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Is Happiness a conservative, status-quo concept?

"Money can't buy happiness". Many of us think this statement is more or less true. But what are the broader implications of this statement? After all, if "the pursuit of happiness" is delayed by acquiring wealth, than why should the government be promoting initiatives to raise the economic tide through assistance to business OR welfare policies? In other words, is the pursuit of Happiness a fundamentally conservative, status-quo idea? An interesting article on this subject is posted below - but what do you think?

  • Jan 15 2013: The question that comes up for me is Why? Why should happiness matter to me so much? I know, experience and recall the scientific, sociological, emotional and spiritual reasons. I find these everywhere I look. Yet, no matter where in the world any one person is, the topic of happiness is one that pops itself in thoughts, ideas, feelings and conversations. So, Why? Why does it matter to each one of us so much?

    I will offer my reason. It is just one reason... It may mean something or nothing, but for me, my reason to seek happiness is because with it I get to enjoy having fun while living. I get to enjoy laughter, eating delicious food, having conversations... and on and on and on.

    And, again Why? comes up again for me. Why should THAT matter...? (yes, we could go ad nauseum! ;)) But, it matters, because it simply does. And, I have found that the moment I completely come to terms with the fact that it does matter and I DO care about how I feel, what I think, how my health is and what I seek, it is then that I actually see the enjoyment in what is occurring in that particular moment. It is then that I reach the conclusion that I am willing to do absolutely anything in order to maintain and sustain that happiness. It is then that I stop riding the waves and drowning in the depths. It is then that I release all worry and anxiety and fully live. It is then that I find true happiness.

    Have you ever thought about why it matters to you?
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    Jan 15 2013: I have seen happy people living in the most appalling conditions (to my mind), but who know nothing else and are content, yet I have seen people living with all the advantages and resources in life and they feel empty.

    Happiness is a fluid concept. For me, it is about finding satisfaction in what I do, being content with my life, but still dreaming and wanting and experiencing those things that mean the most to me. If I can travel, read books, eat well, laugh regularly and have someone to bitch to when things go awry, I am happy; for I expect my happiness will have occasional rainy patches, financial woes and people I want to smack upside the head, but as long as I have the good with the bad, I'm content.
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    Jan 14 2013: I am not following the logic here. When people say that money can't buy happiness, I don' think they mean either that happiness is postponed while working or that those who are destitute are happier than those who have the resources to feed and shelter their families, take care of medical needs, and so forth. They mean that after a point, additional income is not correlated either positively or negatively with happiness.
    Research supports this result.
    People use the word happiness differently. Martin Seligman in his TED talk on positive psychology identifies living a life of meaning and feeling good about personal relationships as being the strongest predictors of happiness, but this does not suggest either that happiness is delayed by working or that one is happiest when indigent.
  • Jan 16 2013: The pursuit of happiness is definitely not a solely conservative idea, but a fundamental political and human idea. Hope and the striving for a better state is a bipartisan. Poor economic standing doesn't help anyone. Both republicans and democrats can agree that poor economic status creates frustration and resentment among the people, thus there is unhappiness within their political base. Democrats believe in a level playing field where everyone is helped and able to benefit from a thriving economy. I do not believe that money necessarily buys happiness, but it definitely helps (to a certain extent). Democrats believe in sharing everyone's money to invest in public infrastructure so that everyone's status of living is raised, thus we have happier people. The idea that one should be able to hoard and keep millions of dollars for one’s self, without fairly giving back is a republican idea ->given the bush tax cuts for the very wealthy. At that level, more money does not buy more happiness. The ideas of what brings happiness, and how government should go about helping all to achieve happiness, differ between political parties, but they both believe in the American economy to help increase happiness. In present day American society, one cannot hope to be happy and comfortable without a steady flow of income. Happiness for all is happiness for all. We as a society are only as strong as our weakest link.
  • Cos Mo

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    Jan 16 2013: I believe "Money can't buy happiness" is neither universally true, nor false. It eventually comes down to what it takes for one person to be happy, or at least be in a state that he/she defines as happiness. If one's idea of happiness is cruising the Mediterranean on his private yacht with his family for 3 months a year, not only that money CAN buy happiness, but without it, (that particular) happiness is out of reach. If another's state of happiness greatly relates to his glory days as a football player, for instance, at 60, no money can buy that happy time back.

