[文摘] Book Review: The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn From the New Research on Well-Being

Source Link: Joy to the World by By ALAN WOLFE

前言:這是一篇紐約時報上由 Alan Wolfe 寫的書評。我將原文貼上,除畫線外不做任何更動,但會在段落間插入自己的中文摘要和議論。

Derek Bok, THE POLITICS OF HAPPINESS: What Government Can Learn From the New Research on Well-Being 262 pp. Princeton University Press. $24.95

Excerpt ‘The Politics of Happiness’ (pdf) (princeton.edu)

Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda at the University o...
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Economists, especially those who cross the disciplinary boundary into psychology, have recently begun informing us about what makes people happy. The American political system, as Thomas Jefferson memorably declared, seeks among its three objectives the pursuit of that very thing. The conclusion seems self-evident: Apply what psychology teaches us to the way the system works and the achievement of a good society will be one step closer.

Such, in brief, runs the argument of “The Politics of Happiness,” Derek Bok’s new book. Eighty years old this March, Bok, since retiring from the presidency of Harvard University in 1991, has become a prolific author and commentator, addressing vital issues like affirmative action, nuclear weapons and problems of governance. In all his books, he writes out of a commitment to social improvement, with a realistic ability to separate the possible from the utopian. We have, alas, all too few wise people in our media-saturated and celebrity-driven public life. Derek Bok is one of them.

  • The Politics of Happiness 是前哈佛大學校長 Derek Bok 在2010年他年屆八十之際所寫下出版的作品。自從 1991年卸下哈佛大學校長職務以來,他成為一位活躍的思想家和社會評論家,舉凡教育、核能、移民、多元種族、健保、家庭、政府與公民制度,都是他關心的話題。他的思想已經集結為許多書。

Wise Bok may be, but persuasive, at least in this book, he is not. For Bok’s argument to work, two conditions have to be met. One, empirical in nature, is that the findings of the economic psychologists must be shown to be trustworthy. The other, a normative issue, requires a demonstration that happiness is indeed something government ought to maximize. “The Politics of Happiness” satisfies neither one.

  • Bok 難能可貴的,是他的改革建議比起社會主義和左派的烏托邦聽來實際的多,人也不缺想法。然而,這本書卻可以被視為是一本無法達成目標的失敗之作。原因有兩點。
    • 第一。太強調社會心理學對成功個人和成功社會的定義。然而,這些經濟心理學的研究調查的可信度和應用方式都恐怕不如他想見中的高。畢竟學者要混飯吃,就需要推出新見解。學者很有可能為了攫取社會關注而故意呈現新奇、聳動、反傳統認知的結論。這使得它們不可盡信。如果要倚靠這些研究成果來修訂公共政策的話,更須謹慎鑒察。例如「賺得錢多不見得更快樂」這一研究結論,就容易導致「財富與幸福感無正相關」的誤解。
    • 第二。對於為何「盡力使人民感到幸福是政府的責任」,Bok欠缺更基礎的哲學證成(根據)。

Happiness research,” Bok writes, “is most interesting when its results challenge conventional wisdom about what people want,” citing as an example the finding that societies experiencing higher incomes are not necessarily happier. It is certainly true that unexpected findings are interesting. But this does not make them reliable. On the contrary, the path to academic fame lies in challenging conventional wisdom, which means that researchers have an incentive to come up with attention-grabbing results. The entire field of behavioral economics — the term used to describe the intersection of economics and psychology — has about it a maverick temperament, as if its practitioners are determined to disprove the silly notion that people know what is best for them. We ought to be skeptical of any findings trumpeted so insistently as ­counterintuitive.

Such skepticism is especially warranted when matters of public policy are at stake. It is one thing for a social scientist to be wrong, for other studies will most likely discover what is right eventually. Basing a public policy on an incorrect finding, by contrast, sets it in concrete. Because it is difficult to pass laws under our political system — and next to impossible to repeal them — we need real certainty before we allow experiments in the lab to become experiments in ­governance.

To be sure, Bok is aware of this difficulty and urges appropriate caution; he is neither an unreconstructed utilitarian seeking to maximize pleasure whatever the consequences nor a brave new worlder in search of nirvana. But his very care raises the question of why we need behavioral economics to begin with. Bok’s actual policy recommendations — promoting greater equality, helping to stabilize marriage and the family, improving public health — require no presumably paradigm-shattering science to back them up. They are the stuff of moderate liberalism and have been with us since the Victorians. Even Bok’s most radical recommendation — abandoning our fetish with economic growth — has its roots, as he himself recognizes, in 19th-century thinkers like John Stuart Mill.

