Author Topic: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!  (Read 4150 times)

gpyros85

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America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« on: July 08, 2018, 05:52:22 PM »
I see a lot of topics being discussed about the state of student loan, college costs, state welfare, health care, consumer and national debt and infrastructure to name a few.

In the global spotlight America is no longer the inspiration it used to be! The only place we are the inspiration is professional sports! Coming in 2nd would be our IT tied with our military (thank you both! Even the IT innovators!)

I feel Americans will get a rude awaken someday, I do feel we can adapt in the long run Im confident with this however, I see D-Day coming soon...


Can I be more wrong?

PDXTabs

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2018, 06:11:15 PM »
I don't know the answer to this. The US may get their shit together, or they may go the way of the the Roman Empire.

Winston Churchill is misquoted as saying that the Americans can be counted on to do the right thing after exhausting all possible alternatives.

Keynes is misquoted as saying that the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent, so either way I wont be betting on the downfall of the US.

lost_in_the_endless_aisle

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2018, 08:37:23 PM »
Well there is this datum. The underlying question is why/how did those valuable companies (especially in IT) emerge in the US but not other first-world countries? There is a lot of rot in the US but even more in most other countries.

gpyros85

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2018, 09:47:13 PM »
Well there is this datum. The underlying question is why/how did those valuable companies (especially in IT) emerge in the US but not other first-world countries? There is a lot of rot in the US but even more in most other countries.


This is definitely true! No argument that US breads creativity!

One

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2018, 09:52:11 PM »
I see a lot of topics being discussed about the state of student loan, college costs, state welfare, health care, consumer and national debt and infrastructure to name a few.

In the global spotlight America is no longer the inspiration it used to be! The only place we are the inspiration is professional sports! Coming in 2nd would be our IT tied with our military (thank you both! Even the IT innovators!)

I feel Americans will get a rude awaken someday, I do feel we can adapt in the long run Im confident with this however, I see D-Day coming soon...


Can I be more wrong?

See Jamie Dimon at 13:35
https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&persist_app=1&noapp=1&v=BgYQj4gVkWQ

Radagast

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2018, 10:47:59 PM »
I see a lot of topics being discussed about the state of student loan, college costs, state welfare, health care, consumer and national debt and infrastructure to name a few.

In the global spotlight America is no longer the inspiration it used to be! The only place we are the inspiration is professional sports! Coming in 2nd would be our IT tied with our military (thank you both! Even the IT innovators!)

I feel Americans will get a rude awaken someday, I do feel we can adapt in the long run Im confident with this however, I see D-Day coming soon...


Can I be more wrong?
Not significantly, just a little around the edges. First on my list is "stop being dicks to other Americans and other countries just because you can be, it feels good for like 5 minutes and then makes the world a worse place for like 50 years."

On your list:
student loan: I know students are too ignorant to make this decision, but there are already plenty of great alternatives like not go to college, or go to community college, or state college. My wife will finish her nursing degree for like $30,000 total, but about $20k was covered by scholarships and it would be even easier for other people to get scholarships. Starting salary $60k+.

College cost: in the 90's as a kid I got to stay in college dorms for a week one summer. They were bare bones rinkydink metal frame beds, 4 per small room, with tiny beat up desks, that smelled like bleach and BO. I never saw anything near as bad a decade later when I went to school, and since then I've noticed my university replaced even those dorms with nicer ones. There is some inflation in quality of life going on. But, I agree this is a bit of a problem. I don't know the solution, and don't prioritize it. K-12 and underrepresented/poor communities seem more of a priority.

Welfare: I am perfectly happy with our system the way it is. It's not great, but it's not supposed to be. It is not possible to even come close to starving to death short of next point.

Healthcare: Yeah this really sucks. American healthcare is by far the most expensive and least efficient on the planet. Basically every country I have ever been to has a healthcare system that has been better (for my needs). Similar care, faster, far lower cost, greater transparency. I am amazed how bad it is in US every time I visit a HC facility. And hate it.

Debt: something to look out for, but not a huge issue thus far (maybe increasing priority in the future though)

Infrastructure: I would love to see improvements here ($1T in infrastructure, Trump that was the only policy of yours I definitely liked, where did that go?), but it is optional more than necessary. As a civil engineer, I feel my profession's leading association is about half full of self interested shit.

fattest_foot

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2018, 08:16:49 AM »
I'm curious why you think the United States isn't prosperous?

If we're posting videos, you might check out this one by Peter Zeihan. The US is set to be in a pretty good situation for at least the next generation or two.

Peter Zeihan - Gulf Power Economic Symposium 21

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2018, 09:55:43 AM »
I think that the US is pretty close to the best place in the world to live, and one of the best places to live for average people across all of time. This definitely seems to be the opinion of many many people that are trying to enter the US from other countries (I came from Canada).

There are certainly things we struggle with and ways we need to improve.

But things now are pretty much better than they ever have been.

Try reading this: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/03/the-practical-benefits-of-outrageous-optimism/

Or look for one of the many recent interviews that Steve Pinker has been doing about his new book: Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

There are definitely things to be concerned about (like my own fear that political polarization makes it so people can't even discuss important issues), but humans (and Americans in particular) are kind of kicking ass at making the world a better place for people to thrive (despite the outrage du jour served up by the current POTUS).

Retire-Canada

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2018, 09:59:53 AM »
I think that the US is pretty close to the best place in the world to live, and one of the best places to live for average people across all of time. This definitely seems to be the opinion of many many people that are trying to enter the US from other countries (I came from Canada).

The US came in 18th....so a long way from the top.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/duncanmadden/2018/03/27/ranked-the-10-happiest-countries-in-the-world-in-2018/#55c3bd0c73e9


mak1277

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2018, 11:48:26 AM »
I think that the US is pretty close to the best place in the world to live, and one of the best places to live for average people across all of time. This definitely seems to be the opinion of many many people that are trying to enter the US from other countries (I came from Canada).

The US came in 18th....so a long way from the top.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/duncanmadden/2018/03/27/ranked-the-10-happiest-countries-in-the-world-in-2018/#55c3bd0c73e9

"happiest" isn't a synonym for "best". 

Retire-Canada

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2018, 11:54:08 AM »
"happiest" isn't a synonym for "best".

Unless your definition for best is being happiest.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2018, 11:59:17 AM »
"happiest" isn't a synonym for "best".

Unless your definition for best is being happiest.

I'm kinda struggling to find a better definition for 'best' than 'happiest' to be honest.

Louisville

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2018, 12:39:00 PM »
"happiest" isn't a synonym for "best".

Unless your definition for best is being happiest.

I'm kinda struggling to find a better definition for 'best' than 'happiest' to be honest.
Agree. What other reason do we have to doing anything at all?

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2018, 12:52:34 PM »
I think that the US is pretty close to the best place in the world to live, and one of the best places to live for average people across all of time. This definitely seems to be the opinion of many many people that are trying to enter the US from other countries (I came from Canada).

The US came in 18th....so a long way from the top.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/duncanmadden/2018/03/27/ranked-the-10-happiest-countries-in-the-world-in-2018/#55c3bd0c73e9

I guess it depends on how people decide to rank and measure things to determine what "best" means.

