Happiness Quotes of the Day

“Happiness is peace after strife, the overcoming of difficulties, the feeling of security and well-being. The only really happy folk are married women and single men.”

– H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy

“Of all the cankers of human happiness, none corrodes it with so silent, yet so baneful a tooth, as indolence.”

– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to his daughter, Martha Jefferson.

Discussion:

Which famously bigoted hero of liberty knows happiness? Not Mencken!

H.L.'s flare-up of Nietzschean misogyny gets it flat wrong. Marriage has a bigger positive effect on happiness for men than for women. Married men are much happier than single men, and, it seems, even a skoche happier than married women. The feeling of security and well-being, are surely components of happiness. But what these have to do with the following sentence are a mystery lost to time.

Of course, I'm talking about the cramped, mundane happiness of the bourgeouis here, not the wild, expansive happiness of the overflowing soul and indomitable will. As Nietzshe said, “Man does not strive for pleasure; only the Englishman does.”

Jefferson, very much the Englishman, nails it. Unemployment is VERY bad for you. Pace economists, it ain't experienced as “leisure.” Among the most important things for happiness are a sense of self-efficacy and self-control, and this sense slips when we're not productively engaged. We begin to feel adrift in the world, tossed by malign external forces we are impotent to resist.

So score one for TJ, who suggests a get-up-and-at-'em slogan for t-shirts and public school bulletin boards everywhere: “Indolence: the canker that corrodes with a baneful tooth!”

  • Vince

    Based on the CBO numbers, the stimulus amounts to 2.1% of GDP over the rest of FY 2009 (stimulus is $185B over the 225 days from its mid-February signing through 9/30/09, while GDP for that period is about 225/365 x $14.3T = $8.8T). Then it’s 2.8% of GDP in FY 2010, 0.9% of GDP in FY 2011, and 0.5% of one year’s GDP over the rest of the 10-year projection. So there goes Frum’s criticism based on Lesson One. Maybe bigger would’ve been better, but the stimulus gets close to its maximum rate quickly and is concentrated over its first 20 months.

    I don’t know enough about Lesson Two (monetary policy) to comment, and there’s nothing to Lesson Six (a bad economy is bad). That leaves Lessons Three through Five, which all depend on predictions about future policy. We’ll see over the coming months what the Obama administration does on fixing the financial system (#4) and trade (#5 – though I’m not even sure if that’s what Romer was referring to), and over the coming years whether they cut back on the stimulus too soon (#3). Frum doesn’t like what he sees in his crystal ball, but who knows what Romer thinks, what Obama is planning, or what’s actually going to happen.