[FoRK] World Map of Happiness

Malcolm Greenshields < greenshields at uleth.ca > on > Mon Jul 31 20:16:20 PDT 2006

Seeing as there are very few countries without substantially capitalist 
economies, I'm not sure what the debate is about. I have the feeling 
that few of the discussants have read marx, who was many things, but 
certainly not an idiot. He described the evolution of western societies 
better than most have done, but was not particularly clairvoyant - an 
interesting historian and theorist who saw some things in the 
mid-nineteenth century with remarkable clarity. He was one of the few 
foreign correspondents retained by the New York Herald during hard times 
in the 1840s because his reporting was clever, inciseive and funny. 
(Read the 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon) Fortunately for him, he died 
in the 1880s, before others made him a religious figure (whether demonic 
or salvatory) and it would be about a generation after his death before 
his name even  appeared in most general encyclopedias.

The thing I have never liked about his ideas was his profound 
materialism. Even his genius in seeing the importance of conflict and 
economic competition in the development of society is overshadowed by 
this uniquely material view. The funny thing is, tho, that he really 
gave us much of the language we use for this debate, especially the 
emphasis on capitalism, which he saw as enormously productive of both 
goods and social change. It seems that although this discussion is about 
happiness, much of it turns on economic notions and material advantages, 
just as he would have liked. We are almost completely imbued with the 
materialist notion that the control of resources is crucial to our 
wellbeing, no where more than in America. I'm afraid that in a strange 
way, and not one I particularly like, Marx has beaten us, especially 
where we protest the loudest and use his name as a kind of evil totem to 
describe failed dictastorships that never got capitalism right, let 
alone evolved to the stages he saw as coming far after its overripe demise.

Other than the people sitting on a pool of oil in Brunei, the happiest 
countries you list seem to have used capitalism without revering it to 
thie exclusion of other human needs. They all have relatively small 
populations. Most have relatively clean air. Most are historically 
Christian cultures, although a few are not.  Perhaps it is important 
that none is a first-rank international power - Nobody on the UN 
security council is remarkably happy. I suspect the French though. 
Having lived with them a few years I think they often seem happy in a 
kind of romantic, existential unhappiness, sort of like an Edith Piaf 
song. Perhaps the peoples listed have never harboured anyone as morose, 
homely, or sternly principled as Ayn Rand. I don't know.....

Russell Turpin wrote:

> Damien Morton <fork at bitfurnace.com>:
>> Companies are the most fascistic organisations any of us will ever 
>> come into contact with.
> Playing monopoly is the closest most of us will ever come
> to being billionaires.
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