Happiness is certainly one measure (although as the author says it's probably very difficult to actually measure). Here, they do it with a metric called "Gross National Happiness" which appears to be invented by the king of Bhutan. It seems to try to quantitatively measure happiness as some kind of alternative to GDP (which is also difficult to measure despite being a fairly tangible thing).

18th might seem a long way from the top, but I'm not sure what 7.632 vs 6.886 means. It would be interesting to see if there's a statistical difference between those two scores (my guess is that they certainly can't tell the difference between thousandths of a point as indicated by the score).

From Wikipedia: GNH is distinguishable from Gross Domestic Product by valuing collective happiness as the goal of governance, by emphasizing harmony with nature and traditional values as expressed in the 9 domains of happiness and 4 pillars of GNH.[12] The four pillars of GNH's are 1) sustainable and equitable socio-economic development; 2) environmental conservation; 3) preservation and promotion of culture; and 4) good governance.[13] The nine domains of GNH are psychological well-being, health, time use, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.[14][15] Each domain is composed of subjective (survey-based) and objective indicators. The domains weigh equally but the indicators within each domain differ by weight.[16]

The criticisms section of GNH on the same Wikipedia page starts with the following sentence:

"GNH has been described by critics as a propaganda tool used by the Bhutanese government to distract from ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses it has committed.[51][52]"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_National_Happiness

Maybe one of the issues with this metric is that it's derived from self reported of surveys?

I think it's interesting that one of the components "Freedom to Make Life Choices" ranks the US 51st out of 157. Countries that finished ahead
 in this metric include Uzbekistan (1), Cambodia (2), Somalia (7), Qatar (11), Rwanda (18), Vietnam (25), China (31), Kuwait (48). I admittedly haven't been to any of these countries, but I'd imagine that the US allows for more personal freedom than all of them.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report

From the limited reading I've done on happiness, it seems like having low expectations is an important indicator. I wonder how / if they control for differing expectations in the surveys. For example, people in China might feel like they have lots of personal choice now that they are allowed to have a second child. The US might not get that same bump because they didn't have that choice removed from them in the first place.

Maybe my statement about the US being "the best" place to live is hyperbole (although top 10% by this metric and the best by GDP probably isn't too bad). My guess is that the US is also far more diverse than most / all countries ahead of it on that list, so it still might be the best if place to move to if you were born somewhere else (especially if you look different than the majority of the population).

But, I think it's certainly a much better place to live than that portrayal that you'd get from things like the original post (or cable news).

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2018, 01:07:53 PM »
Agree. What other reason do we have to doing anything at all?

I'm not sure that this is the right metric to optimize by.

One of the things we are trying to teach our kids is to do hard things because it will teach them to be better so that they can gain more responsibility (and then help more people).

I hope that they are happy at the end of their lives when they look back at the things that they've done. But, I think that we're often not maximizing happiness (in the short term) when were doing the most meaningful things we do in life.

It might be a trivial example, but exercising is something that really sucks when I'm doing it. But, I feel good after I do it.

If I was maximizing happiness in the short term, I'd skip the workout and do something that gives me a hit of dopamine (eat junk food, watch TV, do drugs, etc). But in the long run, I'd probably be less happy. So if we optimize for happiness, what happiness do we optimize for? My understanding of behavioral economics is that humans usually go for the short term fix (which I think is generally not as good as long term happiness).

As I said in the other post, I also think that happiness is really something like level of expectation vs. level of achievement. I think a population that meets very low expectations would generally be happier than one that doesn't quite reach very high expectations. I think I'd rather be in the second population.

If happiness isn't the right metric to optimize by, what is? I'm not sure but maybe something like leaving the world better than we found it (or creating a better life for your kids if you're interested in having kids).

I think that we're pretty good at that in some aspects (less poverty, less war, less violent crime), but not as good in others (i.e. climate).

EDIT: After thinking about it, this metric has some serious problems too. In particular, it would clearly favor places transitioning from bad to good over places transitioning from good to very good because of diminishing returns. I still think that the right metric is something about ability to positively impact other people though.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2018, 01:17:22 PM by NorthernBlitz »

robartsd

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2018, 01:24:18 PM »
MMM's stated purpose is to maximize lifetime happiness.

18th might seem a long way from the top, but I'm not sure what 7.632 vs 6.886 means. It would be interesting to see if there's a statistical difference between those two scores (my guess is that they certainly can't tell the difference between thousandths of a point as indicated by the score).
The population weighted world mean was 5.265 and the standard deviation was 2.298, so it isn't a huge difference, but the US is ranked 107th on change in happiness (-0.315) from '08-'10 to '15-'17. So we aren't moving in the right direction. Nice market returns over that period though - an example that money doesn't buy happiness?


Maybe my statement about the US being "the best" place to live is hyperbole (although top 10% by this metric and the best by GDP probably isn't too bad). My guess is that the US is also far more diverse than most / all countries ahead of it on that list, so it still might be the best if place to move to if you were born somewhere else (especially if you look different than the majority of the population).

But, I think it's certainly a much better place to live than that portrayal that you'd get from things like the original post (or cable news).

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2018, 01:39:05 PM »
Agree. What other reason do we have to doing anything at all?

I'm not sure that this is the right metric to optimize by.

One of the things we are trying to teach our kids is to do hard things because it will teach them to be better so that they can gain more responsibility (and then help more people).

I hope that they are happy at the end of their lives when they look back at the things that they've done. But, I think that we're often not maximizing happiness (in the short term) when were doing the most meaningful things we do in life.

It might be a trivial example, but exercising is something that really sucks when I'm doing it. But, I feel good after I do it.

If I was maximizing happiness in the short term, I'd skip the workout and do something that gives me a hit of dopamine (eat junk food, watch TV, do drugs, etc). But in the long run, I'd probably be less happy. So if we optimize for happiness, what happiness do we optimize for? My understanding of behavioral economics is that humans usually go for the short term fix (which I think is generally not as good as long term happiness).

This is maybe a semantic problem.  There's a difference between short lived pleasure, and long term contentment . . . although 'happiness' could be viewed as referring to either.  I'd heartily implore anyone reading this to look up Epicurean philosophy - which is essentially a hedonistic one, but based around the goal of optimizing your life for lasting, daily joy in existence.  I agree, that if you're viewing 'happiness' as 'ecstasy' then optimizing for it is probably the wrong approach . . . but really think that old Epicurus was on to something.



As I said in the other post, I also think that happiness is really something like level of expectation vs. level of achievement. I think a population that meets very low expectations would generally be happier than one that doesn't quite reach very high expectations. I think I'd rather be in the second population.

Why?

For many years I'd have argued the same point that you're making here.  But in answering the question I just asked you I end up coming back to the same responses:

- I'd be 'better' than the happy people
- I would have worked harder than the happy people
- I'd have a greater chance to leave a legacy than the happy people
- I'd likely be able to make more money and have more stuff

Is any of that really worth being less happy though?

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2018, 01:40:14 PM »
MMM's stated purpose is to maximize lifetime happiness.

