Should government promote happiness?

This topic is rather “off the beaten path” for Vicksburg Speaks, but should nevertheless be of interest to the citizens of Vicksburg and Warren County. Thanks to Harry Schultz for some of the near-quotes, and to the BBC for their research and their series, “The Happiness Formula.”

Scientists claim they have now learned how to measure an individual’s happiness. Happiness has been shown to increase longevity (by 9 years, according to one study!), improve health, reduce stress levels, etc. It follows, then, that a wise and compassionate government would measure and promote happiness. Some do. Here’s an example:

The Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas ranks GDP (gross domestic product) and GNH (gross national happiness) equally. Until recently there were no lawyers, no TV, and no airports. They now allow TV, but restrict the hours and content. They will not allow MTV or violence in programming, nor tobacco, Coke or Pepsi ads. Tobacco and plastic bags are banned. The government places spiritual development on a par with material improvement, and promotes policies that put happiness at the heart of government. The king of Bhutan wants to resign and turn Bhutan into a democracy. The people oppose it. They don’t see democracy working elsewhere; they see violence, crime, fraud, divorce, drugs, and… unhappiness.

It’s a bit of a stretch to expect the US government to adopt such measures, and it probably couldn’t happen in a “democracy” of our kind anyway. But wouldn’t we all be more satisfied with ourselves and our neighbors if we all pursued happiness rather than material wealth?

If you would like to read the BBC article, go to

Published in: on July 31, 2007 at 1:01 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Let me decide for myself what makes me happy.

    I guess it is the early education and family experiences that make we want to do what I want to do, not what is best for me. The idea of a governmental body ordaining what will make me happy smacks of Eric Blairs’ “1984”.

    Furthermore this study is predicated on the belief that our government wants us to live a long time. In case your rose colored glasses slip too far down your nose let me prepare you for reality. A government that wants us to live a long time would provide affordable health care, on going health education and encourage healthy habits. Instead we have the highest health care cost on the planet, increasing obesity and incredibly slick marketing pointed to making us fatter and lazier.

    The habits of Americans are self serving and self gratifying. God Bless America.

    Great Britain already has a nanny state with cameras everywhere, laws to protect people from their own idiocy and a prison system geared towards re-education via a Clockwork Orange scenario. I don’t want that.

    For me the pursuit of wealth is tantamount to the pursuit of happiness. With wealth comes freedom, if done properly. One of the things we learn along the way is that wealth doesn’t change a man it reveals the man. If you were unhappy and poor, it won’t be long until you are unhappy and wealthy. The real trick is to first find yourself and your personal concept of happiness and then pursue, with moderation, what makes you happy.

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