‘Tis the Season to be ….

… happy!

So I thought I would share my thoughts on how the Irish are faring on this front.

25 replies on “‘Tis the Season to be ….”

What? No video evidence from Irish pubs and parties?
No, seriously, kudos to you folks for your robust attitude in times of crisis! The Irish seem to have an ability to make the best of every situation. That’s a priceless quality that will make them weather all storms. Admirable.

Nice summary. We’ve known for a long time that measures of subjective well-being, life satisfaction, morale, happiness, global quality of life etc etc are all complete and utter rubbish at the aggregate level. These are incredibly stable constructs which tap into culture-specific norms rather than anything useful from a policy perspective. The Cameron move to measure national happiness is a gigantic waste of money but the social scientists who profit from these exercises will keep quiet until the money runs out.

Why is there so little concern with construct validation of measurement tools in economics? Witness the QALY which will never die no matter how many Nobel prizes are handed out to Kahneman etc. It’s all about ‘is this a useful tool?’ rather than ‘what is this actually measuring?’

@Gray, Germany

The empirical lesson from Professor Walsh here is a simple one – and provides an essential lesson for the EuroZone, and for Germany’s poor productivity performance in particular:

#1 Making babies is positively associated with enhanced life satisfaction;

The conclusion is quite simply unavoidable; Ireland is unquestionably the most productive society in the EuroZone.

Gray, what can I say? Deflation, and not inflation, is the most pressing issue to be addressed in the Deutsche public sphere: Enjoy!

Well, David, we Germans are a more easily concerned bunch of people. For instance, we worry about the consequences of indefinite population growth for this planet, which looks increasingly small for over 7 billion humans. So, we decided to do the responsible thing and lead with inaction in producing babies!
Ok, this may have some problematic side effects, even though personally I’m not totally convinced that noisy lil brats are really a source of happiness…

The notion of resilience came up in a recent piece in the New York Review about Pakistan


“As a result, Lieven argues, Pakistan is characterized by structures—military, bureaucratic, social, political, spiritual, judicial—that are profoundly “Janus-faced,” in the manner of the two-faced Roman deity who gazes and speaks in opposite, contradictory directions. These structures, at once predatory and protective, operate to make the country both (frustratingly for reformers) very difficult to change and (bafflingly for forecasters of its demise) remarkably resilient”

Sounds familiar . Is it the post colonial thing?

“with 87 per cent of the population aged 18 and over reporting that their health was either ‘very good’ or ‘good’ in both 2007 and 2010 (Central Statistics Office, 2011b, Table 2).”
If we compared this to the % that are actually “very good” or “good” according to their doctors we might be able to come up with an Irish public positiveness scale.

I think Irish people are more likely than other nations to overestimate their level of happiness in public or in a survey.
It would explain a lot.

A very common answer to the question ‘how are you?’ in Ireland is
‘There’s no point complaining’

Joe Duffy callers aside Irish people seem keep problems to themselves more as they think Irish people don’t want to hear them.


All very noble and altruistic, some might even say lazy … but such inaction is placing an unsustainable burden on the Irish citizens who are now expected to subsidize the feckless human capital shortfalls in Germany, Russia and other parts of Eurasia.

This deficit will need to be seriously, and ruthlessly, addressed at the EuroZone Summit if Germany is to continue to receive gargantuan transfers of human capital from Ireland. This demands action; and I’m confident that the proud women and men in Deutschelande will rise to such a daunting challenge.

#1 Making babies is positively associated with enhanced life satisfaction;

Actually I remember seeing stats saying that men are happier when Single.
It is women that are happier when married with kids.

In Ireland, what the lady wants the lady gets. 🙂


Resilience is innate to the human condition; probably to most life forms.

Otherwise, why would we even bother?: if you think the design of the EZ was flawed – take a look at homo sapiens!

It follows that if resilience is only associated with life-forms – what the heck are we doing trying to keep dead inanimate financial institutions alive? – take another look at homo sapiens!

On Pakistan – imho it is ‘world-view’ and early life socialization, in this case – Sunni Islam – which has many parallels with Catholicism – more in ontological terms – but also strong theological parallels

@David Oh come on, David, don’t predent you folks don’t have fun in making up for the baby shortfall! 😀

No, seriously, imho it’s high time someone comes up with a sustainable plan how to maintain an aging population with zero growth. And it seems we Germans have the highest incentive to implement such a system, out of sheer necessity. Or else in 50 years or so our retirees will have to beg you folks for a living…

I suggest you might look to Japan, where they are taking the aging of their population rather seriously. What they are doing is particularly instructive, because they are trying to avoid relying on the sort of expansion in jobs related to care of the elderly that requires large scale immigration.

@ BeeCeeTee

On Japan, are you suggesting their policy is working?

The political constituency system favours older voters and in recent decades the number of temporary workers has expanded to 35% of the workforce who earn less than the Irish minimum wage.

– – not s situation conducive to increasing the birth rate.

Japan is a modern country that is also backward.

@ Gray, Germany

The number of German children has fallen 14% in a decade.

Some content here but its a subscription service:


The correlation between the shareholder ratio and the fertility rate comes to 0.39 (the deviation from the mean, respectively). If Japan, which has an extraordinarily high shareholder ratio because of its institutional peculiarities, is excluded from the analysis, the correlation rises to 0.65.

National risk preferences are a topic addressed in the World Values Survey which asks almost identical representative questions to participants from more than fifty countries. Among other things, people are asked to compare themselves with a person “to whom adventure and taking risks are important.” For 18 OECD countries, the answers to this question (ranging from “very much like me” to “not at all like me”) show a correlation of 0.65 with the fertility rate (respective deviation from the mean)

Japan and Germany show the lowest propensity by far to take risks and also come in at the lower end of the fertility scale, together with Russia.


