Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Liberal War On Happiness

In The Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, Murray essentially makes the the point that 1) the state (obviously) doesn't know what happiness is, and 2) has no idea how to measure it anyway. More generally, "Almost nothing having to do with social policy that we can measure directly is the construct we are really interested in."

For example, what is poverty? I personally know any number of people who are well above the "poverty line," but whose lives are spiritually and intellectually impoverished. Retarded, even. We call them "liberals."

Or think of GPA, which is an attempt to measure a construct called "intelligence." Sometimes it correlates, but there's certainly no causal connection between the two (not to mention all the corrupting factors, e.g., grade inflation). And life itself will sort the intelligent from the stupid much more efficiently than any test one could design, for the test is supposed to be a representative sample of "life," just as money is supposed (by the left) to be an analogue of happiness.

I'm currently reading a book about my FFF (Favorite Founding Father), Alexander Hamilton, and indeed one of the most appealing things about him is that he rocketed to the top of Cosmo-American history on wings of pure brilliance and practical intelligence, unlike, say, Obama, who was empowered by white liberal guilt, political thuggery, and a glib appeal to low-information voters, i.e., none other than the intellectually and spiritually impoverished folkers he promises to rescue from their squalor.

Obama likes to pretend his ascent was a quintessentially American one, but it is the very opposite, given the inverted world of the left, in which the scum rises to the top.

In Hamilton's case, he truly had nothing going for him but his own gifts, a "penniless, illegitimate, West Indian immigrant barely out of his teens" when plucked from obscurity by George Washington. In contrast, Obama was plucked from obscurity by people who wish to destroy America, such as Bill Ayers and Frank Marshall. Mission Accomplished.

Now, this question of happiness is a crucial one, because the vast majority of unconstitutional policies promoted by the left find safe harbor under the rubric of "the pursuit of happiness." Someone's supposed "unhappiness" pretty much justifies anything the left wishes to do to us, just as desire instantaneously converts to constitutionality for the left, i.e., "if I want it, it's a right" (say, if I want to murder my baby or force someone else to pay for my birth control).

Since happiness is a (supposedly) nebulous concept, it is reduced to the crude quantitative metric of the "poverty line." But in reality, there is no reason to assume that human beings below this imaginary line are "unhappy," nor that they are all alike. Really, it's just a pretext for the state to get involved in everybody's business. It's a little like the state saying, "from now on we're only going to help the 50% of people who are below average. Once they are brought up to average or above, we'll quit."

The problem, of course, is that half of the citizenry is by definition below average. Which is also why the percentage of people living "beneath the poverty line" never changes. A free society is going to be pretty efficient at sorting people along these lines. The mistake is to use a snapshot instead of a motion picture to examine the data.

In short, there is no such thing as the poor, since the composition of the group is constantly changing, with people coming and going for a host of reasons, everything from talent to bad luck to divorce to stupidity to drugs to being a victim of the liberal educational establishment.

Let's look it up, just to make sure I'm not being a polemical assoul. Here it is:

Virtually no change between 1965 and the present. And prior to 1965, when the spending floodgate was opened, you can see that the line was dropping sharply. Heckuva a job, Lyndie!

(And this doesn't even get into the massive destruction of whole communities as a result of the Law of Unintended Catastrophes, since the benevolent feelings of liberals never result in such things. Conversely, conservatives by definition have bad intentions, so the fact that their policies actually help people is quite beside the point. In their wildest dreams the KKK couldn't have accomplished what the left has done -- and Obama is doing -- to blacks. But that's what leftists do: to paraphrase Thomas Sowell, they replace what works with what sounds good.)

Blah blah blah, this is what I really wanted to highlight: Murray suggests that "Money buys access to things and possibilities but not to the capacity to enjoy them" (emphasis mine).

That particular sentence really arrested my attention, but I'll continue:

"In that sense, the privileged are not those with the most money but those with other gifts -- natural abilities, curiosity and interests, realized through education -- and enough money (which is not necessarily a lot) to exercise them."

Could it be that the most important factor in happiness is this mysterious "capacity to enjoy?"

Lets' get down to cases, in this case, mine. This will no doubt sound outrageously narcissistic to some -- a nutcase -- but it's not intended to, and besides, I have a feeling that it applies to most Raccoons. The essential point is that I get such a kick out of just being myself -- in the fullest sense of the term -- that nothing else in the world -- certainly no amount of money -- could ever replace it.

