©Deirdre Nansen McCloskey | COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Reply to Carol Graham's response to "Happyism: The Creepy New Economics of Pleasure"

by Deirdre McCloskey
July 26, 2012
Filed under editorials. See also Happyism: The creepy new economics of pleasure"

July 26, 2012

Dear Professor Graham:

I just came across your reply in the Brookings site to my piece on Happyism. I do not know if there is a way for people to comment in public. I would be glad to do so at greater length. But briefly here (which you are welcome to reprint or to answer or to chat with me privately about):

1.) You in fact agree with me, sometimes emphatically in CAPITALS. So it is unclear why you are so vexed about the piece. For example you agree with me that the study of happiness is a good idea (thus my praise for Mike Cz., among others). What exactly in my piece do you think is wrong?

2.) You do not acknowledge the main point late in the essay, which Mike and other sensible and educate psychologists have long emphasized, that humans have been writing about what constitutes happiness for 3000 years. The much trumpeted reply that We Now Do Science is therefore unjustified. Do you acknowledge that a serious student of human happiness should study the humanities, too?

3.) The publisher's description of your recent book asks, "how best to measure and quantify happiness? While scholars have developed rigorous measures of well-being that can be included in our statistics-as the British are already doing-to what degree should we use such metrics to shape and evaluate policy, particularly in assessing development outcomes?" If this is really your question, to which you would accept the possibility of the reply, "No, we should not use such metrics, and the British should stop," I commend you, and refer you to the last third of my piece. If your idea of "rigorous measures" is to use ordinal and categorical data just as though they were cardinal and absolute, then you are missing the main point of the first third of my piece---a point that you and I were taught in intermediate micro, and which remains true: one can't. Unless you can give a reason why one could make a thermodynamics from surveying people about "hot," "warm," and "cold" days, and can explain how your personal happiness is on the same scale as mine, you have not responded to the chief criticisms. Do you have a response?


Deirdre N. McCloskey