Table of Contents

The content below was recovered from archive.org
I discovered the amazing increasehappiness.com website in April 2010. When I went back to read it again, I found it was gone and the domain was for sale. So, I purchased it and recreated this website to help others. If you have questions or feedback please email travis at increasehappiness dot com.

Previous Chapter

8. Affirm Responsibility

Responsibility is the link between the Choices you make, and the Pain associated with those Choices. In some cases, Responsibility is inevitable. When you touch a hot stove, you are burned.

In other cases, people seek to avoid Responsibility as a method to Increase Happiness. Since Happiness depends on the amount of Pain in your life, it makes sense that less Pain would produce more Happiness. But when you try to reduce Pain by Reducing Responsibility, you encounter the PAIN PARADOX.

The Pain Paradox is that even though you don’t want the Pain associated with Weak Choices, you need that Pain to instruct and motivate you to make Strong Choices.

Consider the following examples of Pain you need.
Without the Pain associated with Weak Choices, you might never learn how to make Strong Choices. That Pain is essential for your Happiness, yet some might try to reduce it. In doing so, they risk not only your Happiness, but also the Happiness of everyone.

Junk Help

The Survival Syndrome provides that Survival Desires can both Increase and Decrease Happiness. In this case, the Survival Desire is to Help. The irony is that Helping, a component of Love, can result in Hurting, even to the point of death and war.

Eating is another Survival Desire, yet eating Junk Food can be harmful to your health. We are tempted by Junk Food because it feels good, and the consequences are far off in the future. For the same reasons, we succumb to the temptation of JUNK HELP.

Junk Help is any kind of Help that reduces Responsibility. Like Junk Food, it feels good, and the consequences are dimmed by the Future Factor. Anyone can engage in Junk Help, but the most powerful and damaging examples are caused by Government.

Pain Reduction

Education provides a classic example of Junk Help. Imagine a society where people are more prosperous when they have a high school diploma. The public would naturally pressure educators to increase the number of high school graduates.

The Responsible way for educators to help students graduate would be to teach students how to meet the demands of a rigorous education. Students would be forced to apply themselves, or face the consequences of failure. Students who fail could Choose to pursue alternatives such as careers that provide on-the-job training.

The Junk Help alternative is to simply make it easier to graduate from high school. Standards are relaxed. Classes are watered down. Extra credit is offered for non-academic activities. Educators promote new theories of education which are simply Excuses for failing to educate.

To ensure the number of graduates increases, students are forced by law to attend, even when they would be far more productive at a job, and their presence in school only detracts from the learning of others. To make sure it looks like progress is being made, students are promoted to higher grades even when they can’t read or write.

The Junk Help method is the easy way out. Teachers, students, and parents all face less stress. And it accomplishes the objective -- graduation rates go up because more high school diplomas are handed out.

The problem is: the diplomas are devalued. The true value of a diploma comes from the process of learning how to make Strong Choices. Students who face the possibility of failure are forced to innovate and improvise – they struggle to improve and ultimately educate themselves.

When that learning is diluted, the diploma becomes less than worthless. Less, because not only have the students been deprived of education, but they have been given a false sense of entitlement which leads to disappointment when the world recognizes their failings. The result is a generation of lost productivity and diminished prosperity.

Choice Reduction

In the education example, Pain is avoided by relaxing standards. But some Pains are more inevitable.
Since Junk Help can’t eliminate the Pain from those Choices, the alternative is to eliminate the Choices. Parents can and should prohibit Choices for their children. But when Governments eliminate Choices for adults, the results often backfire because of UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.

A classic example of Unintended Consequences occurred during alcohol prohibition in the United States. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse causes many people to harm themselves and others. Alcohol prohibition, however, caused even more harm.

When alcohol was made illegal, many people felt it was their right to exercise control of their own bodies and choose what they ingest. So they continued to drink alcohol, except they did so illegally. An illegal market for alcohol was born.

Illegal markets are a source of many Unintended Consequences. If someone steals from you during an illegal transaction, you can’t go to the police, or you face prosecution. As a result, conflicts in illegal markets are often solved through violence.

To compensate for the risk of being caught, illegal markets drive up the price of goods, and therefore profits to criminals. Those profits are often used to bribe law enforcement, or finance other criminal activities. Gangs of criminals are free to use force and intimidation against their competitors, none of which can be reported to authorities.

Junk Help in the form of Prohibition launched an era of organized crime that lasted far longer than the Prohibition. Those problems were caused not by the alcohol, but by the fact that the alcohol became illegal. Junk Help failed to stop the problems of alcohol, and it created even greater problems.

Pain Transfer

Junk Help harms the intended recipients, and it also harms those who pay for it. Consider that Governments have no money of their own. Everything spent by a Government must be either denied or taken from its citizens.

Typically, Government takes Wealth from those who are making the Strong Choices required to create Wealth. The more Wealth those individuals create, the more is taken. That transfer of Wealth to Government is an Involuntary transaction.

