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June 03, 2009


Patrick Vessey

"Self-reported well-being isn’t just some flippant answer to a researcher’s questionnaire. It has important, material, effects."

I agree, and regret that many on the political right don't.

You might find this paper ("In Pursuit of Happiness Research: Is It Reliable? What Does It Imply for Policy?") from the pseudo-libertarian Cato Institute of interest:


Why do you say "greater democracy" rather than greater liberty?
Being on the losing side of democracy doesn't make me feel happier - as a lot of Labour supporters will discover tomorrow.


I say democracy simply because there's evidence this increases happiness. I don't know of rigorous evidence that liberty does so, though my strong prior is that it does.


I suppose that "strong prior" is a euphemism for strongly held prejudice?


Happiness is largely related with non-monetary things - doing a job well, laughing with a friend, being part of a group, seeing an old picture that brings back a happy time.
I'd have said being married does the opposite quite often...


Hi Chris

Did you see the link that Greg Mankiw had up last week pointing to a study done in Harvard which tried to look at happiness or rather what led to a good life. really interesting article, which can be found here if you're interested. One fo which listed is the same as you brought up about marriage. but it didn't really look at wider issues like democracy and the like, more about peoples interactions with society.

john cramer

I don't suppose you would consider - cocaine, champagne, hypomania.


Being on the losing side in democracy is just the flip side of being on the winning side. Being on the losing side is not as bad NOT HAVING A SAY AT ALL (which might be the case in rights republic).


And I'm sure I exactly know what "Liberty" means (whether it has a big or small 'L'). My liberty from exhaled smoke is a direct restriction on someone else's liberty to pollute the atmosphere we share.



Take your example of "exhaled smoke": imagine we had a democratic vote that designated your home as a smoking zone. Would you still argue that your happiness has been increased?
I know it is a silly example but I cannot understand how being an oppressed minority in a democracy produces happiness. Unless you believe the suffering of a minority is a price worth paying for the happiness of the majority.

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