Friday, November 2, 2012

Pessimism and happiness

From a 2006 George Will column:
.... Conservatives are happier than liberals because they are more pessimistic. Conservatives think the Book of Job got it right ("Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward"), as did Adam Smith ("There is a great deal of ruin in a nation"). Conservatives understand that society in its complexity resembles a giant Calder mobile — touch it here and things jiggle there, and there, and way over there. Hence conservatives acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is: The unintended consequences of bold government undertakings are apt to be larger than, and contrary to, the intended ones.

Conservatives' pessimism is conducive to their happiness in three ways. First, they are rarely surprised — they are right more often than not about the course of events. Second, when they are wrong, they are happy to be so. Third, because pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes — government — they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. They believe that happiness is an activity — it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness. ....
Which Will summarized elsewhere: "The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised." A belief in original sin has much the same effect.

Via Pejman Yousefzadeh: The Self-Medication of My Political Soul

George F. Will - Smile if (and Only if) You're Conservative