I am gemused to see that our coalition government has announced that it will spend around £2M a year measuring our "happiness".
A fascinating idea yet, somehow, I suspect deeply flawed.
Let us start with the basics, ie what exactly is "happiness"?
There are some basic theories that state that humans have several levels of "needs" that have to be satisfied before they achieve "nirvana".
The basic "needs" are:
Once these have been sated, the human "id" (or ego) takes over, and mankind (so the theory goes) looks for fulfillment (or his/her destiny) via intellectual pursuits and "leisure activities that boost the ego and give rise to feeling of self satisfaction/contentment.
Hmmmm, all well and good, yet measuring these key performance indicators (KPI's) is all but impossible.
1 As each new generation is born in the "First World", their aspirations are higher than the previous generation.
Economic, political, technological and social advancement means that each generation expects growth and improvement in their basic conditions. Our grandfathers would have been more than content with a roof over their heads and an indoor privy. The current generation expects nothing less than a 42 inch plasma TV with internet access etc.
2 One person's view of "enough" wrt eg food or sex, is not the same as another's. There are some who can make do with sex once a month whilst there are others, eg certain "celebrities", who cannot get a "boner" unless it's at least 3 in a bed twice a day with half a kilo of coke.
3 It is fair to say that many in the UK are more than sated wrt their food intake, one only has to watch people stuff their faces with all manner of shit from takeaways etc to see that.
Yet, take a close look at many of these face stuffers and ask yourselves are they really happy?
To my view they look terribly unhappy, and are in fact using food to take their minds off their own self perceived misery and self pity.
4 Despite all our social and economic advances, there are still people in this country who do not have a roof over their heads, who live in cold damp rooms and who do not have enough to eat.
Unless their basic needs are met there can be no effective measure of the country's happiness, because they have yet to get to the next level (where "happiness" is meant to kick in).
5 The Orifice of National Statistics will be the organ of the state assigned the task of measuring "happiness". As we know from its lamentable record wrt providing economic statistics whatever numbers it reports are unreliable, out of date and subject to revision.
Having proven that measuring "happiness" is all but impossible, the question that also needs to be asked is whether this really is any of the government's business?
Traditional political models work on the assumption that if the government stimulates the economy, and ensures that there is a reasonable level of "full" employment, then people will be happy. As demonstrated above, "happiness" is a little but more complicated than that.
For sure, money alone cannot buy you happiness. However, abject poverty in the face of conspicuous abundance is miserable.
The real key to "happiness" is a subjective mixture of:
- "freedom", and
- the expectation/"hope" of self improvement.
These three "keys" to happiness can only come about when a government runs a "plug in and play" environment, whereby the individual can safely go about his/her business (without harming others) in the expectation that the government will not keep changing the rules of the game or stifle initiative and self growth via excessive rules, regulations and taxes.
This means that governments need to focus on downsizing their role in society, and individuals need to become (and be allowed to become) more responsible for their own lives.
Wasting money on measuring "happiness" will not achieve anything tangible, other than a "feelgood" buzz for Nanny.
Visit The Orifice of Government Commerce and buy a collector's item.
Visit The Joy of Lard and indulge your lard fantasies.
Show your contempt for Nanny by buying a T shirt or thong from Nanny's Store.
Visit Oh So Swedish Swedish arts and handicrafts