It’s easy to disagree about all manner of things. Is beer the best drink in the world, or just one of the best? Are tax cuts good or bad for society? Do socks really have to match? But when we argue about complicated or emotional subjects, we often talk past each other- especially when we start the conversation having already reached our own conclusion about the “right” answer.

It seems to me there are two ways to address the unresponsiveness of these conversations. We can do the hard work of overcoming our entrenched conclusions so that debate is truly open and so that the best ideas really can win the day. Which we all basically stink at.

Or we can try building up to conclusions by starting from consensus. Using this approach, it’s not always clear what conclusions we’ll reach- we may even reach conclusions about questions we didn’t even know we were asking. But it does presume that we get there together. It also presumes collaboration and mutual understanding, which we could all use a little more of right about now.

My interest, in The Happitalist website/podcast/blog/cult, is to explore the intersection between work, wealth, and well-being. In the interest of consensus-building I’m starting by stating three premises that I believe to be non-controversial but crucial- and three constraints designed to make the ideas of Happitalism accessible- and persuasive- to all.

Then we’ll see what interesting insights may flow from these premises.

Here are the fundamental premises:

  1. Given the choice, all other things remaining equal, everyone would prefer to experience more well-being rather than less. I call this the "individual premise."

  2. All other things remaining equal, we prefer social systems that deliver more well-being rather than less. I call this the "societal premise."

  3. We’re all going to die. I call this bummer the "terminal premise."

The individual and social premises say we should maximize well-being for ourselves and our neighbors. The terminal premises says we better hurry up about it.

Here are the constraints:

  1. Happitalist recommendations will be rooted in science: economics, positive psychology, research (and, occasionally, conjecture informed by science). This is the “science constraint.”

  2. Happitalist recommendations will be emanate from the self-interest of the practitioner. This is the “altruism constraint." The first two constraints are designed to help persuade the skeptic.

  3. Happitalist recommendations will not resort to supernatural justifications. This is the “secularity constraint." This constraint is designed to preserve our opportunity to persuade people of all faiths (and of no faith).