Oh good grief. First, UK Prime Minister David Cameron decided to launch a "gross emotional prosperity" index
to measure his countrymen's "happiness." Then, Peter Singer embraced the idea
, writing that international policies should have as their goal the "happiness" of people, as Bhutan has done. Now, the Obama-the-more-government-we-have-the-better-Administration wants bureaucrats to measure our happiness. From the Washington Post story:
Funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a panel of experts in psychology and economics, including Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, began convening in December to try to define reliable measures of “subjective well-being.” If successful, these could become official statistics.
Is there never an end to the technocratic impulse?
Having the government institute policies based on something as intangible as happiness would just be another vehicle for usurping power from individuals and placing it into the hands of bureaucrats–and by so doing, materially erode the individual liberty our Founders deemed necessary to engage in its actual pursuit. Or to put it another way, governments can't make us happy, nor should they determine what falls into that category. Finding satisfaction with life is our job.
But don't tell that to the technocratic class:
According to proponents, a measure of happiness could help assess the success or failure of a range of government policies. It could gauge the virtues of a health benefit or establish whether education has more value than simply higher incomes. It might also detect extremes of inequality or imbalances in how people divide their time between work and leisure.
See, here's the gig: Equality used to mean "of opportunity," as in judge us all by the content of our character. These days, it seems to mean economic outcomes. Coming soon to a bloated bureaucracy near you, it will apparently be life satisfaction, with government policy expected to provide the joy. And if your neighbor is happier than you, will it be up to the government to even the score?
If the inevitable Obama Happiness Czar really wants to know what would make me happy, I'll tell him or her right now; the Supreme Court declaring Obamacare to be wholly unconstitutional. Let them put that in their official "subjective well-being index" pipe and smoke it!