To the extent that Government requires funding for Junk Help, it removes Pain from people making Weak Choices and transfers it to people making Strong Choices. When you remove Pain from Weak Choices, you encourage Weak Choices. When you transfer the Pain to people making Strong Choices, you discourage Strong Choices.

Any society that encourages Weak Choices over Strong Choices will experience declining productivity, and decreased prosperity. As prosperity degrades, more people will want Junk Help, and fewer people will be able to pay for it. Eventually there will not be enough people making Strong Choices to pay for the mistakes of those making Weak Choices. The ultimate result is often poverty, war, or social collapse.

Alternatives to Junk Help

What about Insurance? Does insurance Reduce Responsibility? Does it allow you to avoid the Pain of your Choices? Depends on who pays for it.

When you buy the insurance you need, you are making a Strong Choice to prepare for potential needs. When someone gives you insurance you have not earned, that is either Charity or a Handout.

What about Charity?
Responsibility requires Choices. Unfortunately, some people are physically or mentally incapacitated, and cannot make Choices. Helping those people is Charity.

Charity is an expression of compassion and Love from one human to another. Contrary to "Scrooge" propaganda, people with wealth are typically generous, but they don't like to waste their money. That's why even the most ardent supporters of Government almost always make their voluntary contributions to private charities, rather than to government programs.

Unfortunately, Politicians take advantage of our charitable instincts by convincing us that Government should be involved. Whenever Government participates in Charity, it is inevitably perverted into a form of Junk Help known as Handouts.

Handouts are transfers of wealth to those who are not physically or mentally incapacitated. They can take many forms: cash, rebates, vouchers, tax credits, tax deductions, tax rates, regulatory exemptions, et cetera. They are routinely granted to the rich for their political contributions and to the poor for their votes.

There was once a stigma associated with Handouts. People didn't want what they hadn't earned. They understood that, except for the truly disabled, we must all pull our own weight or a society will fail.

In modern societies, Politicians have realized they can increase Handouts and hide the costs through either debt or inflation. The Handouts allow them to buy votes which keep them in power and perpetuate the process.

As more and more people take Handouts, the stigma fades. People fear they will ultimately pay the bill, and they feel foolish if they don't get their share of the loot. Eventually it becomes a race to take as much as possible.

What about Profit?
If Government doesn’t solve our problems, won’t people try to profit from them? That question presents two false assumptions.

First, it is a mistake to think there is no profit in Government. Governments employ millions of people who are all trying to profit. As much as anyone else, they want to buy things for themselves, take vacations, save money, and provide for their children.

Second, it is a mistake to think that profit is somehow harmful. Profit is helpful, as long as there is free competition and payment is Voluntary. In other words, as long as the person paying has Choices.

When you have Choices, the only way people get your money is when you Choose to give it to them. If you don't give them your Money, they can fail. That potential Pain of failure gives them helpful feedback, which is to say, it makes them Responsible.

Even non-profit charities benefit from competition. They know if their programs don't work, or they waste too much money on administration, donations will decline. So who doesn't have competition, which is to say, who is not Responsible?

Governments, and government-enforced monopolies, have no competition and no fear of "going out of business." They don't need to meet the needs of anyone because their income consists of Involuntary Transactions. No matter how harmful a Government program might be, you will still be forced to pay for it.

What about voting?
Voting every two or four years for elected officials to make Choices for you is a weak substitute for you making your own Choices every day.

Imagine if you could only decide once every four years:
You need more Choices than that, and you need to be able to switch when things don't work out.

Now imagine if all those choices and many more were all wrapped up into two single alternatives, and those alternatives could change after you choose. There is no chance that you, or anyone else, would be as Happy as possible.

Governments don't typically decide things such as the clothes you wear, but they often spend more money per person than you will spend on everything in the example combined. If Government programs were Voluntary, you could vote every day, by supporting the programs you choose.

What about Perfection?
People who advocate for Government solutions like to imagine a perfect world. In that world, Government eliminates the inefficiencies of competition and profit, and makes the best Choices for you. But when competition and profit are limited, Incentive is also limited. With less Incentive, fewer people make Strong Choices, more people make Weak Choices, and Happiness declines.

And there is limited Incentive within Government. When Government programs fail, they are rarely allowed to die. It's easier to raise taxes.

Because no one has real Responsibility for the cost of Government programs, the inefficiencies of competition and profit are quickly replaced by even greater inefficiencies of waste and corruption. Private enterprises have Incentives to reduce waste and corruption, but there are no corresponding Incentives in Government. The only way to reduce Government waste and corruption is to reduce Government.

Would a world without Junk Help be perfect? Of course not -- people always make mistakes. A world without Junk Help is simply more perfect, with the Incentives for people to Increase Happiness.

Responsibility is the foundation of the human ecosystem.