18th might seem a long way from the top, but I'm not sure what 7.632 vs 6.886 means. It would be interesting to see if there's a statistical difference between those two scores (my guess is that they certainly can't tell the difference between thousandths of a point as indicated by the score).
The population weighted world mean was 5.265 and the standard deviation was 2.298, so it isn't a huge difference, but the US is ranked 107th on change in happiness (-0.315) from '08-'10 to '15-'17. So we aren't moving in the right direction. Nice market returns over that period though - an example that money doesn't buy happiness?


Maybe my statement about the US being "the best" place to live is hyperbole (although top 10% by this metric and the best by GDP probably isn't too bad). My guess is that the US is also far more diverse than most / all countries ahead of it on that list, so it still might be the best if place to move to if you were born somewhere else (especially if you look different than the majority of the population).

But, I think it's certainly a much better place to live than that portrayal that you'd get from things like the original post (or cable news).

It could be that. But, I think it's just as likely that it's a marketing effect.

It's harder to feel happy when we're constantly being bombarded by the daily cycle of outrage telling us about how crappy life is and how we're toeing closer to the brink every day. This is despite what I think Pinker argues are something like 75 indicators that show that life is pretty much better than ever and rapidly improving (lower poverty, less violent crime, less crime, less war, etc).

But, newscasts about the ~ 100 thousand people per day that are lifted out of extreme poverty don't release the right chemicals in the brain to hook people to stay on until the next commercial.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2018, 02:01:28 PM by NorthernBlitz »

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2018, 01:59:34 PM »
Agree. What other reason do we have to doing anything at all?

I'm not sure that this is the right metric to optimize by.

One of the things we are trying to teach our kids is to do hard things because it will teach them to be better so that they can gain more responsibility (and then help more people).

I hope that they are happy at the end of their lives when they look back at the things that they've done. But, I think that we're often not maximizing happiness (in the short term) when were doing the most meaningful things we do in life.

It might be a trivial example, but exercising is something that really sucks when I'm doing it. But, I feel good after I do it.

If I was maximizing happiness in the short term, I'd skip the workout and do something that gives me a hit of dopamine (eat junk food, watch TV, do drugs, etc). But in the long run, I'd probably be less happy. So if we optimize for happiness, what happiness do we optimize for? My understanding of behavioral economics is that humans usually go for the short term fix (which I think is generally not as good as long term happiness).

This is maybe a semantic problem.  There's a difference between short lived pleasure, and long term contentment . . . although 'happiness' could be viewed as referring to either.  I'd heartily implore anyone reading this to look up Epicurean philosophy - which is essentially a hedonistic one, but based around the goal of optimizing your life for lasting, daily joy in existence.  I agree, that if you're viewing 'happiness' as 'ecstasy' then optimizing for it is probably the wrong approach . . . but really think that old Epicurus was on to something.

I agree that trying to optimize for long term contentment is better. I just think that humans generally aren't very good at it (i.e. humans are not "econs").

Some argue that it will be better with AI, but Elon Musk said something like this when talking about the danger's of AI and optimizing for happiness in a talk Neil DeGrasse Tyson:

[The AI] may conclude that all unhappy humans should be terminated, Musk said. Or that we should all be captured and with dopamine and serotonin directly injected into our brains to maximize happiness because its concluded that dopamine and serotonin are what cause happiness, therefore maximize it, which brought another chuckle from Tyson.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2015/03/24/elon-musk-neil-degrasse-tyson-laugh-about-artificial-intelligence-turning-the-human-race-into-its-pet-labrador/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4e121c76c82b



As I said in the other post, I also think that happiness is really something like level of expectation vs. level of achievement. I think a population that meets very low expectations would generally be happier than one that doesn't quite reach very high expectations. I think I'd rather be in the second population.

Why?

For many years I'd have argued the same point that you're making here.  But in answering the question I just asked you I end up coming back to the same responses:

- I'd be 'better' than the happy people
- I would have worked harder than the happy people
- I'd have a greater chance to leave a legacy than the happy people
- I'd likely be able to make more money and have more stuff

Is any of that really worth being less happy though?

It's possible that it's vanity or something like religious indoctrination (i.e. self-sacrifice is the ultimate good).

But I think that what I'm advocating here isn't much different from what you said above. It's just that the short term sacrifice goes to the long term gain of other people too. So maybe it's not just optimizing for individual happiness, but something like well-being (not happiness) of the group?

If I'm only farming enough to get by every year but happy with that, my family suffers and / or dies the year the locusts come. But, if I can improve my crop yield and store some for later maybe we overcome setbacks. I'm not a farmer, but I'd guess that the extra work doesn't make me happy when I do it.

Or if I don't need to farm anymore and I invent a vaccine for small pox, I save a whole lot of suffering (even if toiling away at the work all day is crappy and potentially dangerous in the short term). Again maybe that's vanity (or trying to improve my "legacy") or something.

But I think it's demonstrably clear that our lives are so much better because of sacrifices that others made in the past. I think it's best if we continue that particular tradition. But again, I think there's an argument to the idea that "paying it forward" could be personal vanity. Even if it is, I think it's still better for the population.

This is actually one of the things I struggle with in the idea of dramatically early retirement. I get it if leaving a soul crushing job gives someone the freedom to pursue something that they're passionate about or something that helps other people. But for me, I think it's kind of empty if the idea is to sit on a beach somewhere for 50 years (even though I think I'd be happy doing that for at least a little while).

Again, it all depends on how we define happiness...and maybe on whether it's better to optimize individual happiness or population wide happiness.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2018, 02:06:47 PM by NorthernBlitz »

Retire-Canada

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2018, 02:17:06 PM »
But I think that what I'm advocating here isn't much different from what you said above. It's just that the short term sacrifice goes to the long term gain of other people too. So maybe it's not just optimizing for individual happiness, but something like well-being (not happiness) of the group?

All the countries at the top of that list lean heavily towards social support systems because the people realise we are all in this together and everyone is happier when fewer people are suffering. My personal happiness increases when my community and national happiness increases. Like love...happiness is not a zero sum game. You don't have to choose between helping the greater good or being personally happy.

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #20 on: July 09, 2018, 02:19:01 PM »
MMM's stated purpose is to maximize lifetime happiness.

I missed this the first time I read it.

I'm also pretty sure that MMM also talks a lot about how humans are really good at knowing the things that will make them happy in the short term and really bad at knowing what makes them happy in the long term (like in the Hedonistic Treadmill post).

Maximizing "lifetime happiness" sounds great. But I don't really know what it means. I'm also not sure that if happiness maximization is the right path that we should limit it to (1) one lifetime or (2) one organism.

Retire-Canada

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #21 on: July 09, 2018, 02:24:04 PM »
I'm also pretty sure that MMM also talks a lot about how humans are really good at knowing the things that will make them happy in the short term and really bad at knowing what makes them happy in the long term (like in the Hedonistic Treadmill post).

Maximizing "lifetime happiness" sounds great. But I don't really know what it means. I'm also not sure that if happiness maximization is the right path that we should limit it to (1) one lifetime or (2) one organism.

Sounds like you have some deep thinking to do.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #22 on: July 09, 2018, 02:31:06 PM »
Agree. What other reason do we have to doing anything at all?

