Happiness Comes to the Have-dones

 

By: Gillian O’Malley

A commercial recently aired by Groupon perfectly depicting our society today, by defining the difference between the “haves” and the “have-dones” and diminishing the idea that happiness comes from the amount in a bank account.  This concept is one that Charles Wheelan explains when he suggests that the economic negotiators of taste recommend ‘experiences’ over commodities, pastimes over knick-knacks, doing over having [1].  Today it is popular to see people associate money with happiness, but it is argued by many famous economists and philosophers that happiness does not come from attaining an object, but rather it is subject and attained through experiences which makes use of the human function.

Aristotle says, “The good is the final end, and happiness is this” which is vague enough to allow many economist to develop their own ideas about what happiness means and how it should be measured [2]. For example, the OECD has tried to measure happiness in the Better Life Index which is a representation of the well-being of advanced countries based on specific factors such as income, housing, and life satisfaction [3].  This, however, makes one consider the contradiction of using income and housing to measure happiness, which was earlier said to be measured by the experiences of one’s life.

The authors of the index agree that “the good life” is utterly subjective, and different people have different values [4]. It is a little known fact that Denmark is the happiness country in the world, but is that measured on this scale that seems to not be the true requirements of happiness? The OECD’s metrics of scaling the index vary depending what is important to the person, so where the United States may rank #1 when income, housing, and jobs are emphasized, Denmark outranks all others when community, life satisfaction, and work-life balance are emphasized [5]. In general, the idea of beauty being in the eye of the beholder applies to happiness just the same. Aristotle says it himself to “not demand the same degree of accuracy in all branches of study, but in each case so much as the subject-matter admits of and as is proper to that kind of inquiry” saying that people find their happiness in different forms and that two people can see the same thing and look at it differently [6]. Would this not mean that two people could think differently on attaining happiness through being a “have” or a “have-done”? Not exactly through the economist’s eye. One example is by the economists that are unconvinced that is a direct relationship between money and well-being have decided to measure happiness itself through people. One of the examples to measure is by role circumstances such as people’s relationships, education, income and health, shape the way they feel. Education is thought to make people happier because through education one gets rich, and a rich people are happier than a poor ones but this thinking is not true [7]. This relates back to the fact that happiness differs from person to person, leaving the only form to measure happiness is through the person, but not through the goods they own to higher their status or the number of dollars they have in their bank account, it is the have-dones that behold the key to happiness that so many search their life for.

Works Cited

[1] Wheelan, Charles J., and Burton G. Malkiel. Naked economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.

[2] Aristotle. Nicomachean ethics.

[3] Thompson, Derek. “The New Economics of Happiness.” The Atlantic. May 23, 2012. Accessed May 01, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/the-new-economics-of-happiness/257557/.

[4] Thompson, Derek. “The New Economics of Happiness.” The Atlantic. May 23, 2012. Accessed May 01, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/the-new-economics-of-happiness/257557/.

[5] Thompson, Derek. “The New Economics of Happiness.” The Atlantic. May 23, 2012. Accessed May 01, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/the-new-economics-of-happiness/257557/.

[6] Aristotle. Nicomachean ethics.

[7] “Why people get happier as they get older – The Economist.” The Economist. Accessed May 01, 2017. https://medium.economist.com/why-people-get-happier-as-they-get-older-b5e412e471ed.

 

Picture – “What is Happiness and Subjective Well-Being? 11 Interesting Facts About Happiness.” PositivePsychology.org.uk. March 24, 2017. Accessed May 01, 2017. http://positivepsychology.org.uk/happiness-and-subjective-well-being/.

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