21 May The Secret to Happiness? Who Knows?
Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks’s new book, “Gross National Happiness,” advances the provocative hypothesis that conservatives are happier than liberals: “Political conservatives take the happiness prize hands down.” Why? For one thing, they are more likely to be married, which generally correlates with happiness. (Although having children does not.) Also, they are more likely to be religious, which, Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens/Sam Harris notwithstanding, has its own rewards.
More to the point, conservatives like things the way they are. The status quo is perfectly all right with them, although the status quo ante would be even better. Haven’t you noticed that right-wing lunatics like Rush Limbaugh affect a jolly, contented tone, while left-wing lunatics like Al Franken always sound angry? Look at our current president: distanced, out of it, but smugly satisfied with his disengagement. It may be that his last day in office will be the happiest day of his life. Ours, too.
What is it with happiness, anyway? It’s like being thin; everybody wants it, no one can have it. Happiness, of course, is the animal that disappears in the pursuit. “Those only are happy,” John Stuart Mill wrote, “who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.”
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