Do countries that are already rich become even happier when they become yet richer? This was the essential question on which I entered a gentleman’s bet in 2004 with Andrew Leigh and which just recently got settled.
The reason for the bet was a famous hypothesis in happiness research called the Easterlin hypothesis which held that happiness did not increase when rich countries became even richer. In my ‘Fred Gruen’ presentation on this matter in 2004 I used the following graph to illustrate the happiness income relation across countries:
This graph shows you the relation between average income (GDP in purchasing power terms) and average happiness on a 0-10 scales for many countries. As one can see, the relation between income and happiness is upward sloping for low levels of income, but becomes somewhat flat after 15,000 dollars per person. I championed the idea that this was not just true if you looked across countries, but that this would also hold true over time.
Andrew Leigh’s thinking was influenced by other data, particularly a paper by Stevenson and Wolfers which – he thinks debunks the Easterlin hypothesis. Here’s one of their graphs: Continue reading →
Scott Morrison was on RN Breakfast on Monday 25 November, hosing down the idea that the diplomatic row with Indonesia over past spying on the Indonesian President and his wife might impede Operation Sovereign Borders. That was the day before we embarked on the whole ‘Gonski is Goneski’ kerfuffle, created by Christopher Robin-Pyne who’s been clever as clever since he reached the age of six – and has stayed that way ever since.
According to Morrison, although co-operative between Indonesia suspended its co-operation with Australia on people smuggling, That wasn’t too significant for two reasons:
Indonesia has its own laws against people-smuggling and he expects those will still be enforced;
The Government’s efforts to combat people smuggling don’t rely on Indonesia alone.
In support of the latter he said:
I’m always expecting people smugglers to try things on Fran, always, every single day and that’s why we’re putting pressure [on] all the way up through the chain.
Later in the interview Morrison added this interesting little snippet:
‘We’re working with Malaysia… [and Australia's] people smuggling ambassador has been in the Middle East talking to source countries there about what we can do.’
Some memories fade too slowly. I was reminded of one such memory by the TV advertisement being aired in the lead up to White Ribbon Day tomorrow (Monday 25 November).
It was late morning on Friday, 20 September and I was at the local Magistrate’s Court on a court visit for the first assignment in my B Laws course. The court co-ordinator told me that there was only one criminal contest – that is, a trial – on that day, in Court 2. A case of recklessly causing injury.
It sounded amusing – most likely the result of a couple of bogans going the biff in the car-park of one of the areas many 1960s vintage beer barns. I went to court room expecting an hour or so of light entertainment at the expense of a boof-head who’d fallen foul of the law. More fool me.
When I entered the courtroom and sat myself down in the seat nearest the door – in the back row of three rows of public seating – there seemed to be a distinct shortage of bogans. Unless you counted the besuited guy in the middle of the second row with the wing of a tattooed bird poking out of his shirt collar.
It was late morning so I’d missed the start of proceedings. The witness box was occupied by a doctor giving testimony on the injuries suffered by the victim of the assault that led to the trial. I identified her as the woman sitting in the front row, directly in front of me. An attractive woman in her late twenties, well-dressed, sitting between an older man and woman who, I surmised, were her parents.
Tabloid TV – it’s one of modern life’s little irritations but, thankfully, one that’s easily avoided – unlike Melbourne’s Myki system, the rococo convolutions of bus routes in Melbourn’s outer suburbs and numb-nuts who conduct loud conversations on their mobile phones while you’re trying to read the latest edition of New Scientist. You just have to take care, when you’re channel surfing on the TV between 6:30 and 7:00pm that you avoid Today Tonight and ACA much as a real surfer avoids surfing through a sewage outfall.
Well that’s the theory; in practice it doesn’t always work out that way. Then you’re reminded that tabloid TV isn’t merely an irritant – at times it’s quite noxious.
Seems Tony Abbott finally headed off to Indonesia today to have some talks. Not about the boats – he wants the focus to be on building a constructive relationship and of course building trade opportunities. Well good luck with that one mate.
For the past three years you’ve spent most Sunday arvos holding boozed up barbies in the back yard with your boof-head mates and the main topic of conversation has been your slack-arsed wog neighbours and how they’ve done nothing about the bloody fence – it’s a f’k’n disgrace – but one day you’re gunna change it. And you’ve paid sod all attention to whether they could hear you or not. Well they could. And they didn’t much like it.
It was around six thirty on a cold wet Melbourne Day. A long day for me, including a mid-morning appointment with a new psychologist. First appointments are all about background – what your condition is, personal and family history and all that other stuff that they need to know to get a useful idea of who you are and where you came from.
So I spent near an hour giving her the $100 tour of my dark places – even, for the sake of expediency, a quick glimpse of the very darkest one which I’ve rarely revealed to friends because they’re entitled to their faith in human nature. Or something like that: it’s a distressing little story to tell and it distresses people who hear it.
I learnt something interesting today, while I was writing up notes on legal history: Australia didn’t formally achieve complete judicial and legislative independence from Old Blighty until 5.00am, Greenwich Mean Time on March 31st 3rd 1986. That’s the precise time that the Australia Acts, passed by the British Parliament and our Federal Parliament came into effect.
One type of news item I notice often – because it confirms a belief that I like to maintain – reports that a recent psychological study has found that the most effective way to give yourself a quick happiness fix is to do someone else a favour. The most recent I remember reported, for example, that while visiting a favourite place might lift you out of the glums, doing someone a favour was more likely to do it. So when I visited a local coffee shop that offered ‘delayed coffee’ recently I made a point of buying one.
A ‘delayed coffee’ is a cup of coffee that you buy for a complete stranger. You pay for the coffee and at some later time someone else who’s stuck for the price of a coffee can come in and get one free of charge.