Happiness


What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

— Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975)

cocacola_l

(Thanks to Thom for pointing me down the road to this quote.)

Success Breeds HateWhen people are presented with the alternatives of hating themselves for their failure or hating others for their success, they seldom choose to hate themselves.

–Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, p. 77 (2005).

To paraphrase George Monbiot:

There is not enough oil.  We are all going to die!

. . . oh, wait . . .

There is too much oil.  We are all going to die!

It must be really depressing being an environmental alarmist.  No matter what happens, you have a compelling need to see it as a dire threat to the very existence of humanity.

As one would expect, Mr. Monbiot fails to note that much of the United State’s newly found energy wealth is in the form of natural gas, and as a result, “total [U.S] CO2 emissions this year are on track to drop to the lowest level since 1991.”

It's always darkest just before it goes pitch black.

If you were wondering where all the Puritanical guilt went as our society become more secularized, I think the environmental movement has found it for us.

Everyone knows that soccer is a foreign invasion, but few people know exactly what is wrong with that. More than having to do with its origin, soccer is a European sport because it is all about death and despair. Americans would never invent a sport where the better you get the less you score. Even the way most games end, in sudden death, suggests something of an old-fashioned duel. How could anyone enjoy a game where so much energy results in so little advantage, and which typically ends with a penalty kick out, as if it is the audience that needs to be put out of its misery?

Stephen H. Webb, Soccer Is Ruining America, Wall Street Journal

This is absolutely fantastic, and I completely understand the point.  Kudos to the Italians for making it work. 

This study is directly relevant to life as an associate at a big law firm.  As an associate at a big firm, one competes with other associates for a very limited number of partnership positions.  Associates work crazy hours, respond to emails at all hours of the night, and generally have no life. 

All associates would actually be better off if all associates would agree to be mediocre.  If all associates billed 500 fewer hours per year across the board, the same people would still be made partner — the result would be unchanged — but we would all have an extra 500 hours to enjoy. 

This doesn’t work though, because someone will always cheat.  (We are lawyers.)  Even if everyone agrees to bill only 1800 hours, there will always be that guy who thinks he can get ahead by billing just a few more hours.  It becomes a race to the bottom where the desire to provide a future for one’s wife and children competes with the crushing mental and physical anguish of billing yet another hour. 

The Italians seem to have solved that problem with a combination of social pressure and lowered expectations. 

L-worlds: The curious preference for low quality and its norms

Abstract. We investigate a phenomenon which we have experienced as common when dealing with an assortment of Italian public and private institutions: people promise to exchange high quality goods and services (H), but then something goes wrong and the quality delivered is lower than promised (L). While this is perceived as ‘cheating’ by outsiders, insiders seem not only to adapt but to rely on this outcome. They do not resent low quality exchanges, in fact they seem to resent high quality ones, and are inclined to ostracise and avoid dealing with agents who deliver high quality. This equilibrium violates the standard preference ranking associated to the prisoner’s dilemma and similar games, whereby self-interested rational agents prefer to dish out low quality in exchange for high quality. While equally ‘lazy’, agents in our L-worlds are nonetheless oddly ‘pro-social’: to the advantage of maximizing their raw self-interest, they prefer to receive low quality provided that they too can in exchange deliver low quality without embarrassment. They develop a set of oblique social norms to sustain their preferred equilibrium when threatened by intrusions of high quality. We argue that cooperation is not always for the better: high quality collective outcomes are not only endangered by self-interested individual defectors, but by ‘cartels’ of mutually satisfied mediocrities.

(HT Kids Prefer Cheese)

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection. . . . And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions. . . .

— George Washington, 1789

It has been a difficult year in many ways, but I fear that we often lose sight of the fact that we live in what is, without doubt, the wealthiest society in the history of the world.  We have much for which to be grateful.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. . . . Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

Thanksgiving Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, delivered on November 28, 1861 during the Civil War.

(Thanks James for letting me plagiarize.)

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