14 Mar An article on the interesting intersection of happiness, economics and politics
Check out this interesting article exploring the role of happiness in political and econcomic policy decision making…
The Happynomics of Life from the NY Times (by Roger Cohen)
The Brits don’t go in much for happiness. Stiff upper lip is more the thing, and a good laugh if warranted. Trying to be happy just seems like piffle to a practical people. Undeterred, Prime Minister David Cameron has decided to create a national happiness index providing quarterly measures of how folks feel.
His foray into “happynomics” has prompted a deluge of criticism — “woolly-headed distraction” was a mild commentary — at a time when Brits face a year of cuts in everything from public-sector jobs to child benefits. The consensus seems to be that Cameron is going touchy-feely because in reality he’s wielding an ax.
That may be so. But the case for trying to measure the happiness of a society, rather than its growth and productivity alone, has become compelling. When Western industrialized societies started measuring gross domestic product, the issue for many was survival. Now most people have enough — or far more than enough by the standards of human history — but the question remains: “What’s going on inside their heads?”
Little that’s good, it seems. Stress has become the byword for a spreading anxiety. This anxiety’s personal, about jobs and money and health, but also general: that we can’t go on like this, running only to stand still, making things faster and faster, consuming more and more food (with consequent pressures on prices); that somehow a world of more than seven billion people is going to have to “downshift” to make it, revise its criteria of what constitutes well-being.
Just what goes into well-being is confounding. Many of the variables — like love and friendship and family relations — are hard to pin down. But British research has suggested that money itself does not confer happiness, although wealthier people tend to be happier; that employment is critical to self-esteem; that women tend to be happier than men; and that people need something beyond the material for fulfillment.
Starting next month, the government will pose the following questions and ask people to respond on a scale of zero to 10: How happy did you feel yesterday? How anxious did you feel yesterday? How satisfied are you with your life nowadays? To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
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