December 20th, 2012

How the Right is Wrong About Happiness

Economics & Politics

Today’s op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal sheds more light on how conservative elites thoroughly misunderstand and misrepresent the role of government in a decent society. Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, makes an empirical claim that government social spending lowers happiness of the recipients by making them “dependent on unearned resources.” This claim is false, and easily shown to be so, yet it is also interesting for what it shows about the confused opinions of the Republican elite.

The claim is false because the countries that have the highest spending on social programs are far and away the happiest. We looked at this earlier this year in the World Happiness Report, which collected the best cross-country data on this very question. People are asked to report on their life satisfaction or what is sometimes called “subjective wellbeing.” There are two kinds of questions. The first asks people to place their lives on the rungs of a ladder, from the lowest rung (0) to the top rung (10). The second asks people how satisfied they are with their life “as a whole these days,” again on a scale from 0 to 10 in the case of the Gallup World Poll.

So who comes out on top: the countries with the lowest “dependency” on social programs? Just the opposite! The social democracies are far and away the happiest places on the planet. In the Gallup World Poll ladder question (Table 2.3), the happiest countries are Denmark, Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands. The United States ranks 11th. In Gallup’s “life satisfaction” question, the leaders are Costa Rica, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway. The US comes in 10th. In the World Value Survey on life happiness, the leaders are Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark and the Netherlands. The US comes in 23rd.

Read full article at the Huffington Post


Related Articles:


Previous post:

Next post: