Chris Dillow blogs about the effect of freedom on happiness:
Does freedom make us happy? Two things I’ve seen today suggest not. First, a cross-country study of the link between economic freedom and well-being concludes:
“Economic freedom is significantly negatively related to life satisfaction if controlled for the influence of income per capita, unemployment, social trust, life expectancy and aging.”
Of course, controlling for income is a big control. The raw correlation between freedom and happiness is positive. The message is that economic freedom make us happy insofar as it makes us rich, but it has no intrinsic value for well-being.
It reminds me of something Gary Brecher wrote about in the context of modern, asymmetric warfare and why people fight:
People are superstitious tribalists. Democracy comes about 37th, if that. Nobody wants to face that fact: we’re tribal critters. We’ll die for the tribe. More to the point, we’ll kill for it. We don’t care about democracy. And I’m not just talking here about people in tropical hellholes like Somalia, I mean your town, your street. Most Americans are just like me: old-school nationalists. We want America to be Roman, to kick ass. The rest is for Quakers.
Those two things seem to go to the same point: pursuit of freedom is not a serious goal for most individuals. That really makes you wonder how such enormous decisions as going to war are justified on the basis of defending freedom and democracy. It’s far to big a topic to cover in a blog post and I have no expertise in the subject, but it does make me immediately think of Robin Hanson’s ideas about signalling status. Take a description of his position on health care and substitute in ‘democracy’ for ‘health care’:
And every single data point that passes by in the [freedom] debate does nothing but strengthen the position that Robin Hanson articulated: [freedom] altruism is a permutation of our evolutionary drive to “show we care”; or rather, make infrequent, and very large expenditures to show our loyalty to an alliance. The frequency has gotten greater as our society has gotten richer, but the underlying motive is still linked to our evolutionary roots.
Doesn’t that sound kinda plausible? I’m looking forward to learning plenty as the political scientists bring some real knowledge to bear here 😛