False Dichotomy Alert

OK, the basic message, that sudden riches tends not to cause happiness, is one that studies of sudden lottery winners tends to support.

That said, I still think this is a false dichotomy:

Three Cheers for the Same Old Thing: Much as you might embrace a chance to rebut the assertion that you would be happier with daily foot rubs for life than with $100 million, Dr. Gilbert, whose data is winningly compiled in “Stumbling On Happiness,” due from Alfred A. Knopf in May, said his research clearly supported that message.

I’m sure that if you have the $100 million there is some way you can arrange to get the foot rubs.

That said, I’m prepared to believe this part of the article:

A corollary finding is that a single big payoff – a fat raise, an Hermès Kelly bag, a hot cha cha date – affects people’s essential happiness much less than a routine of small delights. And Dr. Gilbert, for one, is sold. He has found, for example, that one of the best things about being at Harvard is not the prestige of his position but that he can walk to work from his house in Cambridge.

I live about two blocks from my office, and it’s wonderful.

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2 Responses to False Dichotomy Alert

  1. fiat lux says:

    Lotto winners and their misadventures notwithstanding, absent a certain base level of financial stability, the parameters of the ‘false dichotomy’ change drastically.

    Anyone who has ever had to make hard financial choices — like having to choose between buying food and perscription medicines, because you do not have enough money for both, or not knowing how you’re going to pay the rent at the end of the month — would tell you that ‘life’s little pleasures’ don’t mean a damn if you can’t afford the more important ones, and would go for the big payoff.

  2. As the saying goes, all I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.

    Much of this strikes me as propaganda for “Be content with your station in life”. You can’t outright buy many things (love, health, job satisfaction) – but they ARE often negatively affected by lack of money.

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