Comments Without Registration

Because MT 2.3 has considerably better spam controls, I thought I'd experiment in removing the registration barrier for comments.

The new version has a "folder" for comment and trackback spam, and I'm absolutely amazed by the quantity of it. I appear to be getting about one spam comment a minute, but so far, the levee is holding. So we'll see how it goes.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

49 thoughts

  1. Maybe they’re so happy because they know it’s Hie to Kolob in just a few decades. Obscure Mormon theology FTW!

  2. Raivo Pommer
    Die Kapitalabflüsse gestalteten sich in der Branche in Europa und den Vereinigten Staaten allerdings sehr unterschiedlich: Während amerikanische Hedge-Fonds in großem Umfang juristische Sperren nutzten, die eine sofortige Rückzahlung von Anlagegeld an die Kunden beschränkten oder hinauszögerten (Gates), ist dies bei europäischen Hedge-Fonds weniger üblich. Auch gibt es in Europa mehr Dachfonds, in die Privatinvestoren investieren. Diese hatten die erste Kündigungswelle bei Hedge-Fonds im Herbst 2008 ausgelöst. Die Kapitalabflüsse aus Hedge-Fonds waren daher in der zweiten Jahreshälfte vor allem in Europa relativ hoch. Die Mittel europäischer Hedge-Fonds schrumpften nach Einschätzung von Morgan Stanley um 25 bis 30 Prozent.
    In den Vereinigten Staaten beliefen sich die Mittelabflüsse zunächst „nur“ auf 15 bis 20 Prozent. Dies erklärt, warum der weltweite Verband der Hedge-Fonds, die Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA), kürzlich bekanntgab, dass das Anlagekapital der 1200 bei der AIMA registrierten Mitglieder jetzt zum Großteil von institutionellen Investoren gehalten werde und nicht mehr von vermögenden Einzelpersonen, wie dies früher der Fall gewesen war.

  3. Will, I’m not sure you’ll remember, but our first exchanges, years ago, were on money and happiness.
    I thought we agreed then that the big lesson was declining returns on money for happiness?
    (Maybe applicable as knuckleheads say they’ll make sure they earn $248K and not $250K under Obama.)

  4. Note the high degree of overlap between the states with the highest levels of unhappiness and the states in which Obama did worse last November than previous Democratic Presidential candidates.

  5. Is x-axis on the scatter plot adjusted for cost of living? I think that could make a big difference.
    As a Mormon dad myself, I’ll vouch for the fact that the “mommy blogs” can be pretty over-the-top and there probably is a bit of a culture of being (or acting?) happy because you’re supposed to be, but I’d say that’s pretty minimal. However, even if that’s true, I don’t think it necessarily follows that those moms who study physics would be happier as physicists than as moms. I also don’t think that it’s obvious that being a mom is less living up to your potential than being a physicist or any other profession, or that it leads to a “diminished life,” to use your wording. I can’t think of many professions that are as varied as parenting or as rewarding.

  6. Will: Do you have any sense if there’s such a thing as “culture-driven *downward* deflation” of self-reported happiness? Are there any parts of the country where folks would be driven to report or believe that they are (or should be) less *happy* than they are?

    1. I don’t know. There’s pretty good evidence that certain Asian cultures are inclined to under-report happiness, due to norms against saying how good you have it when others may not have it so good. But I’m not sure what the analogue of that would be in the U.S.

  7. The idea that using your physics degree is necessarily more fulfilling than being a mother strikes me as a distinctly male way of looking at things.

    1. The assumption that a “woman’s way of looking at things” involves assigning some inflated value to domestic labor strikes me as a distinctly male way of looking at things.

      1. Where do you see that assumption?
        The statement seems consistent with women assigning an appropriate value to domestic labor. Is it self-evident that a physics career is necessarily more fulfilling than motherhood?
        Sheesh! Women are so defensive.

  8. So do you think, Kerry, that the relative dearth of women’s physicists or the relative propensity of women to forego participation in the workforce in favor of domestic labor is entirely a social construct? If Mormon women weren’t so blinkered by their upbringing, they would be just as likely to see full-time motherhood as a waste of their “potential” as Will does?

  9. The Wellness Index is made up of six components. Two of these, Emotional Wellness and Life Expectation, are roughly self-reported happiness scores that could capture Will’s hypothesized Mormon chipperness. If Will’s right, Utah should score disproportionately higher on these components compared to the other four.
    The data suggest otherwise. The only component on which Utah is above average (conditioned on its overall Wellness Index) is Work Quality. On the rest, including Emotional Wellness and Life Expectation, Utah is average or below average.
    Plots here:

  10. The Mormon women I know (very statistically insignificant sample!) fit this description to a tee. It’s not that they’re miserable and hiding it. It’s more that they seem compelled to present an extremely rosy, cheerful picture in public, while being very hard on themselves for completely understandable negative emotions they might actually feel from time to time–like most of us do. It’s impressive and kinda scary at the same time.