I'm not sure that this is the right metric to optimize by.

One of the things we are trying to teach our kids is to do hard things because it will teach them to be better so that they can gain more responsibility (and then help more people).

I hope that they are happy at the end of their lives when they look back at the things that they've done. But, I think that we're often not maximizing happiness (in the short term) when were doing the most meaningful things we do in life.

It might be a trivial example, but exercising is something that really sucks when I'm doing it. But, I feel good after I do it.

If I was maximizing happiness in the short term, I'd skip the workout and do something that gives me a hit of dopamine (eat junk food, watch TV, do drugs, etc). But in the long run, I'd probably be less happy. So if we optimize for happiness, what happiness do we optimize for? My understanding of behavioral economics is that humans usually go for the short term fix (which I think is generally not as good as long term happiness).

This is maybe a semantic problem.  There's a difference between short lived pleasure, and long term contentment . . . although 'happiness' could be viewed as referring to either.  I'd heartily implore anyone reading this to look up Epicurean philosophy - which is essentially a hedonistic one, but based around the goal of optimizing your life for lasting, daily joy in existence.  I agree, that if you're viewing 'happiness' as 'ecstasy' then optimizing for it is probably the wrong approach . . . but really think that old Epicurus was on to something.

I agree that trying to optimize for long term contentment is better. I just think that humans generally aren't very good at it (i.e. humans are not "econs").

Some argue that it will be better with AI, but Elon Musk said something like this when talking about the danger's of AI and optimizing for happiness in a talk Neil DeGrasse Tyson:

[The AI] may conclude that all unhappy humans should be terminated, Musk said. Or that we should all be captured and with dopamine and serotonin directly injected into our brains to maximize happiness because its concluded that dopamine and serotonin are what cause happiness, therefore maximize it, which brought another chuckle from Tyson.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2015/03/24/elon-musk-neil-degrasse-tyson-laugh-about-artificial-intelligence-turning-the-human-race-into-its-pet-labrador/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4e121c76c82b

Humans generally aren't good at optimizing for happiness because very few of us are lucky enough to figure out what makes us happy.  You don't need a fancy AI to determine your best course of action, just some long, hard introspection . . . and maybe some time to really think about things.


As I said in the other post, I also think that happiness is really something like level of expectation vs. level of achievement. I think a population that meets very low expectations would generally be happier than one that doesn't quite reach very high expectations. I think I'd rather be in the second population.

Why?

For many years I'd have argued the same point that you're making here.  But in answering the question I just asked you I end up coming back to the same responses:

- I'd be 'better' than the happy people
- I would have worked harder than the happy people
- I'd have a greater chance to leave a legacy than the happy people
- I'd likely be able to make more money and have more stuff

Is any of that really worth being less happy though?

It's possible that it's vanity or something like religious indoctrination (i.e. self-sacrifice is the ultimate good).

But I think that what I'm advocating here isn't much different from what you said above. It's just that the short term sacrifice goes to the long term gain of other people too. So maybe it's not just optimizing for individual happiness, but something like well-being (not happiness) of the group?

If I'm only farming enough to get by every year but happy with that, my family suffers and / or dies the year the locusts come. But, if I can improve my crop yield and store some for later maybe we overcome setbacks. I'm not a farmer, but I'd guess that the extra work doesn't make me happy when I do it.

Or if I don't need to farm anymore and I invent a vaccine for small pox, I save a whole lot of suffering (even if toiling away at the work all day is crappy and potentially dangerous in the short term). Again maybe that's vanity (or trying to improve my "legacy") or something.

But I think it's demonstrably clear that our lives are so much better because of sacrifices that others made in the past. I think it's best if we continue that particular tradition. But again, I think there's an argument to the idea that "paying it forward" could be personal vanity. Even if it is, I think it's still better for the population.

This is actually one of the things I struggle with in the idea of dramatically early retirement. I get it if leaving a soul crushing job gives someone the freedom to pursue something that they're passionate about or something that helps other people. But for me, I think it's kind of empty if the idea is to sit on a beach somewhere for 50 years (even though I think I'd be happy doing that for at least a little while).

Again, it all depends on how we define happiness...and maybe on whether it's better to optimize individual happiness or population wide happiness.

Personally, I'm not happy farming the bare minimum to survive . . . knowing that I could be wiped out by a bad harvest next year.  This is again a nod to short term pleasure over long term satisfaction, and is not a good way to live.  Learning to be happy with what you have doesn't mean giving up on life.  It doesn't mean stagnating in mediocrity.  It's the opposite.  It means finding joy in everything that you do.  I suspect that it's the whole reason that most of us are here at this website.

It's fantastic to have the knowledge of thousands of years of thinkers to benefit from.  Certainly, some people are driven by pain and misery to achieve tremendous things . . . but I have to wonder if people who are driven by love of knowledge and curiosity of the world aren't just as motivated.  It is a popular lie that pain and suffering is intrinsically linked to achieving something of benefit for future generations.

It's not possible to 'optimize happiness' for anyone else.  The very phrase kinda sends chills down my spine, as it has a certain seductive evilness about it.  You can only really know yourself (and even that is a difficult path).
« Last Edit: July 09, 2018, 02:32:56 PM by GuitarStv »

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #23 on: July 09, 2018, 02:32:27 PM »
But I think that what I'm advocating here isn't much different from what you said above. It's just that the short term sacrifice goes to the long term gain of other people too. So maybe it's not just optimizing for individual happiness, but something like well-being (not happiness) of the group?

All the countries at the top of that list lean heavily towards social support systems because the people realise we are all in this together and everyone is happier when fewer people are suffering. My personal happiness increases when my community and national happiness increases. Like love...happiness is not a zero sum game. You don't have to choose between helping the greater good or being personally happy.

I grew up in Canada, so I certainly think that this is a valid argument at least the part about being in this together and building strong support systems...something I think that the US needs to get better at.

But, I think that there are lots of instances where you do need to choose between helping the greater good or being personally happy.

Oskar Schindler is a pretty dramatic example. I don't think he was maximizing individual lifetime happiness, but I would hope that I could do what he chose to do in a similar situation (note: I probably couldn't).

Choosing to retire early is a more mundane example of choosing personal happiness over helping the greater good. I don't think it's a moral failing, but I think that systems can only be optimized for one thing at a time. And all of us who retire while we still have productive years left are making a choice to reduce our contributions to building the strong support systems that we both feel are important. We can make reasonable arguments that we paid our fair share while accumulating wealth, or that we'd be stepping aside to give someone else a chance. But human productivity isn't a zero sum game either.

Re "Deep Thinking"...I'm trying. Just not always that successful.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #24 on: July 09, 2018, 02:38:49 PM »
Choosing to retire early is a more mundane example of choosing personal happiness over helping the greater good. I don't think it's a moral failing, but I think that systems can only be optimized for one thing at a time. And all of us who retire while we still have productive years left are making a choice to reduce our contributions to building the strong support systems that we both feel are important.

Bad assumptions lead to bad conclusions.  I reject your assumption that employment helps the greater good, and that retirement hurts it.