I think this explains why, when I was "poor" -- which I suppose I must have been, but never bothered to check -- I was not only not unhappy, but again, getting an intrinsic kick out of just being me. In fact, now that I think about it, this intrinsic enjoyment may be the key to my lack of conventional achievement, thank God! I mean, if you're already yourself, what's to achieve except more of it?

Interestingly, I get essentially the same kick out of my son. I feel so privileged to just know this unusual soul, and to be able to interact with him on a day-to-day basis, that it is literally impossible for me to imagine something more meaningful, more joyous, and more conducive to happiness. And it's a truly egalitarian form of happiness, because it's available to most everyone.

And feminists gave this up for some stupid corporate job? Or, like the archetypal liberalette, Julia, a marriage to the state? No wonder they're miserable.

To be continued....


Blogger Van Harvey said...

"This will no doubt sound outrageously narcissistic to some -- a nutcase -- but it's not intended to, and besides, I have a feeling that it applies to most Raccoons. The essential point is that I get such a kick out of just being myself -- in the fullest sense of the term -- that nothing else in the world -- certainly no amount of money -- could ever replace it."

Hmmm... I don't know that I ever really thought about it, but I suppose I've just always been pretty pleased to be able to accompany myself wherever I went.

Some of my best memories are from being wherever I was... fun times!

2/14/2013 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Freedom is individuality lived, just as individuality is freedom lived. And it seems to me that real happiness is impossible in the absence of those two: self and freedom.

2/14/2013 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"In Hamilton's case, he truly had nothing going for him but his own gifts, a "penniless, illegitimate, West Indian immigrant barely out of his teens" when plucked from obscurity by George Washington. In contrast, Obama was plucked from obscurity by people who wish to destroy America, such as Bill Ayers and Frank Marshall. Mission Accomplished."

Really interesting how he went about educating himself too. He was in the habit of reading something, then reading it out loud, and then out loud from memory, one passage after another. From a few books.

Remarkably, he managed to get an actual 1st rate Education from doing that... whereas those other degreed nimrods who had bundles of money spent on getting them degrees certifying their having been 'educated'... can't even seem to figure out that Happiness and unhappiness, are two entirely different things. One of which is worth pursuing, and the other one not.

Go figure.

2/14/2013 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "And it seems to me that real happiness is impossible in the absence of those two: self and freedom."

Very much agreed. Which is what is so horrifying about the govt wanting to make our choices for us, eliminating our freedom to make our own choices, good or bad, and effectively removing our own selves from our own lives.

Washington D.C. - it's a zombie factory.

2/14/2013 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, Hamilton was not only essentially home-schooled, but mostly self-schooled, and yet, was miles ahead of most contemporaries who had more formal education. And in addition to his overall brilliance, he combined the usually opposed traits of being both visionary and practical.

2/14/2013 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And the fact that he and Washington found each other qualifies as a cosmic synchronicity of the first rank. It changed everything.

2/14/2013 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Great post.

in which the scum rises to the top

This only happens when you keep important things, like bones, at a boil.

Or important structural ideas, like "self" and "freedom." Subject these to a cultural boil, and watch all the impurities coagulate.

Problem is, however, that once you boil a stock, you cloud it. Then you have to clear it by straining or fining. What's the objective correlative to this in the real life of a culture?

2/14/2013 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...


Indeed. Once moral exercise is obviated, a society will no longer be tractable to civil order by anything other than indoctrination and brute force.

Even then, brute force is never a solution, just a lid, and indoctrination is never trustworthy because it's coerced.

Statism is held in place by force, merely. It's brittle, containing a vacuum.


2/14/2013 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Dr. Ben Carson speaking truth to power

a good man, speaking well

listening, there was never so much as a nod from Mr. Obama

2/14/2013 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

"Individuality lived" -- Yes, to live honestly so that the inside is seen on the outside rather than trying to tattoo on an image.

2/14/2013 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Carson is the polar opposite of Obama in every way. I still haven't seen that speech, just heard an excerpt or two.

I remember years ago hearing Dr. Carson talking about how he grew up so poor, yet his mother would drag him down to the library and make him read. She understood that a genuine education would make a difference, and she didn't trust the government schools for it.

