Archive for September, 2011

22
Sep
11

Happiness

There is a flourishing literature on happiness and how it relates to governmental policies and incomes inequality.

There is a lot to say here, some philosophical, and some empirical.

Empirically, one should read the following citation (and the journal is pretty money).

Ott, Jan. Journal of Happiness Studies 2005 (6:4) “Level and Inequality of Happiness in Nations”

In this, she (he?) discusses how inequality in wealth is related to greater happiness as well as looking at the happiness reported in various states. Apparently Pakistanis are pretty unhappy, and so are Russians.

In terms of the philosophy, many people note that once people get basic things like food and shelter and transportation accorded to them, they become more or less happy. SURVEYS are used to assess people’s happiness and I think this is methodologically flawed, because of the way that being asked that question primes a positive response. People want, strongly, to believe that they are happy and so are likely have a very strong prejudice in favor of answering that question in the affirmative. The self-image reasons alone are probably strong. Also, I don’t think happiness is just an internal state that can be reported at the time of a question. Happiness concerns one’s entire life, and require deeper introspection than just “I’m feeling good in this psych lab.”

Aristotle for one thought that happiness had an objective component and so was not assured merely by FEELING happy, one had to have a certain combination of activities and commitments in order to be happy. Think about the last time you were engaged in a cherished activity. Time seemed to fly by and most of your troubles just melted away. Runners describe this, but so do people who read, and people who have hobbies like woodworking or painting. What this suggests to me is that happiness is a MODE OF ENGAGEMENT with life and so can’t be measured by a simple “are you happy, yes or no?”

05
Sep
11

One Argument for Keeping DADT

If you know my politics you probably did a double take at the title of this post. What reason could there possibly be for keeping a discriminatory policy like DADT? Isn’t it great that Obama got rid of it?

An emphatic yes to the last question, but I was talking to a veteran the other day, and he became very disillusioned with the military and he wanted to get out early but with an HONORABLE discharge. This is hard to do, but one way that many people were able to do this (and he did not take this route) was to become “gay.” (look at this report for stats and analysis; it mentions that a lot of people used this way out).

Now, depending on what your general view of the military is, this could be good or bad. You might think that people getting out of their service early is bad and so therefore think that this is just another reason to get rid of DADT — it will end the “leak” of service people out of the military.

You might though, see this phenomenon of fake homosexuality as a cost of ending the policy. The reason is that some people start out supporting the military’s operations when they join up, but they become disillusioned (Iraq will do that to you) and so think they are ethically required not to participate in the duties they’ve been asked to perform. For these people, DADT helped them realize their ethical ideals and so acted as a “moral escape hatch.” And since admitting to homosexuality when one is not homosexual has a high cost, the route is not likely to be abused. In other words, not just anyone will fake homosexuality to leave the military, but those who have strong moral convictions can use this route.

All told, DADT was (in some cases) a kind of a quirky and interesting mechanism that some people used to stay true to their ethical beliefs