There are an astounding number of bullshit jobs.  Jobs that offer little or no real benefit to society, jobs that exist simply to make things that people probably don't need but will buy because ads told 'em to, jobs that exist simply to pad out corporate structures, etc.

Retirement doesn't have to (shouldn't?) be about sitting in your living room and walling yourself off from the world.  You are freed to make a bigger impact on society than you ever were while working.

Retire-Canada

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #25 on: July 09, 2018, 02:44:37 PM »
Oskar Schindler is a pretty dramatic example. I don't think he was maximizing individual lifetime happiness, but I would hope that I could do what he chose to do in a similar situation (note: I probably couldn't).

Choosing to retire early is a more mundane example of choosing personal happiness over helping the greater good. I don't think it's a moral failing, but I think that systems can only be optimized for one thing at a time. And all of us who retire while we still have productive years left are making a choice to reduce our contributions to building the strong support systems that we both feel are important. We can make reasonable arguments that we paid our fair share while accumulating wealth, or that we'd be stepping aside to give someone else a chance. But human productivity isn't a zero sum game either.

Re "Deep Thinking"...I'm trying. Just not always that successful.

Oskar S was being incredibly compassionate and willing to give of himself in that situation. I can only imagine that would be incredibly satisfying and positive for your life happiness even if it might be uncomfortable and dangerous at the same time.

Why in the world would retiring early be selfish? Firstly none of us are an island so not working means you have much more time to dedicate to your friends, family and community. Secondly moving out of a well paying job once you have amassed enough financial resource so another person can enjoy those benefits is not selfish. Thirdly you don't just move to the side and die when you retire....especially if you retire early with lots of energy and good health...you are just starting a different phase of life not ending your contributions. Just because you aren't chasing the next dollar doesn't mean you aren't going to do anything useful. And fourthly making/building/selling/consuming crap is not in and of itself a meaningful enterprise. That it happens a bit less than some theoretical maximum value does not constitute any societal failure. I would argue that all that working people are doing is getting in the way of far more important aspects of human life and we'd all be just fine with less productivity as long as we prioritised reasonably what we put our energies towards.

SwordGuy

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #26 on: July 09, 2018, 04:50:11 PM »
Well there is this datum. The underlying question is why/how did those valuable companies (especially in IT) emerge in the US but not other first-world countries? There is a lot of rot in the US but even more in most other countries.


This is definitely true! No argument that US breads creativity!


The USA is on a roll and kneads no improvement to rise in the world.

EricL

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #27 on: July 09, 2018, 05:23:03 PM »
Unless there are world wide trends Im unaware of that the US will fit into, I agree things must change for the nation to persevere.  It seems widely agreed on.  When even our most knee jerk nationalists endeavor to Make America Great Again.  Though most everyone fears what their idea of great is.

PDXTabs

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #28 on: July 09, 2018, 09:01:50 PM »
Welfare: I am perfectly happy with our system the way it is. It's not great, but it's not supposed to be. It is not possible to even come close to starving to death short of next point.

You do realize that since the Clinton welfare reform unemployed folks with no kids get nothing, right? No cash assistance and no food stamps once they have been out of work for three months. It's literally worse than the six decades that came before.

mak1277

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #29 on: July 10, 2018, 07:19:59 AM »
"happiest" isn't a synonym for "best".

Unless your definition for best is being happiest.

But it's not a comparable metric.  How do you know that the Americans wouldn't be even less happy in those other countries, based on expectations?  Or that people from other countries wouldn't be even happier living in America?  It's impossible to say "Denmark is better than America because a bunch of Danes are happy".  That's nonsense.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #30 on: July 10, 2018, 07:24:35 AM »
"happiest" isn't a synonym for "best".

Unless your definition for best is being happiest.

But it's not a comparable metric.  How do you know that the Americans wouldn't be even less happy in those other countries, based on expectations?  Or that people from other countries wouldn't be even happier living in America?  It's impossible to say "Denmark is better than America because a bunch of Danes are happy".  That's nonsense.

It's impossible to draw conclusions from observations now?  That's going to put a crimp in research.

mak1277

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #31 on: July 10, 2018, 07:25:21 AM »
"happiest" isn't a synonym for "best".

Unless your definition for best is being happiest.

But it's not a comparable metric.  How do you know that the Americans wouldn't be even less happy in those other countries, based on expectations?  Or that people from other countries wouldn't be even happier living in America?  It's impossible to say "Denmark is better than America because a bunch of Danes are happy".  That's nonsense.

It's impossible to draw conclusions from observations now?  That's going to put a crimp in research.

I'm guessing the "happiness poll" isn't backed by the scientific method.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #32 on: July 10, 2018, 07:56:37 AM »
"happiest" isn't a synonym for "best".

Unless your definition for best is being happiest.

But it's not a comparable metric.  How do you know that the Americans wouldn't be even less happy in those other countries, based on expectations?  Or that people from other countries wouldn't be even happier living in America?  It's impossible to say "Denmark is better than America because a bunch of Danes are happy".  That's nonsense.

It's impossible to draw conclusions from observations now?  That's going to put a crimp in research.

I'm guessing the "happiness poll" isn't backed by the scientific method.

I guess it depends on how you measure it, but it certainly can be:

http://worldhappiness.report/faq/

Barbaebigode

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #33 on: July 10, 2018, 11:00:01 AM »
I see a lot of topics being discussed about the state of student loan, college costs, state welfare, health care, consumer and national debt and infrastructure to name a few.

In the global spotlight America is no longer the inspiration it used to be! The only place we are the inspiration is professional sports! Coming in 2nd would be our IT tied with our military (thank you both! Even the IT innovators!)

I feel Americans will get a rude awaken someday, I do feel we can adapt in the long run Im confident with this however, I see D-Day coming soon...


Can I be more wrong?

I don't want to bum you out but on the sport that the world likes best the US team didn't even qualify to the main event, staying behind mighty Panama and Honduras

BlueMR2

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #34 on: July 10, 2018, 11:37:27 AM »
I don't want to bum you out but on the sport that the world likes best the US team didn't even qualify to the main event, staying behind mighty Panama and Honduras

So much about America is just plain different from the rest of the world.  I've struggled to figure out why that would be, but that's just one more example.  The world's favorite sport is viewed by typical Americans as "huh, why would anybody do that, that's so boring".  I keep expecting things to happen based on world history, but the turns America takes continually surprise me.  At this point I figure the eventual failure will not be anything like we've seen before, but something amazingly spectacular and new...

mak1277

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #35 on: July 10, 2018, 12:09:43 PM »
I see a lot of topics being discussed about the state of student loan, college costs, state welfare, health care, consumer and national debt and infrastructure to name a few.

In the global spotlight America is no longer the inspiration it used to be! The only place we are the inspiration is professional sports! Coming in 2nd would be our IT tied with our military (thank you both! Even the IT innovators!)

I feel Americans will get a rude awaken someday, I do feel we can adapt in the long run Im confident with this however, I see D-Day coming soon...


Can I be more wrong?

I don't want to bum you out but on the sport that the world likes best the US team didn't even qualify to the main event, staying behind mighty Panama and Honduras

As an American, I was happy the US team didn't qualify.  Hopefully it means that fewer US kids will want to play soccer and can instead focus on real sports.

