Hollinghurst Wins Booker

I'm delighted to see that Alan Hollinghurst has been awarded the Booker Prize for his new book The Line of Beauty. Hollinghurst is one of my favorite authors, his Swimming Pool Library being one of the most exquisitely written novels I've ever read. I hadn't known he had a new novel out, and I'm excited to read it.
[NB: If you buy Hollinghurst novels from Amazon, Amazon will infer that you like “gay” novels. Not that there is… you know.]

[Link via Marginal Revolution.]

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

12 thoughts

  1. It seems to me that it might be desirable to add just one more acronym to the vocabulary. If “longtime significant other” is too much of a mouthful, why not shorten it to LSO?
    Some people think that this is a reference to the London Symphony Orchestra, but no harm would be done. A longtime significant other might actually prefer to be referred to as “my orchestra” than as “my partner” or “my colleague plus”.

  2. I always thought how we spend our wealth mattered more than income. If you make $200,000 per year and are mortgaged to the hilt, you experience none of the “options” in life that Ms. Stevenson discusses. If you keep your debts low, you can experience the flexibility and control that is so necessary to happiness. Rather than concluding simply that more money is better, I’d be interested in a study that provides some specific guidance as to how to best spend/save our money to maximize happiness

  3. It is truly sad that many people in the USA have lost so much humanity that they need to have more money than their neighbour in order to be happy. An indictment if ever there was one!

  4. This post again reminds me that I really should follow and read more of your writing on happiness more closely, and I intend to get on that soon.
    If you were to take requests, Yglesias style, I’d be particularly interested in seeing a post on where your libertarianism and the findings of cutting edge happiness research might point to different policy conclusions. (I’m also interested in how you might resolve that dilemma, but I’m more interested on what you think that dilemma–if it exists–look like).

  5. Doing better than the next guy buys happiness. At least that seems pretty obvious to my inner adaptionist. I know plenty of unhappy “rich” people.

  6. I have just been thinking..
    there seems to be a tautology in the position of Will’s whole blog. It runs as follows: if we create a society in which money is the most important thing in life, then having more money makes a person happier.
    Of course it does, by definition.
    A more interesting question might be – how can we order society so as to maximise people’s freedom to flourish as human beings and therefore be happy without the artificial and self-defeating goal of wealth maximisation through competetive aquisition?
    Pug – we seem to agree on the obvious truth that economic gain can ‘buy happiness’ – we are adapted to gain reward from competitive success, but this is, of course, not the only source of reward in our lives and since it is typically zero-sum, it is not the most efficient. Allowing all to achieve their potential as human beings – fulfilment through being, rather than having, is positive sum, more productive, more efficient and produces a deeper and longer lasting happiness. I contend that where being conflicts with having, the former should take precedence.
    What do you think?

  7. Someone snarkily, I reply “Why not marry her? Then the answer’s easy, “colleague and wife”.”
    Keith: Or more importantly, can society be so ordered without the cost being unacceptable, and would anyone go along with it?
    It’s easy – as for instance a stereotype hippie might – to say that “people should value being unique and loving and special and not care about money” … but the problem is, money’s so damned useful at arranging for real-world physical and psychological comfort, that it’s going to be Very Very Hard to make people stop valuing it.
    I think you’re conflating Will’s noting that we do live in a society such that wealth can (to a large extent) buy happiness, one way or another, with a “position” that that is therefore Right.
    Is, as we philosophers say, does not imply ought.
    (I am inclined, though I can’t speak for Will, to believe that what we have now is “better” overall than anything someone’s likely to come up with to “reshape society” to be “better” and “less focused on money”. Partly for Burkean reasons, and partly because so far the examples I’ve seen of the alternative have been laughably implausible.)

  8. Thanks for your serious response, Sigivald.
    Will’s blog appears to be normative to me (he seems an enthusiastic fan of cash), which is why I challenge its logic.
    I do agree with you about the present relationship between money and self-reported happiness (in the Anglo-Saxon world anyway). However, I think it is useful and interesting to probe deeper, asking if this is a robust and effective form of happiness (rather than just a distraction from pain). Psychological research (both at individual and population levels) casts doubt on that.
    Yes money is very useful to an individual – the US government has made this so and it therefore appears to me a rather trivial finding.
    You seem to admit supporting the money-centric social order on the grounds that there is no plausible alternative. That’s not a great endorsement, but at least it’s pragmatic. Do we then come to the dismal conclusion that the system which de-humanises its citizens and locks them into a treadmill of acquisitive competition is the best we can make of our world? Do we then relax into a lazy orthodoxy, cataloguing and justifying this? I would rather spend my time searching for a better alternative. Perhaps we only differ because I believe there is a better way to be found and you don’t.
    I would hope to encourage you and other sceptics that signs of hope are everywhere. Many countries are now pursuing policies which actively seek to treat people with respect and encourage their humanity, rather than making them ruthlessly struggle for riches.

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