The policy implications of happiness research

The policy implications of happiness research

Now here’s an interesting article on happiness research and the implications for policy and politics…

by Ben Scarlato for the Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Over the past several years, a handful of books have attempted to use happiness research as a basis for policy recommendations. Two of those books, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard, and Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America_ã”and How We Can Get More of It by Arthur C. Brooks, present a broad set of recommendations for society, from liberal and conservative perspectives, respectively.

Both authors make policy and personal recommendations with a similar goal in mind: increasing happiness. They also draw upon largely similar bodies of research, which include a large number of surprisingly consistent surveys on happiness. Although a few of the authors_ã_ recommendations are similar and the two don_ã_t directly contradict each other a lot, even looking at the same studies and with the common goal of increasing happiness they manage to reach largely different conclusions.

Although Brooks writes about how to increase American happiness and Layard writes about increasing happiness internationally, both point out that American happiness has remained steady over the past several decades despite America_ã_s increasing wealth. Humans adapt surprisingly quickly not only to wealth but also major life events (though not things like taking care of someone with Alzheimer_ã_s or unpredictable loud noise). Money only has an intrinsic effect on happiness when people are so poor that they struggle to provide for their basic needs; but neither book think it_ã_s as simple as _ã–money doesn_ã_t buy happiness._ã

Layard writes that although richer countries are no happier than well-off societies, the richest people in a given country are in fact happier than the poorer people in the country. The idea here is that it_ã_s not just how well you do, but your status relative to others. In talking about this race for status, Layard quotes Gore Vidal who said _ã–It is not enough to succeed; others must fail._ã

Gross National Happiness

Brooks considers this idea but says it_ã_s not the best supported hypothesis. Instead, _ã–what the data tell us is that richer people are happier than poorer people because their relative prosperity makes them feel successful._㝠We take our paychecks as evidence of success, and feelings of success have a strong positive correlation with happiness…

…keep reading HERE