I’m available to provide tutorials in DeutscheLand!

Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at The Frankfurt School

Oh Happy Days in the LebensWelt 😆

This piece reminds me of being trapped in the old “think tank”.

“In summary, there is no firm evidence that the current high level of unemployment has resulted in an upsurge in the incidence of serious psychiatric problems in the country, while the unemployment rate appears to affect suicide rates only in one or two male age groups and its influence has diminished during the current recession.”

Well I’ll be damned! There was I thinking the country was becoming more dysfunctional by the day!

Not too sure I can take any comfort from the fact that unemployment is not causing serious psychiatric problems to surge. In any event, why should I expect any major link between psychoses and unemployment. Neither do I take too much comfort that it is predominantly younger males that are killing themselves. Is it a coincidence that it is predominantly younger males I meet on the street carrying slabs of alcohol back to where they live.

Alcohol abuse, obesity, diabetes and ordinary common gardener versions of depression are everywhere in Ireland. I don’t think the 460,000 people depending on unemployment benefits can be too cheerful or optimistic about their situation can they? Especially listening to Enda the other night telling them it would take several years to create jobs in any meaningful quantity. Then I suppose they can always perk up and but a one way ticket out of the country. Why are so many old people complaining about ESB and gas bills, not to mention that carers only being allowed to come on 2 days a week now as opposed to 5 days previously? Well I guess they will just have to get their winter coats on in the house, and get their act together!

Maybe my problem is that I am not looking in statistics and standard deviations for explanations to the heterogeneous problems I see. That must be the explanation for my false negative.

Am I the only one that notices alcohol abuse in Ireland is at epidemic proportions? That drugs of every hue and description being sold, through the infamous “head shops”, until dealers started burning them down, are now back on the streets? The closure of head shops only interrupted the supply of such drugs.

We have twice as many people dying from suicide than car crashes but we know that many car crashes are alcohol related or suicides too. There are thousands of people queueing up for uppers in every GP surgery in Ireland. Then there is homelessness. What about the 40,000 people in serious trouble with their mortgages, hardly a recipe for happiness? Then another 100,000 loans have had their terms altered in some way or other to can kick the problem.

Seem, none of this has permeated as far as the Belfield campus. Well thank God for that!

@David I’ll look into the birth statistics in Frankfurt to check if you’re single, uh, ‘handedly’ sabotaging our zero growth policy! 😀

@Michael Thx for the info. Ha, so I’m a typical German, with my opinion that kids are risky! 😀

Otoh, there’s this saying “no risk, no fun”. Hmm, maybe I should give it a try once…

No, I’m not suggesting that the little bits of their policy that you have picked to focus on are working.

But the Japanese are doing interesting things to cut the resources required to keep their elderly in comfort and good health.


I doubt very much if that “leak” was designed for domestic Irish audience consumption.:)

@Gray Germany

Not a bother; all within the Principle of Solidarity. Useful conversation as Blind Biddy is considering whether I should sit on her ‘productivity board’. One of the beauties of productivity is that it is interdisciplinary; and before getting into the glories of the LebensWelt, it is only right and proper to fully identify and then to bury, the dead.

Looking around here I see dead and half-dead banks; one bank is on life support to ensure that its debts, albeit itself dead, are fully paid to other half-dead and a few reasonably just alive, banks in your little patch of the EuroZone. As I’m a firm believer in the Glories of The LifeWorld, direct action from the Directions of The Principle of Solidarity is unquestionably the most expeditious route to burying all our dead debts. Spose I could advise biddy on the beauty of the Arabic innovation of Zero, and that there exists very strong empicial evidence from numerous longitudinal studies under various developing civilizations, that it is a wonderful point of departure in addressing the glories in the europen lifeworlds.

@ Brendan Walsh

A very interesting read.

I’m sitting in the Fishamble office, looking at the lights on at the Central Bank – they seem to be working all hours again, perhaps sorting what the new ECB rules mean for Ireland.

Anyway, I’ve just finished reading 1,703 plays written by members of the public for our Tiny Plays for Ireland project. It’s a word count about as big as ‘War and Peace’. It is highly subjective of course, but as part of the brief was to write something you thought the public should hear about, I can certainly say that the ‘Irish Times’ reading public is greatly concerned with suicide, emigration, employment, debt, homelessness, domestic violence and mental health issues amongst many others.

In fact, what I think I’ve just read is a kind of dramatic snap-shot of where the Irish psyche is at the moment. It acts an odd sort of data-base of concerns and insights. If it is any use I can work out a way to pass this on as some kind of record of where people’s minds are at.

Perhaps you should find a permanent home for those plays when you are finished with them. I’m sure there’s a US university that would be glad to add them to its collection if no one in Ireland is interested.


It won’t tell us anything about how much more or less ‘happy’ we are than other nations but there is no answer to that question because it’s a silly question. I’d love to see some kind of synthesis of these plays, it will tell us far more than surveys.

seafóid Says:
December 8th, 2011 at 12:40 pm
Do you think Ireland qualified as a colony? Colonies don’t elect representatives to the national legislature.
More a province.
Now the status of countries in the Eurozone…


Yes – the collection represents a hermeneutic reservoir moment in time and space; hence, it must contribute to the Aesthetic Turn in various disciplines and thinking around here.

Met Eireann, of course, has a 75 year start in such thinking … and I’ll tell you – they’ve bate the economists hands down. Any chance of a fine day tomorrow please? I think we should send Evelyn over to sort out Europe – then we would all have a much better and reliable sense of tomorrow, confidence would boom, and glorious growth would emerge over Europe …

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