Why happiness suddenly matters

Great piece in the Canadian magazine MacLean’s about how in dire economic times, politicians shift their focus to matters of happiness.

“Given the extended slump the world is in right now, it’s no surprise, then, to find leaders looking around for other ways of showing what a great job they are doing. Back in November, British Prime Minister David Cameron sagely remarked that there was “more to life than money,” and suggested that GDP was an unsatisfactory measure of how well people were doing. He tasked the Office for National Statistics with devising some sort of happiness survey that would take into account broader indicators of well-being such as education levels, subjective feelings about personal health, education and the environment.

Cameron’s happiness index echoes an ongoing proposal from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who in 2009 said that his country might want to consider following the kingdom of Bhutan in measuring Gross National Happiness (GNH), which would downplay material wealth in favour of more Gallic notions of joie de vivre.

And now even the Coca-Cola Company is getting into the game. Celebrating its 125th anniversary as “one of the original purveyors of happiness,” last week the company threw its support behind growing calls for a Canadian GNH index, and announced that it is sponsoring a cross-country study that will ask Canadians what makes them happy, “whether it’s spending time with family, working out, volunteering or enjoying a moment of peace and quiet.”

As this “happiness” craze continues to froth, it is clear which path our political leaders have decided upon. No major party is ready to support a plausible path to fiscal balance, or to acknowledge how little control politicians actually have over future growth.”


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