Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

I’ll show you happy

The UK’s coalition government plans to introduce a Gross National Happiness index to better understand how public policy interacts with the social soul. British public opinion so far seems to range from the confused to the outright skeptical. “How much is this nonsense going to cost?” is one of the refrains.

I’m amused in a way (though I don’t know how measurably) that the initiative should raise so many eyebrows. Many have long argued that GDP measurements only tell one particular kind of tale, and that they don’t tell a particularly convincing story of how well off people really feel. Singapore, for example, may have one of the world’s highest per capita GDPs, but few would argue they enjoy one of the world’s highest or healthiest standards of living.

Bhutan, on the other hand, the nominally impoverished Himalayan kingdom that invites the pity and probably misplaced goodwill of materialist Western aid workers, is actually already one of the happiest places on Earth.

The Bhutanese themselves famously pioneered the measurement of national happiness to bolster their own case that the country is a great success story in terms of enabling people to lead enjoyable lives, which is the best thing any set of state institutions can ever really aspire to do. The Gross National Happiness index aggregates social and economic indicators across a range of areas, including psychological well-being, use of time, community vitality, health, governance, and environmental sustainability, among others.

The Guardian, ironically, decides instead to give some credit to the UK’s decision to Canadian pioneering in the area of happiness measurement.

Canadian statisticians and researchers also poll subjective wellbeing across the country, but the data have thus far not attracted much policy attention.

Indeed. In fact, the entire prospect of data gathering has not attracted much policy attention in Harperian Ottawa. Sigh.

But I’m happy with the UK’s effort to get to grips with this. All the happier if I get surveyed myself, which will suit their purposes quite well. So, yes – if there are ulterior political purposes underlining it, though, they’ll want to try to avoid sending out the happiness questionnaires during Tube strikes, rainy days, or after any English sporting devastation on the world stage. Which doesn’t leave a lot of time.

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Filed under: Canada, International, Politics, UK, , , ,

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