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2006: a vintage year for ideas that will change our world

Link: 2006: a vintage year for ideas that will change our world | Comment | The Observer.

Will Hutton, over at the The Observer, is wondering (among other things) what makes us happy, and reaching predictable conclusions.

For two or three decades, economists and philosophers have questioned whether technology and rising wealth automatically mean greater well-being. In 2006, we finally realised that we are too inattentive to what makes us happy, a crucial step forward. Happiness is about earning the esteem of others, behaving ethically, contributing selflessly to human betterment and assuaging the need to belong. We have finally understood it is not economic growth that delivers these results - it is the way we behave

This hopelessly misses the point - in the best traditions of the journal for Britain's muddled thinkers. The straw man set up to be burned is the idea that anybody ever thought economic growth, per se, made us happy. Of course it doesn't. It just gives us more opportunity to pursue happiness.

If I were living as a subsistence farmer, it would take all my strength just to live and reproduce. As it is, I live in a high-tech society and can make my way in the world by relatively short hours of work. That gives me time which I can squander on drugs or daytime TV, or spend in pursuing my social, intellectual or spiritual goals. Only a Socialist was ever materialist enough to consider that non-Socialists thought about nothing but money!

Why do the Guardian and the Observer always have to promote the notion, if not that economic activity is actually evil, at least that only uneconomic activity is truly ethical? They are not mutually-exclusive. In fact, the one permits the other. Ironically, it takes the economic efforts of millions to keep those lazy, slack-brained lefties in a position to earn a crust by criticising those who keep them in lentils and corduroy.

Anyway, gentle readers, whatever it is that makes you happy, I hope it is working overtime for you this Christmas.