Dabnasty

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #36 on: July 10, 2018, 12:18:49 PM »
I see a lot of topics being discussed about the state of student loan, college costs, state welfare, health care, consumer and national debt and infrastructure to name a few.

In the global spotlight America is no longer the inspiration it used to be! The only place we are the inspiration is professional sports! Coming in 2nd would be our IT tied with our military (thank you both! Even the IT innovators!)

I feel Americans will get a rude awaken someday, I do feel we can adapt in the long run Im confident with this however, I see D-Day coming soon...


Can I be more wrong?

I don't want to bum you out but on the sport that the world likes best the US team didn't even qualify to the main event, staying behind mighty Panama and Honduras

As an American, I was happy the US team didn't qualify.  Hopefully it means that fewer US kids will want to play soccer and can instead focus on real sports.

Don't worry, soccer will never catch on in the US. There's not enough time for commercials.

American football on the other hand, seems to be made for advertising.

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #37 on: July 10, 2018, 12:59:58 PM »
Why in the world would retiring early be selfish? Firstly none of us are an island so not working means you have much more time to dedicate to your friends, family and community. Secondly moving out of a well paying job once you have amassed enough financial resource so another person can enjoy those benefits is not selfish. Thirdly you don't just move to the side and die when you retire....especially if you retire early with lots of energy and good health...you are just starting a different phase of life not ending your contributions. Just because you aren't chasing the next dollar doesn't mean you aren't going to do anything useful. And fourthly making/building/selling/consuming crap is not in and of itself a meaningful enterprise. That it happens a bit less than some theoretical maximum value does not constitute any societal failure. I would argue that all that working people are doing is getting in the way of far more important aspects of human life and we'd all be just fine with less productivity as long as we prioritised reasonably what we put our energies towards.

I think it's tough to hold these two positions at the same time: (a) my goal is to maximize my personal hapiness and (b) I'm not being selfish.

Google gives one definition of selfish as: concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

While working, MMM argues that the best thing to do is to maximize savings rate. I don't think it's a stretch to say that the thing we're maximizing is our "chief concern" and that our savings rate is "personal profit".

Then when we've hit our number, we argue that we don't need to continue to amass profit so we'd be happier if we stopped working. I don't think it's a stretch to say that "happiness" is much different than "pleasure" (although to me pleasure has a more short-term connotation).

I do think that there is some level of selfishness baked into the lifestyle MMM promotes (and that I try to follow). But, I don't think that's some kind of moral failing. It's probably not quite selfishness because I think most of us would be putting ourselves and our immediate families or loved ones ahead of society at large. Again, I think that evolution has wired us to think and act this way and it's totally reasonable.

If maximizing happiness in my community / nation / other nations was my goal I think it would be better to follow the example of Bill and Melinda Gates. Then, I would continue working after reaching 25x my expenses and donate all future earning to worthy causes to help save as many lives as I could. Again, I think it's perfectly reasonable not to make this choice because it's a sacrifice for yourself and one that you would be imposing on your family (assuming that they would benefit from more time with you).
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 07:14:26 AM by NorthernBlitz »

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #38 on: July 10, 2018, 01:09:03 PM »

I guess it depends on how you measure it, but it certainly can be:

http://worldhappiness.report/faq/

I think that there are reasonable objections to using this report to make the argument that Finland is better than the US (which was the statement when this report was brought up in this post).

1) It's not clear that the difference in "happiness" in this report between the US and Finland (or other countries above it) is statistically significant. Reporting the data to 3 significant digits suggests that it's not presented in a way that's sensitive to statistical significance.
2) Self reported data is generally not very accurate. This is one of the main criticisms of diet studies where people answer phone surveys about what they ate over the last 6 months.
3) Happiness is entirely subjective so it's not clear that "happiest" has any correlation to "best".
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 01:26:40 PM by NorthernBlitz »

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #39 on: July 10, 2018, 01:26:02 PM »
Bad assumptions lead to bad conclusions.  I reject your assumption that employment helps the greater good, and that retirement hurts it.

There are an astounding number of bullshit jobs.  Jobs that offer little or no real benefit to society, jobs that exist simply to make things that people probably don't need but will buy because ads told 'em to, jobs that exist simply to pad out corporate structures, etc.

Retirement doesn't have to (shouldn't?) be about sitting in your living room and walling yourself off from the world.  You are freed to make a bigger impact on society than you ever were while working.

I think my argument here is that a person would have a bigger impact on the "greater good" if they continued to generate income after they didn't need to and redirected that money to the projects that increase the "greater good". Even if that person's other option was to spend the rest of their life volunteering at shelters and food kitchens.

I think that's especially true for people who can save over $1M after working for a decade. These people likely have very large salaries that could potentially be used to hire multiple social workers, which would be like working in multiple places at once.

I wouldn't ever expect anyone to be that altruistic (I certainly won't be). But not making that choice because we're interested in personal happiness is selfish...and that's not a bad thing.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 01:27:42 PM by NorthernBlitz »

Retire-Canada

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #40 on: July 10, 2018, 01:31:14 PM »
I think my argument here is that a person would have a bigger impact on the "greater good" if they continued to generate income after they didn't need to and redirected that money to the projects that increase the "greater good". Even if that person's other option was to spend the rest of their life volunteering at shelters and food kitchens.

I think that's especially true for people who can save over $1M after working for a decade. These people likely have very large salaries that could potentially be used to hire multiple social workers, which would be like working in multiple places at once.

I wouldn't ever expect anyone to be that altruistic (I certainly won't be). But not making that choice because we're interested in personal happiness is selfish...and that's not a bad thing.

More, work and more money is not what the world needs. More caring and sharing what already exists would be a lot better and doesn't require us to work at a job longer.  The idea that not working is somehow selfish and more work is better is just not true. There is more than enough to go around already in every category.

Dabnasty

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #41 on: July 10, 2018, 01:48:33 PM »
I think my argument here is that a person would have a bigger impact on the "greater good" if they continued to generate income after they didn't need to and redirected that money to the projects that increase the "greater good". Even if that person's other option was to spend the rest of their life volunteering at shelters and food kitchens.

I think that's especially true for people who can save over $1M after working for a decade. These people likely have very large salaries that could potentially be used to hire multiple social workers, which would be like working in multiple places at once.

I wouldn't ever expect anyone to be that altruistic (I certainly won't be). But not making that choice because we're interested in personal happiness is selfish...and that's not a bad thing.

More, work and more money is not what the world needs. More caring and sharing what already exists would be a lot better and doesn't require us to work at a job longer.  The idea that not working is somehow selfish and more work is better is just not true. There is more than enough to go around already in every category.

There may be more than enough to go around, but it's not going around. It's being hoarded and used for purposes that do not improve society. The scenario NorthernBlitz is proposing is like a boring Robinhood, working at a job that may or may not contribute to society but giving the money in ways that does.

