share a link? From what I remember of the literature this is not true.

I’m thinking specifically: culture and religion determine happiness in between country comparisons: e.g. Mexicans are happier than Americans, Latin Americans in general (especially women) are happier than Americans, etc.

There was a correlation between income and happiness within a country, you’re back to relative status games. Where you sit in your specific hierarchy determines happiness to a large extent.

Also just to throw in there: what Msgkings is saying is obviously true. Happiness has remained flat for decades even with massive quality of life improvements. It’s even gone down for American women, which is probably a function of increased expectations (career satisfaction and work life balance.)

Bingo. I don't think my points are really that controversial, seems like common sense.

They are neither common sense, nor correct

I kinda agree, Anon, but caution such surveys are of the modern world. That is, a world already set with modern expectations, awareness of technology and social differences, weaker social capital, and less religious faith.

We don't have entirely safe grounds for inference about pre-modern conditions.

Well we can infer from their failure to achieve modern population levels that there was quite a lot of early death, just as with remote tribes in modern times. You read about how happy these people are, having so much leisure time, but it doesn't add up. If they can get sufficient food so easily why is their population not shooting up? The reality is they're starving all the time.

@Anonymous: no, you are the one who is wrong about the literature. In the US after around $75,000 in annual income, additional income has no effect on happiness.

Furthermore, international comparisons definitely show that those who are above subsistence level in most countries even the poor ones are as happy or happier than Americans are.

It's common sense really. Humans are very adaptable emotionally. Even people who suffer a terrible loss like losing a limb report themselves basically as happy with life as they were before, after an adjustment period.

Why are you bringing the U.S. into it? That's just a canard and irrelevant. Money is not the ONLY thing that causes happiness, but it quite clearly does drive happiness both within countries (even in the U.S. as you admit) and across countries.

By the way, $75k is a lot of money, well above average, and life satisfaction continues to increase apace.

Happiness research (Gilbert) indicates a personal happiness set-point, that we trend back to after good or bad changes (iirc, a 2 year regression to the mean).

It makes sense, right? We are not slaving away hauling stones to build pyramids all day, but neither are we living in permanent ecstasy over our central heating and cable TV.

We probably are about as happy as any other humans with day-to-day security.

And again, I predict the Slocum of 2119 will look back and wonder how any of us in 2019 could be happy with our primitive and deprived lives.

Not at all. I'm old enough to remember conditions several decades back, and I enjoy the current world more. Compared to when I was a kid or young adult, my house is nicer, my car is more safe, reliable and comfortable, the food (and beer!) are much tastier and more varied (I'll never have to eat another serving of 'Chop Suey' out of a can -- man, the stuff we all used to eat!). The entertainment and access to books are much better, the travel opportunities much greater. We weren't miserable back then, but life is just better now. And the fact that all these things have improved in the same ways for most people doesn't make me feel worse, it makes me feel better to know these things are widely enjoyed (would it really make you happier if you and a small elite were enjoying the wonders of the modern world? Would you be happier with your smart phone or flat screen TV if very few other people had one?)

The trouble is the modern mind Slocum; you are aware of both options and chose the (obviously) wealthier one. The steel-man version of the problem is "would you be happier than your historical self if that self had no idea another form of life was possible? (and had other, non-technological social capitals?)"

I think Moldbug once had an interesting challenge: if you could keep all the present day technology and wealth, but have the social capital and cohesion/stability of 100 years ago, would you swap? Perhaps in a country where the only sign of the state you really encounter is the local policeman (who you know on a first name basis) and the clerk at the post office?

Don't tell me that couldn't be a little bit tempting....

"if you could keep all the present day technology and wealth, but have the social capital and cohesion/stability of 100 years ago, would you swap?"

100 years ago? Social stability!? God, no. 100 years ago was the era of WWI, of the Espionage and Sedition Acts (used to throw poor Eugene Debs into prison for protesting the war and draft). It was the era Bolshevik Revolution and all the horrors and miseries it unleashed. It was the beginning of prohibition and the lawlessness and organized crime it engendered. It was an era when leading 'progressive' intellectuals were proponents of Eugenics. 1919 features a series of Anarchist terror bombings and the infamous Sacco and Vanzetti trial followed in the following year. It was an era of lynchings and mass KKK rallies (50,000 KKK members marched in Washington in the mid 20s). Anti-immigrant sentiment ran even higher then than now, and racist anti-immigrant laws were enacted. It was a turbulent, fractious era, not at all one of social cohesion and stability. So no, I'm not even slightly tempted to return to that time (with or without modern technology).

Maybe 1918 is a bad point. How about 1910, as a white American or Briton?

But I guess you're going to be hung up about waycism now, and miss the point of the experiment.

I did the exact same thing, said instead of 1919 try 1909

I agree with both Alistair and Hmmm on this. I would add that you are being very specific, citing your own thoughts and feelings. But that doesn't change the fact that the aggregate middle class was basically as happy and satisfied with their lives as ours is today. Because that was their life! They had no idea what life would look like in 100 years. And again, if you think 100 years from now everyone will be just ever so much more happy than we are now due to technological advancement you are being pretty myopic.

There is only 24 hours in the day, and just like 100 years ago people are born, they eat, sleep, have sex, have kids, entertain themselves, work, live, and die. The gadgets are better but people are generally about as happy as they were then.

But that doesn't change the fact that the aggregate middle class was basically as happy and satisfied with their lives as ours is today. Because that was their life!

That is not a 'fact'. What is a fact is that 100 years ago, middle-class people (along with the rich and poor) were suffering the aftermath of the greatest global pandemic since the plague (and young adults were the most likely to die--leaving tens of millions of grieving parents, widows, widowers and orphans). This came right on the heels of the worst, most destructive global war in history to that point and right before the blue-noses finally gained enough political power to take away all the wine, beer, and whiskey. I'm really not sure on what basis or authority you assert as a fact that absolute happiness levels were equal to now. I suspect you have no idea really -- just an idée fixe that average happiness levels can never change no matter what terrible (or good) things happen.

No I do recall reading about this but I'm not your grad student so you can look up the data instead of throwing around just so stories. If 1919 bothers you try 1909.

My idee fixe is more correct than yours. Mine has more logic behind it, yours is a modern person putting himself in past and thinking how could anyone be happy then?

And again you avoid my point about the future. According to your logic, people 100 years from now will have technology and medicine we can only dream of, so that means everyone will be walking around in a state of ecstasy. But no, that's not how it will be and that's just common sense.

"If 1919 bothers you try 1909."

Ah, so we're making progress -- you agree that average happiness levels might vary according to conditions then?

"According to your logic, people 100 years from now will have technology and medicine we can only dream of, so that means everyone will be walking around in a state of ecstasy."

I make no such grandiose claims about constant states of ecstasy -- only that wealthier, healthier, longer, safer, more interesting, more secure lives are happier than poorer, sicker, shorter, duller, more precarious ones. As a result, people now, on average, lead better, more satisfying lives than 100 (and 200 and 500) years ago and that, barring disaster, people a century from now will lead better ones than we do.


No one denies that material welfare, in itself, promotes happiness and that tends to improve over time. But that's not enough to close the argument about modern vs historical happiness; there are three assumptions you are ignoring.

1) Implied awareness of other historical states. We know people can be made less happy simply by knowledge of other possible states. But Pre-moderns would have been unaware of our wealthier future state (and maybe only dimly aware of contemporary better states). Suppose you were to discover today a country on earth with average lifespans of 200, where everyone was fantastically healthy and wealthy (but you couldn't go there). What would that do to your happiness? Ignorance is, to an extent, bliss.
2) Non-material goods. We know from current hedonistic data that non-material factors: family, faith, friends, stable marriage, common identity, social capital etc are a large part of the happiness function. Is it impossible to believe that some areas of our past had more than we do?
3) Less scope for invidious comparison. The past certainly had its fair share of wealth and poverty and was in many ways just as extreme on a gini index. But with limited information and a more cohesive social circle, most people would not be been aware of it. Now we have Celebrity Love Island Lifestyles 24/7 together with the Davos feed and Consume More Stuff magazine. The scope for invidious comparison has expanded dramatically in the modern age.

I've just noticed that, taxonomically speaking, Issue 1 is a subset of issue 3 above, which really divides into "awareness of better future states" and "awareness of better contemporary states".

Still, I think you haven't addressed either point; just repeated your claims about material factors, which are not really disputed.

Sure there will be blips in (un)happiness at certain historical junctures like 1919 or 1940-45, but the overall aggregate happiness is roughly the same when you smooth those out.

And you are still confusing better material lives (no question, the past was worse and the future will be better) with the subjective emotion of happiness. For the reasons Alistair and I have mentioned, happiness simply doesn't change that much over time. You are still personalizing it, because you are aware of the progress.

And you still haven't addressed my point. Your model is better living standards = increased happiness. We agree on that up to and a little past subsistence, as I mentioned before in the US after $75K greater annual income has no effect. But your model can't logically work in a world of ever increasing living standards. Happiness is not infinite, and better living standards only correlate to happiness in COMPARISON to your peers. If everyone around you is living in a similar time of better living standards, your happiness won't vary much from someone 100 years ago or 100 years in the future, if they are 'middle class' or higher.

