easier, not better. also happiness headbands.

Hello, readers.

We often confuse easier/cheaper/faster with better. We often confuse hard/expensive/slow with better, as well. We are, generally, confused about how to better. Happily, very soon, we will all be capable of wearing headbands that will let us know when we’re happy and that should take care of that.

Here are some good things to read.

The Bad Economics of Bad Coffee

But you get my point. For just the cost of the Keurig machine itself, you could have a cup of really good coffee every weekday morning for a year (260 days) and still have 46 cups leftover. Or, if you bought Seattle’s Best Coffee for about $6/bag, you could make over 440 cups of coffee, and you’d be even better off.

I was an undercover Uber driver

With the lower fares, drivers need to drive more to make the same amount. Anybody at any job would be pissed if their boss declared that they would now be working longer hours for no extra money. But for Uber drivers, who bear the entire cost of maintaining the cars, more driving also means more expenses.

This is often overlooked, because driving a car you own feels like it has no cost. But it’s not free — there’s gas, but also the less visible cost of just owning a car and driving it to death. I’m surprised to find, after running the numbers (you can check my math online), that the cost of driving my car for Uber came to a surprising 51 cents per paid mile. My expenses and depreciation ate 19 percent of my pay.

What would you pay to be happy?

When the 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham suggested that maximising happiness was the job of government, he inspired a quest to measure happiness that continues today. Until recently, the only effective tool for that – as the political scientist Will Davies explains in a forceful new book, The Happiness Industry – has been money. The value of an object is determined by how much people are prepared to pay for it. The unpleasantness of a job – grave-digging or rubbish collection – can be measured in how much people need to be paid per hour to do it. Governments use these “happiness-measuring” principles.

When the US courts were trying to assess what the oil companies should pay for the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster, which contaminated a swathe of Alaska, they asked a sample of US households what they would be “willing to pay” for the accident not to have occurred. The answer – an average $31 a household – was used to help calculate Exxon’s ultimate fine. The neo-liberal economists who have driven conservative political philosophy for 50 years like the simplicity of reducing human feeling to monetary considerations. But the method was clumsy when used to measure abstractions such as emotion. However, with the rise of the science of behavioural psychology, another tool came forward. Economists, anthropologists and psychologists joined forces in the 1990s, spurred on by the interest of business and politics.

Sometimes I wonder if the march of history is a march towards convenience and efficiency? And if this march, by definition, might be inhuman? A march towards our own obsolescence, to humans doing as little as possible, but then I think, no, that’s just confused thought, because the same march that takes us to doing less in some areas tends to take us to doing more in others, such as travel through space. Space travel not being terribly possible if one is spending most of their time attempting not to die from the bitter winter wind.

Happy Tuesday, readers.

Spend your attention with care.