Morning Joe | February 08, 2013
>> welcome back to " morning joe ." "fortune" magazine's assistant managing editor leigh gallagher along with economics columnist for "new york times" magazine, adam davidson . adam has an article in the upcoming issue of "the new york times" magazine on how money changes everything. it does, does it? is he writes in part this. let's see. broadly speaking, the data now indicates that as people get richer, they report getting happier too. though it's not quite that simple. poor people in poor kcountries are not unhappy simply because they don't have wads of cash. they are more like hadly to have fewer choices, more children who die in childbirth and other grave problems. and while wealthier nations are generally happier, there is no evidence that an artist would be happier if she became a hedge fund trader. okay. let's pick this apart and break it down a bit because, you know, actually i thought this was fascinating on a trip to india are where i interviewed the guy who created oga and we were talking about happiness and how much there is in india and it goes along the same concept you're talking about here but in other ways then in terms of advancement that's where problems come into play in terms of happiness because people have more -- not the ability to solve their problems. solve their health problems, for example.
>> the sta ttistics show, i hate to say it, india is way less happy than the u.s., europe, or other wealthier nations.
>> statistical surveys.
>> tell me your surveys. i think money can clutter people.
>> no question --
>> people who have money seem more like their lives are complicated.
>> and we're talking broad national averages, not talking individuals. i grew up in greenwich village and made everyone go out and maximize their income by working as wall street traders they would be very miserable and there's probably a lot of people on wall street who would be happier doing something other than work on wall street . this is an obsession of psychologists and there's this big world attitude survey, several other organizations do these big surveys they go to people all over the world and they say -- they ask the question a bunch of different ways. the more complicated is imagine a ladder with 0 to 10 rungs and zero is the worst possible life, ten is the best possible life, where are you on that rung? what we see, and i don't think it should be that surprising, people in very poor countries , you know, africa, are very miserable. people in rising but still poor countries like india , china are pretty happy and people in rich countries are much, much happier and that's because our kids don't die as much. we have a much wider range of choices. people in india are subsist enter farmers. they don't have the range of choice. choice can bring anxiety and stress and all the things people in new york deal with but on balance it seems to make people happier to have a range of choices. i think when you hear about what's happening in india right now with women, that tells you, you know, 50% of indians are in really dire straights .
>> isn't there also a nuance to this argument which is the so-called easter land paradox a lot is relative? you're happier -- you might covet a little bit -- as long as you're with your peer group and the people around you, you're happy. there's always going to be, and i think this is playing out all the more when we have this tale of two economies, the middle class is being who will load out and the top 1%. to what degree does relativism play into this whole topic?
>> the big glaring glitch in this whole discussion of more money makes you happier is america right now is, according how you measure, richer than it was in 1973 and we are not at all happier. we and belgium are the two countries of the wealthy world that have not gained in happine happiness commiserate with gains in wealth.
>> if you have the vast divergence, it seems very logical that you would have a lot of discontent, a lot of unhappiness because they are envious in some respects of what's going on. and so for my own personal space , i've been to haiti a couple of times. they are incredibly --
>> i'm going to have to challenge you on that. i spent a lot of time in haiti . they are not.
>> literally, i've been there three times on medical missions . they are incredibly content people. of course they would like to have different lots in life. of course they would like to be in better economic situations, but that's not necessarily -- that seems like a separate conversation then, are you happy with the current situation versus what do you see yourself doing?
>> sam, i'm glad you said this. this is, again, what this gentleman in india was trying to prove to me when i did the "60 minutes" piece on yoga. he introduced me to hundreds of people, hundreds of people in the streets. he made the same argument that there are lots in life much more difficult but their approach to it and their sense of being have more peace.
>> i'm going to --
>> go ahead, push back. by the way, i'm telling you what i was taught by someone who was teaching me as an expert and a guru there and this is not us but you can call me nuts anyway.
>> we do have particular stresses in our world of in infinite option and choice. i go to edmonds on the first floor of this building and i hate to admit it, i could spend hours deciding which shoe. so that makes me stressed out. but, on balance, and this is when you ask people in their own terms, to define it in their own terms --
>> or life satisfaction or how do you evaluate your well-being compared to others? it's asked in lots of different ways, people in haiti and india and most poor kcountries are messably, clearly much less happy as you would expect they would be. and i think it's an american kind of romanticism, this idea that, oh, there's a simpler life, a peasant life, the whole idea of the noble savage that i think there's no basis in scientific data. there's a part of me -- i have a lot of amish friends. i love going and hanging out with amish people and the simpler life. that being said, on balance --
>> have you done data to how religious the society is?
>> that does shift things. religious people are more happy. if we all want to be happy, one economist said we should all become christians who own guns because that is a particularly happy group of people.
>> there's another happy group of people i think is interesting to look at, polar extreme, silicon valley , which is a caldron of wealth and innovation and all that stuff and it is like the unicorns and rainbows out there.
>> wall street may feel beat up on and misunderstood.
>> i feel so bad for them. adam davidson , thank you. very interesting. your piece is online now at new york times.com and will be in this sunday's "new york times" magazine. leigh gallagher, stay with