‘Empathic Civilization’: When Money No Longer Buys Happiness

‘Empathic Civilization’: When Money No Longer Buys Happiness

The most remarkable thing about this fascinating article is that it’s author is a highly regarded and respected economist! Viva la happiness revolution…

by Lord Richard Layard – The Huffington Post

Competition is lonely. It is good to have it between organisations. Within organisations, though, it may or may not increase productivity, but it does not increase happiness. To extol it is to make a fundamental misjudgment about human nature.

For we are born with a strongly social side to our nature (a homo empathicus), as well as a profoundly selfish side. By the age of two many children will run and comfort another child who is hurt. We are wired up for fellow feeling — when subjects in an experiment watch others put their hands in icy water, their own temperature falls.

We obtain pleasure from cooperation. When subjects in an experiment play the game of Prisoner’s Dilemma, they can either cooperate or not with the other players. If they choose to cooperate, their brains light up in the standard areas that light up after other rewarding experiences. Immanuel Kant was simply wrong in saying that there can be no inner reward from doing the right thing. But the reward only results if the motivation was to do good — you do not get the reward if your motivation was the reward.

So here is my picture of the good society. It is one where, as the Anglo-Saxon Enlightenment believed, there is the most happiness and the least misery. And we get there because every individual believes just that, and acts to promote it. Young people grow up aspiring to produce the most happiness they can in the world. And, because they do, others benefit and at the same time they themselves get the internal rewards from doing good. This is the empathic civilisation.

Find out more about how happiness can help us build a more civilised society – click here