Another way to put it - the money already exists and the work doesn't need to be done, but taking the money from someone who is not using it to improve the world and giving it to someone who will is a net benefit.

bacchi

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #42 on: July 10, 2018, 01:53:57 PM »
Another way to put it - the money already exists and the work doesn't need to be done, but taking the money from someone who is not using it to improve the world and giving it to someone who will is a net benefit.

Depends on where you work and what work you do.

Dabnasty

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #43 on: July 10, 2018, 02:01:17 PM »
Another way to put it - the money already exists and the work doesn't need to be done, but taking the money from someone who is not using it to improve the world and giving it to someone who will is a net benefit.

Depends on where you work and what work you do.
Well sure, best case scenario the work you do is also beneficial but I was responding based on Retire-Canada's hypothetical scenario. Don't want to offend anyone who feels passionately about what they accomplish at work :)

ETA: Also you could potentially argue that moving on and giving someone else a chance at your position isn't selfish at all, again, depending on the specifics of the job.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 02:03:48 PM by Dabnasty »

simonsez

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #44 on: July 10, 2018, 02:51:05 PM »
Why?

For many years I'd have argued the same point that you're making here.  But in answering the question I just asked you I end up coming back to the same responses:

- I'd be 'better' than the happy people
- I would have worked harder than the happy people
- I'd have a greater chance to leave a legacy than the happy people
- I'd likely be able to make more money and have more stuff

Is any of that really worth being less happy though?
Side note:  I think the word selfish has too much of a negative connotation at times, this thread being one of them.  RE is selfish, certainly not for the benefit of their peers and there is nothing wrong with that type of selfishness.  Trying to maximize happiness for an individual sounds pretty close to the definition of the word.  Hell, even our genes are pretty damn selfish!

You raise some great questions in the happy vs. better debate.  A lot to think about from individual and societal perspectives.  I want to side with NorthernBlitz for naive and risk-averse reasons.  Namely, I want to be on the 'better' side with regard to individual pursuits even if it means sacrificing a little happiness if it gives my offspring and their offspring a slightly better start than I had. 

I think in addition to generational wealth there is also some type of generational education/health/culture that exists.  I wasn't poor but I would have benefited (even though I had a very happy childhood and adolescence) from knowing more about financial health from parents who knew more.  I want to make sure my kids are aware and are not limited financially as a result well into their 20s and 30s like me.  They will know about the tenets of frugality mixed in with investing and optimizing taxes in their teens while I sort of stumbled onto that on my own much later. 

Improving your station in life is tied to better...everything but of chief importance is health.  My parents were not too far off from paycheck to paycheck.  I was a serious injury or illness away from really cramping their style at any point.  I refuse to live like that and I hope my kids will as well.  Buying extra stuff or leaving a legacy that people outside of your family/friends are aware of doesn't move my needle too much but I do see how it could have appeal for some.  I don't really care how much someone works in their lifetime, if someone wants to minimize or maximize that, more power to them - we all crave varying levels of structure and I wouldn't say that some level of lifetime work for one person is better or worse than the amount of labor someone else compiles (this is the naive part as wife and I currently don't care about retiring in our 30s or 40s, highly subject to change in the future).

I am assuming 'better' would be more prepared to handle bumps in the road of life by definition, something about the access to care or household finances or economic opportunities or perceived amount of freedom is greater than what the person who is happier but ignorant of the slight disadvantages (if they exist).  However, if we're talking about where the world of better and happier are equal (which seems impossible since better has to be...better), then I'd choose happier.  But I think another assumption is that the 'happier' world is already pretty advanced and that 'better' is only marginally so, that's not always the case.

Also, I like the pie-in-the-sky science fiction possibilities that the 'better' world conjures up but this is more societal scale.  Hopefully we would get to solving energy/food/disease/space travel either way in the better vs. happier debate but I'd bet on better to make it there sooner (duh, they have better technology).

That novella said, I am quite happy and don't care if I could be "prospering even more", can't let perfect be the enemy of good.  The U.S. is badass as are dozens of other countries.  I hope in the future every country will have desirable places to make a happy and safe life with the best infrastructure, medical care, etc. the technology of the time has to offer.

shenlong55

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #45 on: July 12, 2018, 10:44:14 AM »
Why?

For many years I'd have argued the same point that you're making here.  But in answering the question I just asked you I end up coming back to the same responses:

- I'd be 'better' than the happy people
- I would have worked harder than the happy people
- I'd have a greater chance to leave a legacy than the happy people
- I'd likely be able to make more money and have more stuff

Is any of that really worth being less happy though?
Side note:  I think the word selfish has too much of a negative connotation at times, this thread being one of them.  RE is selfish, certainly not for the benefit of their peers and there is nothing wrong with that type of selfishness.  Trying to maximize happiness for an individual sounds pretty close to the definition of the word.  Hell, even our genes are pretty damn selfish!

You raise some great questions in the happy vs. better debate.  A lot to think about from individual and societal perspectives.  I want to side with NorthernBlitz for naive and risk-averse reasons.  Namely, I want to be on the 'better' side with regard to individual pursuits even if it means sacrificing a little happiness if it gives my offspring and their offspring a slightly better start than I had. 

I think in addition to generational wealth there is also some type of generational education/health/culture that exists.  I wasn't poor but I would have benefited (even though I had a very happy childhood and adolescence) from knowing more about financial health from parents who knew more.  I want to make sure my kids are aware and are not limited financially as a result well into their 20s and 30s like me.  They will know about the tenets of frugality mixed in with investing and optimizing taxes in their teens while I sort of stumbled onto that on my own much later. 

Improving your station in life is tied to better...everything but of chief importance is health.  My parents were not too far off from paycheck to paycheck.  I was a serious injury or illness away from really cramping their style at any point.  I refuse to live like that and I hope my kids will as well.  Buying extra stuff or leaving a legacy that people outside of your family/friends are aware of doesn't move my needle too much but I do see how it could have appeal for some.  I don't really care how much someone works in their lifetime, if someone wants to minimize or maximize that, more power to them - we all crave varying levels of structure and I wouldn't say that some level of lifetime work for one person is better or worse than the amount of labor someone else compiles (this is the naive part as wife and I currently don't care about retiring in our 30s or 40s, highly subject to change in the future).

I am assuming 'better' would be more prepared to handle bumps in the road of life by definition, something about the access to care or household finances or economic opportunities or perceived amount of freedom is greater than what the person who is happier but ignorant of the slight disadvantages (if they exist).  However, if we're talking about where the world of better and happier are equal (which seems impossible since better has to be...better), then I'd choose happier.  But I think another assumption is that the 'happier' world is already pretty advanced and that 'better' is only marginally so, that's not always the case.

Also, I like the pie-in-the-sky science fiction possibilities that the 'better' world conjures up but this is more societal scale.  Hopefully we would get to solving energy/food/disease/space travel either way in the better vs. happier debate but I'd bet on better to make it there sooner (duh, they have better technology).

That novella said, I am quite happy and don't care if I could be "prospering even more", can't let perfect be the enemy of good.  The U.S. is badass as are dozens of other countries.  I hope in the future every country will have desirable places to make a happy and safe life with the best infrastructure, medical care, etc. the technology of the time has to offer.