2/14/2013 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

-and his mom couldnt herself read, though she made the kids submit to her their book reports!
what a better nation we'd see if Dr C were PotUS

2/14/2013 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

What a better nation we might be if Dr. C's Mom had a voice in Educating our educators.

2/14/2013 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Once again, this post is full of "yes."

One of my biggest concerns as a parent is to instill in my kids that very sense of enjoyment with whatever they have; ironically, I worry that it's far more difficult when there is so much abundance. Going back to the Ingalls kids for a minute, they were thrilled beyond imagining to get a single stick of candy for Christmas. I'm not saying I want my kids to live (externally) like that, but rather to have such a level of gratitude and wonder whatever their material circumstances.

But agreed as to spending time with them. It's wearying on occasion, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Speaking of which, it's time to go play trains...

2/14/2013 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"The hardest job you'll ever love," as they say. Especially the first two or three years. Much more fun after age four or so.

2/14/2013 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes; toddlers can be a delight but they are also insane and largely unintelligible. Of course, some people never grow past that...

2/14/2013 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Off topic, or perhaps tangential, Americans renouncing their citizenship over taxes. I wonder how many of those taking the plunge now are the same who claimed they would do so under Bush, but never did.

2/14/2013 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Off topic confession: I enjoy compiling those year by year "best rock albums" I've been putting up in the sidebar. Oddly soothing. Good to know the chaotic world is so manageable. Perhaps a variant of Lileks' Syndrome -- or in other words, OCD.

Every single one is in my collection, BTW,

2/14/2013 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Hmmm, I was going to comment on your 64 to 66 selections. I clicked through on those first Stones albums. Blues covers. I might get those. And since it's been at least 6 months since I've last mentioned it, more evidence that Western Civilization peaked in 1966.

2/14/2013 09:53:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes those early Stones albums are fantastic. I bought them all, made my own compilation of the best tracks, and sold them back on amazon. Works better that way, because the albums are so short -- sometimes under 30 minutes -- so you can burn like 30 or more tracks onto a disc. Miracles and wonders!

I think the key to the magic is Charlie's drumming. Most white blues tends to plod, but Charlie always makes it swing. And then there's Jagger's ironic approach to singing, which makes them kind of funny.

1966 was indeed an epic year for pop music. That's when the album consciously emerged as an artistic form, e.g., Pet Sounds, Revolver, Aftermath, Face to Face, Blonde on Blonde, 5D, etc. But really, 1965 to 1973 all have much to recommend. There's a dramatic fall off in quality afterwards, for a host of reasons. Even artists who were quite sound -- e.g. Rod Stewart -- became complete loads overnight.

And I don't see how I'm gonna have time for a post...

2/15/2013 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ha - for a minute there, I thought you meant you were selling the compilations you made on Amazon. Which would be kind of brilliant, were it not for all the copyright issues.

Been meaning to say, I like the horizontal spinning widgets. There's something oddly entertaining about holding the arrows down and watching them turn; kind of like a spinning rack at a cd store.

2/15/2013 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

A guy who lives (and grew up) not too far from me wrote a book on why 1966! was the best year of pop culture.

2/15/2013 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Thanks. That makes two of us who agree about 1966. The science is settled.

(Odd, that guy is my age. I wonder if that....hmm, naw!)

2/15/2013 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Rod Stewart really was good. Then somehow he morphed from Tina Turner into Barry Manilow. The same with Reginald Dwight -- Elton could be a queer as he liked, I played the whey out of "Honky Chateau".

Personally, I blame the Beatles.

2/15/2013 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

And hey, let's not forget I was born in 1966. Too bad my parents weren't into cool music at the time. Imagine what those sounds would have done to my primitive realm of fused consciousness.

2/15/2013 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

yeep 1966 or say 1965-68 [-'67&1/2?]
was a peak THE peak that if you lived through it old enough to be aware you may be spoiled for what's come after [& what came before may have been GOOD, but...compared to the Beatles? James Brown?? Jimi?...Jagger?...Dylanmilesmorrison[s]sydgenezappa?...
how's that [pop music] for an evolutionist-traditionalist debate? :)] Ah Analog... warm TAPE recorders

I can from experience say that you can devote YEARS to exploring obscure corners of the cornucopia of those albums that came out then and not exhaust the depths still left

...just this morn i posted a diatribe at a private music forum re my disappointment w/ 99% of the new indie stuff i've sampled [coulda been titled 'Spoiled by 1966']

2/15/2013 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "...and I just don't see how I'm gonna have time for a post..."