    In any case, for the great majority of people, happiness cannot possibly come from poverty. So, as Fritzie R also said, considering the pyramid of human needs, I believe that only those who managed to climb (quite) a few steps, and reached a certain degree of financial comfort, can stop and ponder if EXTRA money is necessary and apt to buy FURTHER happiness. I very much doubt that one living in cold, famine and sickness out of sheer poverty will ever concur that "Money can't buy happiness".

    Regarding the promotion of welfare, I think that, based on the above, for economical, educational, intellectual, emotional (and other) causes, the great majority of people are more likely to experience happiness (even if only as a projection) while in a state of prosperity, rather than poverty.

    Andrea F below is also right, I believe. The exhaustive explanation of the why? should not matter too much, if at all. It is a psychological feature meant to ensure a state of equilibrium, even if fragile and dynamic most of the time. Accepting a state of happiness for what it is may much better serve the purpose of the happiness, than trying to explain it.

    I do not have enough chars left for the main question :) I do believe, however, it is not rightly asked. Conservative and status quo are not synonyms here, as implied by the question. So, conservative - yes. Status-quo - no. Or so I think, at first glance.
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    Gail .

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    Jan 15 2013: The conservative status-quo concept seems to me to be the opposite of the pursuit of happiness.

    How many older people would want to go back to being who they were as a teen or younger? Teenagers don't even know how miserable they are by comparison.

    People who are afraid of change/evolving are not pursuing happiness. They are pursuing fear. Great difference.
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    Jan 15 2013: Yes.
    (1) It is conservative rather than adventurous.
    That is why VALID happiness is MERELY a-step-better for keeping our DNA alive.

    (2) "Why should the government be promoting initiatives to raise the economic tide"?
    The answer is that the government policy is determined by its electorate。 And the electorate does not know what the INVALID happiness is.


    (For INVALID happiness, see the 1st article, points 1-3, 14, at
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    Jan 14 2013: G'day Daniel

    We are lead to believe that we can only find happiness through consumerist materialism which keeps the big boys happy to some extent. The trick is we are made to feel unhappy & discontent as well at time because then we buy something to make us happy again, it’s a multinational nightmare we live in.

    Happiness certainly exists but not through consumerist materialism but through acceptance of one’s lot in life without conflict & once we have no conflicts left to wallow in we automatically become happy. You see it’s the never ending conflicts that we are subjected to in life that make us unhappy.

    • Jan 14 2013: and that is EXACTLY why happiness, as you have defined it (accepting one's Lot in life), supports the status quo. Because if happiness means nothing more than "accepting your lot in life", than what does that mean for the poor or disadvantaged? It means they should be quiet and peaceful and adjust to the status quo instead of being selfish and pushing for more. It is a definition of happiness which JUSTIFIES doing nothing.

      Another model of happiness - that happiness should incorporate certain material standards of living, such as decent food, shelter, etc - would be quite revolutionary, because it implies that a government or society which doesn't guarantee these things to their population is actively preventing their happiness. But the definition of happiness being peddled today seems to justify non-action to help the less fortunate, because the less fortunate are, under this definition, actually MORE fortunate. Sick logic, but there you have it.
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        Jan 14 2013: G'day Daniel

        Yes deffinently.......Acceptance means being accepting of consumerist materism as well however when one becomes accepting of one's lot in life it doesn't mean you can't change your way of life it just means your less conflictive & happier with your enviroment.

