Saturday, December 28, 2013

Big Governments and Happier People

Dylan Mathews interviews Benjamin Radcliffe about his book, "The Political Economy of Human Happiness." The key to happiness is what he calls "decommodification." If you live an upper-middle class life, you have the opportunity to make choices about what you do in life. If you are further down the economic ladder, happiness depends more about what happens to you from external circumstances. Things like government assistance, strong labor unions, and a strong safety net give the lower classes access to the self-determination similar to what the rich enjoy. Pure capitalism isn't a good policy.
"Now, to be sure, the market economy absolutely contributes to human well-being in other ways — no one can deny that — but we have a macro- vs. micro-problem. At the macro level, capitalism works well. I would agree with Brooks that the market society is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. But at the micro level it depends at the very core of its logic, as even Adam Smith was at pains to point out, on the idea of using other people (employees) as a means to making profits for oneself. The people we hire to do work are just mere commodities in the profit-loss calculations, no more worthy of special concern than barrels of oil or bushels of grain. The last chapter of my book discusses these moral tensions that capitalism creates. My conclusion is that the social safety net, labor market regulations and labor unions all limit the degree to which people become mere commodities, and thus are more likely to lead fulfilling lives."
 For the sake of basic humanity, capitalism needs to be well-regulated.

No comments: