Happiness and choice

Happiness and choice

Made miserable by too much choice

Oh, The Humanities; Even as Western nations get healthier and wealthier, happiness levels are stagnating

Jenny Wagler, National Post

Published: Monday, June 02, 2008

When more than 9,000 academics gather this week in Vancouver for the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, everything from gender roles, to the politics of terrorism, to the sociological significance of first names will be on the agenda. In a week-long series, the National Post showcases some of the most interesting research. Today, two takes — one political, one typographical — on the significance to be found in a smile.

Freedom, one of the tenets of liberal democracies, may be undermining happiness, according to new research that combines the latest findings of positive psychologists with political analysis.

In liberal democracies with the highest levels of personal and political freedom, levels of happiness have stalled in recent decades, or even begun to decline, according to a paper to be presented this week at the largest annual gathering of academics in Canada.

William Gorton makes the claim in a paper entitled, “Too Much of a Good Thing: Freedom, Individualism, Autonomy and the Decline of Happiness in Liberal Democracies.”

Even more troubling, “the causes of this stagnation or decline may be attributable, directly or indirectly, to core values of liberalism–namely freedom of choice, autonomy and individualism,” he said.

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