We have learned that tinkering with an ecosystem can produce disaster. For example, when we extinguish every forest fire, trees that die accumulate on the forest floor. Without the cleansing of natural forest fires, those unburned trees eventually ignite into a fire that is far more catastrophic than the smaller fires that would naturally occur.

People don't always like Responsibility, just like they don't like forest fires, but they need to feel the Pain associated with their own Weak Choices. Trying to "fix" Responsibility ultimately results in a collapse of Responsibility, and society.

Why do we allow it?

Since Junk Help is so damaging, why would any society tolerate it? The answer is that Junk Help is the culmination of many of our Survival Desires.

It starts with Helping. People genuinely want to Help others, but in the same way we gorge on Junk Food, we also indulge in Junk Help. Politicians need us to Survive, and so they frighten us into believing we need them to Survive. They promise great Pleasure for little Pain, which appeals to our sense of Innovation. Optimism causes us to believe that maybe this time the promises will be kept. The celebrity of some politicians might even cause Infatuation.

The costs of government programs are deferred and obscured by the Future Factor. When payment is due, politicians employ Bigotry by promising to help those in your group and punish or tax others. Thanks to Normalization, most voters can't even imagine a different system. At election time, the media focuses on who is ahead in the polls, appealing to your Herding instincts.

And we have the Santa Syndrome.

Santa Syndrome

Many species live in groups to improve chances for Survival, and those groups have leaders.
Humans are also programmed to follow leaders. Leaders can be appointed by force, or chosen by voting. Regardless of how they are selected, they tend to exhibit similar characteristics.

Human leaders are typically powerful figures, traditionally older males, often with flowing white hair and a beard -- symbols of wisdom and virility. Consider the similarities of these icons and leaders.
Human leaders also tend to exhibit common behaviors.
Consider how all of these characteristics apply to Santa Claus.
Of the thousands of myths which have come and gone, why would Santa be among the most enduring? Why do we celebrate a mythical character who gives away gifts to the obedient? The Santa myth survives because it reflects our Instinctive Survival Desire to look for Santa-like leaders.

We tell our children the lie that Santa will bring gifts, the same way we tell ourselves the lie that Politicians will solve our problems. And remember that Santa has no Responsibility. He doesn’t really give away presents. You do. Santa just takes all the credit.

Political Santas are the same. They take all the credit for being great leaders, but you pay for everything. You fight the wars. You pay the taxes. You suffer from the broken promises.

Who are They?

Junk Help is a natural outgrowth of Instinctive Survival Desires. But it produces the worst-case of the Survival Syndrome, with an end result of reduced prosperity, often leading to misery, poverty, and even war. Interestingly, the people involved can be unaware of how Survival Desires are involved.

The process of choosing leaders is similar to how trees are "chosen" to grow in the woods. Trees don’t need to know anything about biology, or soil composition, or groundwater. Trees simply spread their seeds in hopes of finding fertile ground.

Political leaders also don’t need to know anything about Survival Desires. But inevitably, some will appeal to Survival Desires and find fertile ground in our minds. It is our Choice to prepare our minds for trees or weeds.

Who are We?

Some people support Junk Help because they want it. They have been Normalized into believing that Governments should provide jobs, retirement, education, health care, and anything else needed. They have sought the ultimate Santa and have found it in Government. They have a religious-like belief, which is not easily swayed.

Others support Junk Help inadvertently, because they are deceived. They vote for Politicians who advocate Freedom, Civil Rights, and Responsibility. Only later do they learn the Politicians mean: Freedom from Responsibility, Civil Rights to take from others, and your Responsibility for the Choices of others.

Some, perhaps the majority, are either too busy or too lazy to learn the truth. It can be difficult. To get elected, Politicians often blur the facts. But unless we are vigilant, the Survival Syndrome ensures that Junk Help will prevail.

Ultimately, the problem is not the Values of Politicians. The problem is the Values of voters.
You should not simply accept Responsibility. You should seize it. Demand Responsibility for your Choices. Demand that others are Responsible for their Choices. It is the surest way to Increase Happiness for us all. And you should START NOW.



Wouldn’t it be more humane to teach people how to be Responsible, rather than have them experience Pain? Of course teaching is preferable, but some people insist on learning the hard way. The humane choice is to keep Pain as a backup to be sure they have the ultimate Incentive to learn.

Are all Politicians dishonest? Honest Politicians would need to tell voters that Government can not solve all their problems and should not try. Those who do tend to lose elections. We will have more honest Politicians in office when more of us understand the fallacy of Junk Help.

Some people didn't have the benefit of good parents. Why not use the Government to replace what they missed? There are many reasons why people can benefit from legitimate help. The critical ingredient is to make sure the Help comes from Voluntary sources without Government involvement. Government solutions are, by nature, Involuntary and inevitably lead to Junk Help which causes more harm than good.

Continue Reading