I'm having trouble with this because I'm trying to explain something that seems pretty common sensical and obvious. When a middle class person woke up and got ready to go to work in 1928, and had coffee and kissed his kids goodbye, was he really so much less happy than the same guy doing that in 2018? The emotion I mean. I am aware (being from 2018) that his life was not as 'good' as mine. But I doubt he was noticeably less happy or satisfied with life. 'He' being a stand in for the aggregate. Again, I'm struggling to explain something so obvious.

"..better living standards only correlate to happiness in COMPARISON to your peers."

You can prove your point by simply asserting that it is true. That's called begging the question.

I will concede that happiness results seem range limited, but that's because the the damn instruments themselves are range limited!. If you asked people from the 19th century how tall they were on a 1-10 scale and did the same for modern people and found that both groups gave a median answer of 5, you'd reach the absurd (and false) conclusion that average heights hadn't increased. If you want to steadily rising ratings of well-being you have to start with instruments that would actually be able to capture it (which none of the research I've seen could do).

Within the next 100 years, there may be cures for many cancers, Alzheimer's disease, genetic birth defects, etc. But in your view, none of that will (or even could) raise happiness levels even a smidgen. So why bother with all the expense and effort?

You mistake comfort with overall hapiness. No matter how well equipped and modern 21st century hospital I go into if the doctor's diagnosis is that I have cancer and going to die. I won't be any happier than my other self a 100 years ago who had syphilis or other hardly curable disease.

This was pretty good, and of course the real end run, developed a couple thousand years ago, is to give up on a bit of that desire.

It's trivially true, if you don't want anything you can't be unhappy. But if everyone went that way hardcore, it would be the end of the human race.

I think economists might worry about much milder forms of Western, non-religious, Buddhist philosophy, which merely reduce marginal productivity or consumption.

But they should not, because that meditation etc might actually be better for the individual and society than any number of consumer splurges.

And happiness is the baseline goal for a utilitarian.

As I said above, I'm not a strict utilitarian. Again, a little perspective on desires is good, too much and that's it for humanity.

See here for presentation of evidence which suggests higher GDP per capita does relate strongly to greater life satisfaction / happiness, though it is clearly not the only factor:

Happiness is partly shaped by the ability to give and receive love. it's a little strange that ya'll are arguing about happiness, when it's rather a personal thing and the ability to achieve it on your own defines the whole experience.

Correction: ability to *identify* your personal happiness defines the experience

#3...What about Cronon's "Nature's Metropolis"? Davis "City of Quartz"? I see he does have a book on the list. Mumford "Culture of Cities" & "The City in History." Allan Temko "No way to Build a Ballpark."

#2. Anybody that knows a little bit of basic consumer theory should be aware that there is no such thing as the "correct" measure of economic growth. The reason is simple: there is not a single way to aggregate apples and oranges and the composition and quality of goods changed a lot over the years. The TV comparison of 1959 to 2017 for example, it is not possible to compare the two, the BLS estimated a TV from 2017 was worth 50 times more than a TV of 1959. But that is one of the many different ways to measure that.

#5 Alzheimer's is common enough that a prudent person would consider it in their financial planning, i.e., arrange your financial affairs to be on auto-pilot by about 70.

About 15% of people over 65 have Mild Cognitive Impairment, which may impact financial decision making. A 70 year old has about a 1 in 3 chance of developing dementia before death. The lifetime risk of Alzheimer's, which is the most common form of dementia, is about 20% for women and 10% for men.

#2 was quite good but it suffers from a meander, from economic growth, to utility and happiness, and back to "growth" necessarily being "economic" again.

How 'bout this: Economic growth and human happiness are separate things, occasionally correlating, but not substitutable. Utility, as an attempt to bridge the gap, works in carefully structured circumstances, but not generally or abroad in the world.

Economic growth is good, but if you want to improve gross national happiness, it's not the only path.

(Some fringe thinkers believe that some US regions have a deficit of lithium in the water supply, presenting an opportunity for a quick fix.)

Nobody is supporting the lithium? That might suggest a curious human relationship with human happiness.

Fish on Prozac doesn't seem to help:

The math paper seems like the authors have about 15-20 years of genetics research to catch up on. Relying on shared environment as a factor? Not taking possible confounding factors into account? No matter what your beliefs are, the only way to do a solid study in this field is to assume FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT that boys are genetically better at math than girls, and then see if that assumption would cause problems with your methodology.

It's amazing how silo'd off various fields are.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” ― Upton Sinclair

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” ― Upton Sinclair

Oops. That ^^ was intended as a response to Harris, above.

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