  11. “… the expectations and pressures of Mormon culture lead large numbers of women (and men, but mostly women) to squander their potential and adjust themselves to diminished lives.”
    Is this true of other cultures? Take out “Mormon” and try “academic” or “professional” or “farming” or “arts.” Most cultures have ridiculous aspects that wear on people after a while. How many people who go to law school end up “squandering their potential”? What about people who enter medicine or politics? I think these cultures hardly ever deliver what people hope they will. That’s life.
    The key difference seems to be that Mormons “adjust themselves.” The fact that Mormons gloss over those difficulties and try not to bitch about them too much seems admirable, in a way.
    Nothing’s worse that listening to a rich lawyer moan about how he should have been a novelist. Except maybe listening to a novelist moan about being broke.
    Seriously. Wouldn’t the world be a lot better if everybody just stopped bitching so much? Mormon women make some trade-offs and accept them. I think libertarian-minded folks might find something refreshing in that.

  12. The unofficial Alabama state motto, “Thank God for Mississippi,” appears to still be in effect.
    And that scatter plot has a positive correlation, but not a real impressive one.

  13. I’m a Mormon and I wouldn’t self-report that I’m particularly happy these days. I work too much in a high stress sector living in a cost of living metropolitan sector and studying 20 hours a week on top of that. Our family has 3 kids (a new baby) and is building a house which is pretty stressful too (and strangely satisfying). As for my faith, I’m doing it but would like to make some personal adjustments to live it more fully.
    All that said, the happiest periods of my life have been when I was living my Mormon faith to the fullest…and yes, I felt pretty chipper.

  14. If you read about how they determined “happiness”, you’ll find that they include the following factors:
    # Affordable fruits and vegetables
    # Enough money for food
    # Enough money for shelter
    # Enough money for healthcare
    # Visited a dentist recently
    # Have health insurance
    So they use wealth as a metric of happiness, and you take the result to mean that there is a correlation between happiness and wealth…

    1. This is correct, and I missed this, misled by the NYT piece. I know Richard Florida’s team is running the regressions with just the life satisfaction and emotional wellness measures, and I’ll point you to his results if he makes them available online.

  15. Strictly speaking, all that data shows (I am not aware of what other studies have to say, though) is that people who live in rich states report themselves as happy on average, which is not the same thing.

  16. I’m a native of Utah, a fifth generation Utahn, and I can testify that a key element of the Utah ethos is cheerfulness. Kvetching is discouraged; children are scolded for it. Expressions of niceness and cheerfulness are regarded as tonic whether they are genuine or faked. There is general discomfort with ‘airing dirty linen.’ To undertake the kind of psychotherapy that would be routine in New York, and to discuss its discoveries, is met with uncomfortable silence in Utah. It is a state in which nobody sings the blues.
    Since this study is based on self-reporting, I suggest that an equally valid conclusion that might be drawn from its findings is that Utah is the state where residents are least likely to complain.
    BTW, I had “issues” with Utah, moved away for good in 1986 and never looked back.

  17. I clicked on (very happy) Hawaii and discovered that they rank 50/50 in work-related happiness, but they crush the competition on all other measures. Do people in tourist-industry jobs hate them? I wanted to explore more, but can’t seem to disengage from HA–but hypothetically you can put different happiness measure filters on the country or states.

  18. adrianblake – Omaha – Boston, New York, London, LA, Omaha. SNL, Comedy Central, McKinsey, Progressive Farmer, Startups.
    adbomaha says:

    Are Mormons uncool? By the standards of many, yes. But is it possible that being uncool correlates positively with happiness? The whole concept of being cool depends on being motivated by the reactions of others to your adaptation to shifting standards. (What was cool 5 years ago is not cool today) And wouldn’t it be reasonable to believe that happiness correlates positively with living up to unchanging values?
    I may not agree with everything the Mormon Culture values, but it’s entirely reasonable to believe that living the way they do could offer better returns to happiness than living in Greenwich Village (or Greenwich, CT) and trying to keep up with the Joneses.

    1. Mormons do the whole keeping up with the Joneses thing than most people realize. Up until recently bankruptcy rates were VERY high in Utah. Having a big SUV to drive around and a nice big house is very much a part of Utah Mormon culture for many (not all, but many).

  19. Will
    I think you have missed the point with your graph of happiness against wealth. The point is not that being richer doesn’t make you happier – it is that absolute wealth doesn’t make you happier (above a certain minimum line). If the income of West Virginia doubled over the next 5 years but the income of the rest of the USA tripled, you wouldn’t expect to see people getting happier in West Virginia.
    The upshot of this is that if you want more happy people you should focus on inequality rather than absolute wealth. Obviously there are also non-income related factors. But i liked the bit about the Mormons

