Here’s a great article to read on Easter weekend. The Secret to Happiness? Giving. It reports a recent study by social psychologist Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia showing that people who donate their dollars to charities or splurge on gifts for others are more content than those who squander all the dough on themselves.
The real question is why this is such a hard lesson for all of us to learn–and remember. I know it’s true for myself. When people ask what I did last year that gave me the most joy, the answer is easy. 1) Being with my daughter Manda the day she had her first child and meeting granddaughter, Isabela for the first time, and 2) helping a group of student build a library in a school for disabled orphans in Llasa, Tibet. (I will write more on both later.) Good days in the market and fancy dinners don’t seem to hold their value.
This is good because there is so much work to do to help other people, both at home and far away from home.
I have been reading a lot of articles in Behavioral (or experimental) Economics and Evolutionary Economics, as well as Cognitive Science, System Theory and Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics. All are much more interesting than so-called modern economics and finance (the neoclassical synthesis). Economics has largely become a church to worship increasingly irrelevant equilibrium theorems rather than challenge old ideas.