If you’re happy and you know it…

Recently I cam across an idea, which I thought would be interesting to investigate. I have been living in the north of Germany for the majority of my life and if you live up here, you know that the north tends to percieve itself as more happy than the rest of Germany. There is no real satisfying answer as to why this is, because the general approach of using the income as a rough proxy for happiness is out of line here, for the average net income is below the national average. So we just have to take it at face value.

However another outlier is the below average election outcome of the German right-wing party among the northern states. This caught my interest and I did a bit of research and some data analysis whether there is a correlation between percieved happiness and right-wing support. Checking the percieved happiness level of all the states in Germany (omitting Bremen) against the election outcome shows a clear trend between these factors. You can see the graph below.

What does it mean?

I find this correlation quite interesting. Now, since correlation does not imply causation, we can’t say being unhappy will lead you to sympathise with right-wing politics, or that supporting right-wing politics will leave you with a sinister outlook (even though this is what they try to achieve), however it does show a strong connection between them.

Maybe this trend can give a little insight as to how one can diminish the influence of right-wing support within the nation. Instead of trying to fight fire with fire (or shouting with shouting), we could try to increase the percieved happiness of the entire population and the allure of the right-wing loses its grasp.

So, maybe free yoga for everybody?

The Oligopoly of Everything

If you take a look around and see the amount of choices you have in your everyday life, you might think they are limitless. There seems to be an endless supply of possibilities to choose from, whether it is ice cream, cars, movies or even schools and colleges. However, I do feel like this bouquet of choices is a misconception. If you take a deeper look at things, you won’t find an endless supply of choices, but rather an option from less than five.

Before I go deeper into things, I want to shed some light on the italian scientist, Vilfredo Pareto. He discovered and described an interesting distribution, which is now known as the pareto-distribution. While studying the real-estate ownership in Italy, he noticed that roughly 20% of the population own about 80% of the property. This distribution is found in other aspects of life, as well, for instance in health-insurance, where 20% of the people are causing 80% of the cost, wealth distribution, where 10% own more than 90% of the wealth, and the quality of work output among individuals, indicating that fewer people contribute considerable more than the rest. There is a law underlying human actions, rendering only a few responsible for the majority of something.

Within an economic context the above mentioned principle is referred to as an oligopoly. Contrary to the conception of having an unlimited reservoir of choices, I believe we only have an oligopoly of choices. Below is an uncomplete list illustrating the concept for a lot of subjects.

  • Crops (wheat, oats, maize, rice)
  • Farm Animals (cattle, pigs, chicken, sheep, goats)
  • Pets (dogs, cats, hamster, guinea pig)
  • Trees (pine, spruce, beech, oak)
  • Cell Phones (Apple, Samsung, Huawei)
  • Cruise Ships (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian)
  • Lemonade (Coke, Pepsi)
  • Fast-Food (McDonald’s, Burger King)
  • Beer (ABInBeV, Carlsberg, Heineken)
  • and many more

A tendency of limiting the available choices to only a few exist. Maybe this has to do with the factor that humans can only process groups of objects of up to five easily. We are not designed to choose from endlessness, even if this is what we are being told everyday.

The False Link between House of Cards and Brexit Politics

UK is in the midst of politcal chaos. Brexit is giving us a never ending encore of the dark abyss of politics. Diluting democracy, arrogance and straight out unforseeableness seem unbearing to us. Wouldn’t it be nice if the world of politics would be more like House of Cards?

House of Cards is suggesting us that politics is indeed a black hole of human interaction, where no friendship or trust can exist. However it also shows us that some key players are able to play the instrument of politics like Mozart knew how to handle his piano. The show tries to tell us that almost all of future events can be foreseen or made happen if you are cunning enough. Everybody is just a pawn and as long as you know the rules of chess, you can become the king and this is where Brexit enters again.

Some newspaper seem to play into this scheme. It seems unbearable to people that this chaos is not intended. So we assume that Boris Johnson planned this right from the start. It was his cunning all along that made the forced pause of the parliament turn into some Tories voting against him, because this in turn would lead to new general elections, where he would obviously emerge as a winner and lead the UK finally to the prospering lands of Brexit. If you take a step back and look at this arguement, you can see the fragility of it. Nobody is able to foresee these events to such an extent, even if we so desperately want it.

This type of reasoning has a communal ground with conspiracy theories, as well. A lot of these theories claim that powerful men (apologies to women, but it is usually men) are living behind a curtain and control our every move and know just perfectly how to manipulate us in order to achieve their goals. It seems easier to a lot of people to accept such a vague arguement than to accept the hard truth, which is: Human interaction is chaos – it always has and always will be and in the midst of turmoil the fog of the future is even denser.

Or saying it with Wittgenstein:

It is a hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow: and this means we do not know whether it will rise.