Phew... I was worried that you caught a ride out on the Hale-Bob asteroid.....

2/15/2013 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It's only right those meteors should land in Russia. They were rushin' rocks.

2/15/2013 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Van, LOL!

2/15/2013 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Guess who just scored a copy of Amity Shlaes Coolidge!


2/15/2013 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

A portrait of the aspirations of the over-"educated", self-involved Obama voter. N.B. make sure you have a vomit bag at the ready.

This is the area in which I grew up. It wasn't like that then.

Money quote: “Hastings-on-Hudson is a village, in a Wittgensteinian sort of way,”. Ugh.

2/17/2013 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...


Here's the link.

2/17/2013 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Dutch-style bikes? Retro-chic bakeries? Statement sneakers? Ironic muttonchops? Shade-grown coffee? Alt-culture-allegiance? Urban-zen generation? Culturally attuned? Bearded mixologists? Locavore restaurants? Artisanal vegan soap? Street-art duo? Explosive swirls of graffiti art? Wheat-paste sloganeering ? The Creative Class? Fernet Branca cocktails?

These people are so lacking in irony about their irony that "Masturbia" would be a better term.

2/17/2013 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Then again, rebellion has been the new conformity ever since the '60s.

2/17/2013 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And of course the Times has no sympathy for the people who moved away from the city to get away from these annoying masturbanites.

2/17/2013 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I had thought maybe "disturbia" but "masturbia" wins!

2/17/2013 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

And how, pray tell, does a member of a "street art duo" afford an $860,000 home in Westchester?

By creating such eternal works of art such as this.

2/17/2013 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The irony is that these people are literally cultural parasites and mindless reactionaries. They create nothing of value, but convince themselves they are superior by simply rejecting or ridiculing the grown-ups. Like adolescents, they are dependent upon the culture they rebel against. The same attitude obviously pervades academia.

2/17/2013 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

The most depressing part of it all is that these people are the so-called "tastemakers". How did this happen!?

How did they (temporarily) win?

I know more than a few people (many, actually) who would deem everything in this article "cool". Yet, all I feel is revulsion.

2/17/2013 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Really, it's just the same old human snobbery, only with new pretensions and affectations. People have an innate need for distinction and honor. If they can't obtain them in genuine ways, they'll seek substitutes, such as Statement Sneakers and Ironic Muttonchops.

2/17/2013 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Well not *only* revulsion...there's also some desire to mock mixed in there as well.

2/17/2013 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Meanwhile, some of these adultolescents are discovering something "intriguing and ironic" about manliness.

2/17/2013 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Masturbia. Genius strikes again.

2/17/2013 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - yep. It also hits on just why hipsters are so irritating; is there anything more masturbatory than liking things ironically? Come to think of it, even the actual act of spanking the monkey has got to be less onanistic, since it is at least possible to genuinely love oneself...

2/17/2013 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Many hipsters consider themselves post-ironic, meaning they know they're being ironic, but the prolonged exposure and enjoyment derived from pontificating how terrible something is ends up creating an appreciation for it.

Not my words, but actually heard it at a local neighborhood shade-grown coffee house with an alt-culture-allegiance.

2/17/2013 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yeah, I've often gotten the impression that they've taken their irony so far, they went full circle to actually liking what they mocked.

Even so, it's rather sad that they can't just like things without first having made a mockery of them.

Guess they never heard that it's hip to be square.

The thing about hipsterish irony, it seems to me, is that it's very misanthropic at heart. They hate ordinary people and the ordinary things they do and lives they lead. Or perhaps, they actually like something about them, but in their circles it's shameful to genuinely like, say, a set of antlers on the wall. After all, antlers represent everything wrong with manliness and hunting and suburbia. So instead, they make "cruelty-free felted wool antlers," for instance, as a sort of totemic representation of the thing they hate. Not much different from a voodoo doll, if you think about it. Having rendered the hated object in a safely contained and mockable form,, they are then permitted to "appreciate" the object without fear of losing social standing.

It all seems like a lot of wasted slack to me.

2/17/2013 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Wasted slack.

The corruption of the best is the worst!

2/17/2013 08:32:00 PM  

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