Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders

August 30, 2013
Originally published in World

Are you happy? One problem with surveys such as the one above is that they measure factors irrelevant to the outcome, and ignore factors vital to the outcome. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) says such faux research is driving government policy. “Central planners have latched onto a new approach for pushing paternalistic policies—the happiness index,” according to CEI’s Blake Taylor and Iain Murray. They’ve issued their own report that takes a close look at some of the problems with using happiness indices for political purposes. “The idea is that if governments attach significant value to this happiness research and data, they could formulate policies that would attempt to maximize aggregate happiness,” Taylor and Murray wrote. “The first step toward this central planning approach to happiness would be to supplement or replace traditional economic performance measures, such as Gross Domestic Product with one that focuses on subjective well being.” Taylor and Murray are particularly critical of “arbitrary indices to devise international happiness rankings” such as “the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index.” They say these indices are used to make conclusions about which nations perform better according to their standards of well being. They conclude that such “happiness” studies will replace individual liberty with what they call “paternalistic policies” that provide us with what should make us happy rather than with what actually does.