Selfish has become a weird word to me.  I'm no longer sure how to apply it.  The definition from above about "chiefly being concerned with one's own personal profit or pleasure" presents and odd problem for me.  If I'm chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure and I realize that the best way for me to maximize my own personal profit and pleasure is to not be chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure then am I selfish or not?  I'm still trying to maximize my own personal profit or pleasure, but I'm doing so by not being chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure...

Maybe the other part of the definition from google is the more operative part of the common usage of the term?

selfish
ˈselfiSH/
adjective
adjective: selfish
(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #46 on: July 12, 2018, 10:48:34 AM »
Why?

For many years I'd have argued the same point that you're making here.  But in answering the question I just asked you I end up coming back to the same responses:

- I'd be 'better' than the happy people
- I would have worked harder than the happy people
- I'd have a greater chance to leave a legacy than the happy people
- I'd likely be able to make more money and have more stuff

Is any of that really worth being less happy though?
Side note:  I think the word selfish has too much of a negative connotation at times, this thread being one of them.  RE is selfish, certainly not for the benefit of their peers and there is nothing wrong with that type of selfishness.  Trying to maximize happiness for an individual sounds pretty close to the definition of the word.  Hell, even our genes are pretty damn selfish!

You raise some great questions in the happy vs. better debate.  A lot to think about from individual and societal perspectives.  I want to side with NorthernBlitz for naive and risk-averse reasons.  Namely, I want to be on the 'better' side with regard to individual pursuits even if it means sacrificing a little happiness if it gives my offspring and their offspring a slightly better start than I had. 

I think in addition to generational wealth there is also some type of generational education/health/culture that exists.  I wasn't poor but I would have benefited (even though I had a very happy childhood and adolescence) from knowing more about financial health from parents who knew more.  I want to make sure my kids are aware and are not limited financially as a result well into their 20s and 30s like me.  They will know about the tenets of frugality mixed in with investing and optimizing taxes in their teens while I sort of stumbled onto that on my own much later. 

Improving your station in life is tied to better...everything but of chief importance is health.  My parents were not too far off from paycheck to paycheck.  I was a serious injury or illness away from really cramping their style at any point.  I refuse to live like that and I hope my kids will as well.  Buying extra stuff or leaving a legacy that people outside of your family/friends are aware of doesn't move my needle too much but I do see how it could have appeal for some.  I don't really care how much someone works in their lifetime, if someone wants to minimize or maximize that, more power to them - we all crave varying levels of structure and I wouldn't say that some level of lifetime work for one person is better or worse than the amount of labor someone else compiles (this is the naive part as wife and I currently don't care about retiring in our 30s or 40s, highly subject to change in the future).

I am assuming 'better' would be more prepared to handle bumps in the road of life by definition, something about the access to care or household finances or economic opportunities or perceived amount of freedom is greater than what the person who is happier but ignorant of the slight disadvantages (if they exist).  However, if we're talking about where the world of better and happier are equal (which seems impossible since better has to be...better), then I'd choose happier.  But I think another assumption is that the 'happier' world is already pretty advanced and that 'better' is only marginally so, that's not always the case.

Also, I like the pie-in-the-sky science fiction possibilities that the 'better' world conjures up but this is more societal scale.  Hopefully we would get to solving energy/food/disease/space travel either way in the better vs. happier debate but I'd bet on better to make it there sooner (duh, they have better technology).

That novella said, I am quite happy and don't care if I could be "prospering even more", can't let perfect be the enemy of good.  The U.S. is badass as are dozens of other countries.  I hope in the future every country will have desirable places to make a happy and safe life with the best infrastructure, medical care, etc. the technology of the time has to offer.

Selfish has become a weird word to me.  I'm no longer sure how to apply it.  The definition from above about "chiefly being concerned with one's own personal profit or pleasure" presents and odd problem for me.  If I'm chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure and I realize that the best way for me to maximize my own personal profit and pleasure is to not be chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure then am I selfish or not?  I'm still trying to maximize my own personal profit or pleasure, but I'm doing so by not being chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure...

Maybe the other part of the definition from google is the more operative part of the common usage of the term?

selfish
ˈselfiSH/
adjective
adjective: selfish
(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

Agreed.

I'd go so far as to argue that a part of pursuing long term, sustainable happiness is an active concern for and regular consideration of others.  Making the world a better place by helping others will improve your own happiness.  Is that selfish?

Retire-Canada

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #47 on: July 12, 2018, 11:03:15 AM »
I'd go so far as to argue that a part of pursuing long term, sustainable happiness is an active concern for and regular consideration of others.  Making the world a better place by helping others will improve your own happiness.  Is that selfish?

No. It's smart.

ematicic

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #48 on: July 12, 2018, 11:06:15 AM »
Well making the world a "better" place is also subjective. To come back to American prosperity, I would argue that many fundamental aspects of American living, laws and programs need serious focus before we try and fix the world. Should we fight to significantly increase the flow of immigrants before addressing our own rampant homeless problem, or fixing the broken immigration system that has thousands of refugees currently in limbo? Should we fight for politicians that would increase UN peace keeping funds, but continue the blind eye on the 500+ murders in cities like Chicago?

Ethics is far from cut and dry. Yes, we need to help others to survive as a society but the help has to be planned, focused and enduring to result in change. I do agree that investing in infrastructure helps solidify the foundation needed at home first, then look outward. Otherwise too much help, spread too thin is essentially worthless.

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #49 on: July 12, 2018, 11:35:28 AM »

Selfish has become a weird word to me.  I'm no longer sure how to apply it.  The definition from above about "chiefly being concerned with one's own personal profit or pleasure" presents and odd problem for me.  If I'm chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure and I realize that the best way for me to maximize my own personal profit and pleasure is to not be chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure then am I selfish or not?  I'm still trying to maximize my own personal profit or pleasure, but I'm doing so by not being chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure...

Maybe the other part of the definition from google is the more operative part of the common usage of the term?

selfish
ˈselfiSH/
adjective
adjective: selfish
(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

I think that either part is still selfish (and that human nature makes us generally more selfish than altruistic).

I think I agree with you if you're saying that the "lacking consideration for others" part sounds like a more obvious moral problem than "concerned chiefly one's own personal profit or pleasure".

But, I think that it's tough to disentangle the two. Especially if "lack of consideration" doesn't mean "absence of consideration" but something more like "lack of action taken on consideration for others".

I'd probably argue that someone following the MMM lifestyle (which I'm not knocking because I try to follow it) isn't really any different from the general population (in a similar socio-economic status) with regard to their "lack of consideration for others".

What I think differentiates us MMM types from our peers is that instead of pursuing our concern for "profit" and "pleasure" in parallel, we choose to delay our "concern for personal pleasure" until we've amassed enough "personal profit" that our future focus on "pleasure" isn't impeded by monetary concerns.

Again, I think that's pretty much selfish by definition (with the caveat that many of us have loved ones so we're likely concerned with more than just one organism). But, I don't think that being selfish is necessarily being bad (although I think we can all think of cases where selfishness gets out of hand).

I generally think that arguments against it being selfish are ones we decided we liked after we picked the conclusion we wanted.