Category Archives: Quotes

Can money buy happiness after all?

Can money buy happiness after all?

Life satisfaction and income (from “The Economist” daily charts)

And so they have managed to prove that human beings can never have too much income.

Or have they?

Looking closely at the graph presented above, we can verify the use a logarithmic (log) scale on the x-axis and of a linear scale on the y-axis. This type of representation is known as a lin-log plot.

Lin-log representations have to be interpreted in a particular way. Here, a 45º line (similar to the ones above) means that Y = log (X) or, more specifically, that “Self-Reported Life Satisfaction” = K (Constant) + log (“Self-Reported Annual Income”).

Therefore, in this singular presentation, this set of straight lines in different colors implicitly tell us that, no matter the country, increases in income hold diminishing returns in terms of satisfaction.

Please note that the core interpretation made by those at The Economist magazine is not wrong: in fact, the study suggests that the relationsip between income and satisfaction is always positive (meaning that more money will never hurt your overall satisfaction).

Is just that the Easterlin paradox still applies after all: increases in income hold greater returns in terms of satisfaction for individuals experiencing low levels of income.

This is common sense, I mean, if I have millions of dollars in my multiple bank accounts, an one euro increase in one of them is pretty much negligible no? However, for a number of households facing severe deprivation all around the world one dollar can be a matter of life and death.

Now, if we depart from this atomistic vision of satisfaction (as presented until here) and take the satisfaction of your community as a whole, think about the huge aggregate satisfaction gains that would result from the very rich willing to somehow give some of their income to the very poor who value it much more.

Wouldn’t the rich folk even get some additional satisfaction from the exercise of active citizenship?

Taking the diminishing returns of income referred above, couldn’t this ‘community’ gains even generate greater satisfaction for the rich than the passive accumulation of income?

May I ask: in what kind of society would you prefer to get your satisfaction?


Além uma igreja…

Além uma igreja, à frente
Um quatel e uma prisão:
Prisão de que sofreria
Não fosse eventualmente

Um operário em contrucão.

Mas ele desconhecia
Esse fato extraordinário:
Que o operário faz a coisa
E a coisa faz o operário.
De forma que, certo dia
À mesa, ao cortar o pão
O operário foi tomado
De uma súbita emoção
Ao constatar assombrado
Que tudo naquela mesa
– Garrafa, prato, facão
Era ele quem fazia
Ele, um humilde operário

Um operário em construção.

Olhou em torno: a gamela
Banco, enxerga, caldeirão
Vidro, parede, janela
Casa, cidade, nação!
Tudo, tudo o que existia
Era ele quem os fazia
Ele, um humilde operário
Um operário que sabia

Exercer a profissão.


Sentindo que a violência
Não dobraria o operário
Um dia tentou o patrão
Dobrá-lo de modo vário.
De sorte que o foi levando
Ao alto da construção
E num momento de tempo
Mostrou-lhe toda a região
E apontando-a ao operário
Fez-lhe esta declaração:
— Dar-te-ei todo esse poder
E a sua satisfação
Porque a mim me foi entregue
E dou-o a quem bem quiser.
Dou-te tempo de lazer
Dou-te tempo de mulher.
Portanto, tudo o que vês
Será teu se me adorares
E, ainda mais, se abandonares
O que te faz dizer não.
Disse, e fitou o operário
Que olhava e que refletia
Mas o que via o operário
O patrão nunca veria.
O operário via as casas
E dentro das estruturas
Via coisas, objetos
Produtos, manufaturas.
Via tudo o que fazia
O lucro de seu patrão
E em cada coisa que via
Misteriosamente havia
A marca de sua mão.
E o operário disse: Não!

— Loucura! — Gritou o patrão
Não vês o que te dou eu?
— Mentira! — disse o operário

Não podes dar-me o que é meu.

from Vinicius de Moraes, O Operário em Construção (1956)

Professor Bhagwati on corporations social responsability and Rio+20

The flavor of the week in Rio is “sustainability indexing” for corporations, by way of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Such indexing is being compared to accounting standards. But the latter are “technical” and gain from standardization; the former are not and must reflect variety instead.

Corporations can, of course, be asked to conform to a “don’t” list – don’t dump mercury into rivers, don’t employ children for hazardous tasks, etc. But what they practice as “do’s” by way of altruism is surely a matter of what they consider virtuous to spend their money on.

The notion that a self-appointed set of activists, in conjunction with some governments and international agencies, can determine what a corporation should do by way of CSR contradicts the liberal notion that we should ask for virtue to be pursued, but not in a particular way. At a time when the world is emphasizing the importance of diversity and tolerance, it is effrontery to suggest that corporations should standardize their notion of how they wish to promote good in the world.

Jagdish Bhagwati in Rio’s Unsustainable Nonsense

Yeah. Variety. Diversity. Tolerance. Liberty. For whom, may I ask?

To answer Professor Bhagwati, one of the most preeminent schoolars of our time, I could emphasize the gains deriving from cooperation, deriving from the alignment of social responsabilities in order to create a new kind of social responsability, the kind capable of achieving greater, more effective results (results which, by the way, the current system has proven unable to deliver). Cooperation equilibria. Externalities. Economies of scale. Synergies. Spillovers. I could. But I’m not qualified to do it properly. And I would fail the point anyway.

I could also go another other way, and talk about moral commitment, social justice or equity. Philosofical stuff, I mean. I’m not the right person to do it either, at least at my current level of knowledge and experience.

I could even affirm that Corporations are embedded in social and natural contexts they must preserve in order to promote their agenda and achieve their objectives. Natural and social contexts that, simultaneously, depend on and influence corporations activies and results.

But, Professor Bhagwati, I will only say it in one word. This word that seems to be erased, forever, but erroneously, from the modern liberal vocabulary. There’s this word, Community. As I see it, the first liberals used to call it Fraternity. I belive it is a lot like being part of a team, working together towards a common goal: the sustainability of our economic systems and of our economic activities. And you don’t do that without coordination. Without direction, without sacrifice. Without specific roles. Without some degree of standardization. But nobody expects such a notorious liberal to consider that, of course. Old habits are hard to change.

Community. Model that.

World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty

Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, Human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.

Father Joseph Wresinski