  20. Haha, I’m Mormon and grew up in Salt Lake City, and there’s definitely some truth to your comments about Mormon Mother blogs. The top student in several of my pre-med science classes at BYU was a girl who decided to get a master’s degree in biochemistry, rather than pursuing a PhD or MD, specifically because she felt that would be more compatible with her primary responsibility of motherhood. The few girls I knew who were planning on med school had all had the experience of friends, family, or church leaders questioning their priorities in pursuing such an “obviously” motherhood-unfriendly career, instead of something more appropriate like nursing (people forget that a doctor can work 20 hours per week and make twice as much as a nurse working full time). As a result, the nursing school at BYU was extremely competitive, filled with girls with stellar academic records, most of whom could easily have gotten into medical school if they’d applied.
    That said, I’ve known Mormon women who were outstanding neuro-ophthalmologists, toxicologists, pediatric surgeons, academic professors, etc, and were phenomenal mothers at the same time.
    After spending the last ten years on the East Coast, I agree that people in Utah are happier. They are much less neurotic than easterners, and are almost completely free of the strange, obsessive fear of being “disrespected” that seems to dominate the lives of so many in the East Coast cities where I’ve worked.

  21. My Mormon sister has a graduate degree and works as a stay at home wife and mother (disclaimer: I am no longer LDS.) One day she told me that no matter what happens to her, she just tries to keep a “happy face” because that’s what her Father in Heaven has commanded. I guess that as a child she interpreted “If you chance to meet a frown” as scripture, not just a silly primary song.

  22. I don’t get it, you would think that the weather would have something to do with it to. You would think there would be a north south divide also. Sun = Vitamin D = Happiness.
    There are two reasons why this could be happening:
    • Those who live in the sun have become immune to the Vitamin D from the sun
    • Those in colder, more wintery places, make up for the happiness when the sun comes out, and appreciates more – also perhaps go on holiday more to the sun, maybe.

  23. Up here in the northeast, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they are living happy lives; in fact, I’ve never said it myself. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of “living in happiness” because it is simply too much of an unquantifiable measurement that can change minute-by-minute. Maybe being an agnostic Catholic points to that kind of thinking, rather than subserviant Mormonism.
    That said, I’ve always been very content at my Connecticut life, as most people around me are, I suspect. I think it’s just common for us evil liberal northeasterners here to complain about many aspects of life to those who visit, but then when asked the inevitable “Why don’t you move?” we say that we still kind of like it here.
    Call it the Woody Allen effect: content to live out life’s miseries, secretly enjoying all thrown our way.

  24. You know, maybe we need to rethink the idea that reported happiness = well-being. You could argue that the people who have it the best also have the highest expectations for satisfaction in their lives, and so report themselves as unhappy. I know I’d rather be a rich, well-educated complainer than a poor stoic. (And I’d rather be a harried scientist than a beaming stay-at-home mom.) The Woody Allen thing is right. As a matter of fact, I think I complain more the better my life is going; when you get a great job offer you feel confident enough to be entitled to complain about the little things.
    That’s an argument for looking at revealed preferences over reported happiness.

  25. Um … y’all are aware that 40% of the population of Utah isn’t Mormon, right? And that Salt Lake’s Democratic mayor makes NYC’s last two mayors look like the gestapo? (And that the 40% is growing daily?)
    A bunch of non-Mormon’s must be awfully happy with their quiet neighbors.
    Also, scientists have shown: complaining makes you sad:
    And pretending to be happy will make you happy:
    Also, if any of you actually KNEW any Mormons, you would discover there is an exceptionally interesting demographic switch that is beginning to occur among older college educated Mormon women who’s children have left home (which they do at a young age). Many are starting careers for the first time and our often OVERLY supported by their husbands. I guess if you don’t smoke or drink, don’t get divorced (a GIGANTIC drain on resources and happiness) and living healthily into your 80s you can do all sorts of things.
    PS: Social researchers please check this out because I have noticed this anecdotely but don’t have stats. And I’m a writer so I’m not gonna do it. 🙂

  26. (yawn) Correlations do not equal causation. Any thoughts on happiness causation without dipping into the logical fallacy of the wealth happiness correlation?

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  28. So very very very late on this, but I have to say as a WOMAN who grew up in Utah (20 years of my 32 spent in that state) that Will’s characterisation of the ideology of happiness being emphasised is far from wrong. I remember countless lessons in church about how one could only be truly happy if one was following Heavenly Father and the correlation was that sin causes unhappiness. When you’ve got that bred into the bone, you are going to have a lot of people who self-select for stating that they are happy. Because admitting otherwise could be admitting to a state of sin. And young women in particular are REALLY REALLY hit over the head with this–women who are given the cookie of approval are those who are happy and smiley and seemingly righteous. If you are sad, SOMETHING must be causing your sadness, and possibly something you are falling short on in life, because righteous people are happy!
    (I can tell you I’m much happier outside of Utah than I was inside of it. But you know, maybe it was all that sinning I was doing inside of Utah. Certainly it couldn’t have anything to do with condescending Priesthood holders telling me that I had natural potential to raise children and should not have a career and that I should get married as soon as possible and have kids without waiting to see if I would be financially stable and that I would know real happiness by having kids.)

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