        If you are born into circomstances that won't allow yourself to become wealthy trying to have what you can't have will make one's life a misery but accepting your way of life will make you happier & through this happiness it is much eaiser to change one's life than being in conflict with your life. Trying to change one's life through conflict has made the world what it is today!!!

        I was on a spiritual forum discussing conflicts & found out that most spiritually aware people were at conflict with one thing or another like the ego,consumerist materialsm, judgment & even certain negative words & so on, they weren't at peace or very spiritual at all because they were conflictive with one or more things in their lives, they just weren't very accepting.

        What this is saying is be more accepting & less conflictive & through this newly found happiness one can change one's circomsatnces a lot better than through conflict.

    • Cos Mo

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      Jan 16 2013: Hey Mathew,

      Although I can see the reason in what you are saying, our track record as a race tends to argue for the contrary. We strive for more, in a pursuit of what may or may not be happiness. Accepting one's lot in life, while definitely possible for isolated individuals, and very likely apt to bring inner peace, wisdom, and a higher form of happiness to them, is not the way we are built, not in our nature as a race. Our continuous struggle for more, and more, and yet more, is what got us out of the caverns, it's what made us smarter, faster, stronger, better organized, and eventually it's what got people like Daniel, you and me writing to one another in some sort of intellectual and educational pursuit. Sure, it has its great downsides, but the item in discussion is our nature, not its effects on the world.

      It's the struggle for the promised happiness (albeit just projected) of a better status that makes us abandon the previous one, I believe. And I think that it is our nature to "run out" of a particular state of happiness and strive for the next, leaving the status quo behind. This can be the source of both great joy and great misery, and my feeling is that misery is more often than joy, but still this does not stop us (as humans) from striving for more.

      We ARE a very dubious creation, this much I can say :)
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        Jan 17 2013: G’day Cos Mo

        Your right of course, for us to evolve we just can’t sit there & accept our circumstances the way they are & do nothing, however the concept of acceptance is about accepting our present condition in life before we improve it instead of trying to change it through non-acceptance which is conflictive. We have mostly changed through conflicts as most of our advancements for starters have arisen from necessity because of conflicts. What I am saying is how about accepting our circumstances for once without being in conflict with them & then change them more peacefully, at least this way were not taking any leftover portion of these conflicts into the change & messing them up as well.

        • Cos Mo

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          Jan 17 2013: Hi Mathew,

          What you are saying makes perfect sense to me, and seems correct from a philosophical or spiritual point of view; but I am not at all sure you (or us, since I agree) are right from a social and evolutionary perspective. Studies have shown that people are more loss averse than they are risk driven, which in our context means they are more likely to attempt the preservation of a status quo they have come to accept, as you say, and be at peace with, then push forward to new heights and thus, in a way, evolve. I say in a way because evolution in itself does not necessarily mean being able to shop all Sunday long at the mall, yet the mall is a result of evolution.

          I believe that your pattern is at this time only available to the masses via education, not via genetic inheritance, which is opposite, and pushes toward conflictive changes. However, I do believe, in an intuitive manner, that acceptance of a status before peacefully moving to the next is also apt to bring evolution, albeit a slower one, following a different pattern than the one we've seen in the human societies. And yes, perhaps a safer one too.

          Still, I do not believe we are up to the task at this point in our evolution and structure. I believe that at macro levels, it's either conflictive evolution or status quo, since at this point, it seems to me that the only way to give up the status quo willingly is by need - generated by conflict and in turn generating conflict.

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    Jan 14 2013: 'than why should the government be promoting initiatives to raise the economic tide through assistance to business OR welfare policies?'

    Because our economies are based on a flawed model that obligates infinite and persistent growth.
    If the growth stops, then debts accumulate, the system goes bankrupt and the society (and all the positives) go with it until it can be restarted or replaced.

    Inactuality you really can't buy happiness. Studies consistently show that people in countries that focus on material wealth are less happy than those countries who don't.
    For some reason we're all just expected to lie to ourselves and pretend like all this around us really matters
    *shrugs shoulders*