Can Emphysema Buy Happiness?

Sharone Stone SmokingHow much is your happiness worth? Can you put a dollar amount on it? I can on mine.

$6.25. That’s the cost of a Butterfinger shake at vegan fast-food haven Blossom du Jour. Seriously, it’s better than porn. Of course, Uncle Sam’s sales tax chips away at my joy, but then, who said the government was ever in the business of happiness?

The government did, in fact, when not long ago it released its latest proposed tobacco regulations. The New York Times reported that the new guidelines included “a little-known cost-benefit calculation that public health experts see as potentially poisonous: the happiness quotient. It assumes that the benefits from reducing smoking—fewer early deaths and diseases of the lungs and heart—have to be discounted by 70 percent to offset the loss in pleasure that smokers suffer when they give up their habit.”

In other words, happy smokers mutate into miserable quitters—at least temporarily after puffing their last plume. Put more simply, the health gains from quitting smoking aren’t as great when balanced against the unhappiness quitters feel.

Put even more simply: What good is not getting emphysema if you’re just going to complain about your good health?

On one hand, it’s nice to see Big Bro considering the happiness of its millions of little brothers. Ultimately, the whole point of government is to ensure the happiness of its citizens, something I especially believe as an advocate of utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest number (an over-simplification of the ethical theory, but you get the point).

Plus, the U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. By now, we all know that tobacco kills the first part of this trifecta, is an impetus for debate around second, but we rarely—if ever—think about smoking in terms of the third.

Well, the government’s been thinking, and some say thinking about it all wrongly. Continue reading “Can Emphysema Buy Happiness?”

Privacy Is Overrated

Recently, I asked a friend how much he earns.

“None of your fucking business!” he snorted.

Let me be clear: No, I do not deserve to know his salary. He doesn’t need to know mine. Neither of us has a right to view the pay stubs of anyone (other than a relative handful of business and government officers). Still, I wish he would’ve told me.

Lock and ChainI asked out of curiosity, like when I once asked the same friend, “What ever happened to that one calorie that Diet Coke once advertised?”

“None of your fucking business!” he screamed back.

No he didn’t. However, when pressed about why he’s so secretive about his earnings, he responded like most people do: “Because you don’t need to know that.” Why? “Because it’s personal.” So? “You don’t need to know such personal details.” Why not? “Because they’re personal.”

Let’s leave the carousel of kindergarten babble behind. This is not about money. This is not about a right to privacy. It’s about why you choose to exercise that right to begin with.

Too many of us are too private. Continue reading “Privacy Is Overrated”