  • 事實上,Bok的政治光譜接近「第二現代」的溫和自由主義路線:捍衛平權、穩定家庭價值、支持全面改善社會健康福利、甚至倡議會社會放棄「經濟成長」的資本主義神話等等,這些都是在第一現代化時期(維多利亞時期、Mill的功利主義等等)就有被提出過的考量,也是第二現代的左派正在大力重建的。

Libertarians would argue that even if we can establish what makes individuals happy, we should leave its pursuit to them. Bok is no libertarian; government in his view is generally a force for good. Although the danger of paternalism always accompanies that point of view, Bok faces it squarely: lawmakers using the findings of happiness research “are relying on persuasive evidence of what will make constituents happy instead of accepting what people mistakenly think will promote their well-being.” In principle, I find nothing wrong here: democracy is not government by public opinion poll, and legislators have an obligation to do what is right.

At the very least, however, those who appreciate the need for democratic law­makers to do unpopular things ought to distinguish carefully between policies that are vital to the public good and those that are discretionary. Laws and court decisions that promote racial equality or immigrant rights are not always popular but are justifiable because they require us to live up to the ideals enshrined in our history and founding documents. But should government help those who suffer from restless leg syndrome? Bok is genuinely dismayed that so many Americans are forced to live with sleep disorders and believes that helping relieve their pain ought to be one of those things government should take on. Libertarians would see in such a recommendation a nanny state out of control, and they would not be wrong.

  • 然而將 Bok和溫和自由主義者(如 Peter Drucker)區別出來,而使他更導向左派第二現代的,是他一些「大政府」的社會主義主張。例如他認為,好的政府應該有公共福利政策來改善精神緊張性的失眠。這些太過社會主義的想法,實際上是限縮了人們的道德自主性(例如:「憑什麼我不能選擇要不要用自己的納稅錢去幫別人解決他自己的失眠症狀?」),也就損害了自由的價值。
  • 當然,這會是一個複雜且不容易評估的問題。因為有時候,道德上正確的事情就是不容易在一個社會上經民意表決成為主流意見。然而有魄力、有憲法精神的執政者還是應該大刀闊斧,而非只是一味討好民意(例如父權社會下的婦女投票權、受教權;同性戀平權;新移民的綜合社會福利等等)。

Government has the potential to produce happiness, but Americans dislike government. Ever logical, Bok concludes that the state should therefore do more to encourage trust in it. Believing that the public’s attitude toward government is too “extreme” and its judgments of politicians too “harsh,” he also calls for the news media to balance their frequent stories of corruption and inefficiency “with accounts of success and accomplishment in order to give an accurate picture of the government’s performance.” It may be true that Americans are too skeptical of government for their own good. Yet something tells me that such Mugwumpish ways of trying to overcome the problem will only make matters worse. Americans are most certainly misinformed. Dumb they are not.

  • 為了讓政府更有魄力和效率地執行這些非主流政策,Bok認為人民對政府的信任度必須提升。目前世界各國及地區政府中(美國、中國、臺灣、香港、馬來西亞、印尼)多數情況是,「人民對政府極端地不信任」。這是由於媒體太過注重在「揭弊」這樣的「監督」工作。因此Bok一個駭人的建議是:媒體要多報報政府的好事,例如他們的施政績效和成就等等。這邊我就留給各位評估兩件事:第一,Bok所提倡的「平衡報導」到底和所謂的「河蟹、洗腦、意識型態宣傳」該怎麼樣劃分?第二,自由民主社會下的人民,有那麼容易受到媒體的洗腦嗎?單靠媒體揭弊或媒體的褒讚,能在多少程度上挽救或摧毀人民對政府的信任?
Robert R. Livingston
Rousseau flipping the power table

One final policy recommendation Bok makes struck me as particularly inappropriate. I am not sure any behavioral economist has studied the issue, but my guess is that reading “Othello” or “Crime and Punishment” does not make one happy. Bok wonders whether our colleges and universities ought to do more than just assign such materials, no matter how great their literary merit. We need to teach students to appreciate more fully what makes them happy. So let’s teach them . . . happiness research. “A number of colleges are doing just that,” he notes, without any apparent dismay. “Indeed, if interest in Great Books courses has declined, the opposite is true of offerings by behavioral scientists on happiness.” I’d rather have sleepless nights.

  • 最後,Bok認為大學中應該在鼓勵學生讀文學經典之外,開一些探索幸福人生的課程。既然現在大學生已經不喜歡讀經典了(而且讀經典並不太會使人感到幸福快樂。按照亞理士多德對「悲劇」的看法,讀這些作為經典的著作目的在於使人的心靈被陶冶、靈魂得到煉淨與昇華。那些與伊比揪魯學派的快樂主義要追求的幸福顯然還是不同的。)

The flaws in “The Politics of Happiness” do not flow from any designs on the part of its author to put one over on us. Bok is always straightforward, honest and well intentioned. It is to his credit that he follows his arguments to their conclusions even if those conclusions expose the flaws in his arguments. He is right to search for a more positive view of the American purpose. To achieve that, however, we need far more than behavioral economics. Maybe we could start by reading more Plato.

  • 總之,行為學派的經濟學、心理學家所設定的那種「幸福感」,真的就是當代政治社會共同體和個人所要追求的一切嗎?我們不如重新回到柏拉圖來開始思想這個問題。

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