2015 ANNIV  1A. THE MARVELOUS MAV Happiness and Discontent ANNIVERSARY Issue 2015 JPG



Happiness And Discontent




Human life has got a whole lot better for humans. Starvation and extreme poverty are down; longevity and literacy are up. On a personal note, I have two granddaughters who visit frequently and they are delightful. Occasionally rambunctious, they settle down easily on their iPads and share exquisite Barbie movies with me.


When I read Canada’s national newspaper or policy studies in journals, I sense a level of discontent that seemed absent before the Finance Crisis and Great Recession. Why the persistent anxiety about the future?


Generational inequity may be one of the reasons. During World War II, wages were controlled, so companies competed for labour by offering pensions that now support Depression and war babies. Boomers are less likely to get pensions and have had to fund retirement with stingier, riskier plans. They will have less financial security than their parents. Not good.


Economic thinking has gone off Keynesianism in favour of neo-conservatism and fiscal discipline. Smaller government and restraint in government service makes for fewer jobs in the short term. Tax expenditures like mortgage interest deductibility are also subject to cutbacks. Canada may need to shut down its marketing boards to comply with international trade treaties. Add all this up and there are millions of beneficiaries who worry about loss of future income.


Technological change sweeps through industry. Automation has reduced factory labour since the eighteenth century. Now new systems restructure academic commerce such as book distribution and legal research. Efficiencies are achieved, but the process is hard on incumbent firms and their workers. Everyone’s job, company and industry are subject to disruptive change.


Then there is the issue of complexity. All that cheap food helps with hunger, but encourages obesity and diabetes. Longevity is wonderful, but it comes with painful, expensive disabilities. Literacy is now amplified with new media. Excess gaming develops memory and spatial reasoning, but diminishes judgment and empathy. The modern teenage brain is at risk and parents should worry.


On no! Next it will be Barbie movies. Don’t tell me I have to be concerned about them. I am going to be really grumpy if I can’t watch another one with my granddaughters.


I suspect that many of us are in the same boat ­­­– there is a modern product that has hooked us, so we emotionally and physically cannot go back to a simpler life. The only way out is forward. We are discontent because there is more happiness to lose.

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