Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Purpose of Government - Moving Toward Sustainable Happiness

As I have been looking for a positive vision of what I would like our country to be like, rather than merely focusing on the negatives of our current situation, I am more and more drawn toward the ideas put forth in Britain and elsewhere about happiness.  In essence, the concept is that government should, in addition to protecting us from threats both foreign and domestic, make it more possible to pursue happiness over the long-term.

While Roger Cohen has an op-ed in today's NYT on this subject, I first came across it through  Nic Marks has a video and a related Kindle Single, The Happiness Manifesto.  Marks' thesis is that governments - and western societies in general - judge our national progress by measuring production, usually GDP, while we should be measuring it by our well-being and our ability to sustain that well-being. In other words, are we happy and are we living in such a way that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the same happiness.  Happiness - or well-being - and the sustainability of it.  Makes sense to me.  I really don't give a crap if our GDP is growing if most of the wealth created ends up in the hands of the few most wealthy Americans and the rest of us struggle to pay our bills, keep our jobs, find a job, keep our homes, send our kids to college, etc.  Most Americans don't need a McMansion or a Mercedes.  We don't need expensive clothes or fancy jewelry. We just need to be able to keep our home, pay the bills, have adequate health care, send our kids to college, and support ourselves in retirement.  Maybe take a vacation every once in a while.  And we need to be able to do that without working two or more jobs or so much overtime that we have neither the time nor the energy to spend time with our families and enjoy our friends.  Oh, and we want to know that our kids will be able to be as happy as we are.  That's not too much to ask, is it?

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