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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

“Gross Domestic Happiness” Would Promote “Happy Face Statism”



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Should the success of a society be measured by subjective concepts of “happiness?” Members of the ruling class increasingly say yes. For example, I reported here in 2011 how Princeton’s utilitarian professor Peter Singer–perhaps the world’s most influential bioethicist–supported measuring “gross national happiness.” UK Prime Minister David Cameron has also supported the idea. So have other government types.  Not only that, also as I reported here, the administration has already impaneled a committee of “experts” to define reliable measures of “subjective well-being.”

Well now, with bad economic news, a Bloomberg editorial has suggested that gross national happiness be the prime measure of government success rather than gross national product. From, “An Imperfect Measure of Progress:

As useful as GDP is, it has some crucial flaws. It can obscure growing inequality and encourage the depletion of resources. It can’t differentiate between spending on good things (education) and terrible things (cigarettes). It doesn’t measure the economic services that nature provides, such as the dwindling wetlands that once protected New Orleans from storms, or those that don’t come with a market price, such as raising children. It fails to account for the value of social cohesion, education, health, leisure, a clean environment — in other words, as Robert Kennedy once put it, GDP measures everything “except that which makes life worthwhile.”

Establishing a gross domestic happiness index would have the government define “happiness” for all of us as a way to empower the looming technocracy that I am convinced the Political Left wishes to establish–rule by experts to keep most of us dependent, in which “the experts” would tell us what makes society happy, and impose policies to make it so. 

Having the government measure and promote GDH would open some terribly dangerous doors–Happy Face statism, if you will–by allowing government to punish or suppress those those deemed to be causers of “unhappiness.” For example, happiness could become a prime measurement of “wellness,” opening the doors for using Obamacare bureaucrats to impose “happiness”-promoting regulations that stifle individual freedom. Taken to its logical, if perhaps extreme, conclusion, and you have Brave New World.

Think not?  Remember,this is the government that has already imposed the Free Birth Control Rule on Catholic (and other dissenting) business owners, and claimed that the government can interfere with their free exercise of religion because of the state’s duty to promote “gender equality,” surely a future measure of “happiness.” Many bioethicists also promote health care rationing as a way to save money for the care of those whose lives are deemed more valuable than the elderly, severely disabled, and terminally ill–the future victims of such invidious medical discrimination. The fewer people “suffering,” the greater the amount of “happiness”–blatant utilitarianism. Anyone out there think that agenda wouldn’t connect with a GDH imperative?

The potential consequences of accepting the government as a promoter of happiness–rather than a protector of its individual pursuit–are too profound to expound fully upon in a blog post. But in considering this issue, it is always important to remember this important truism: Just because you are paranoid, that doesn’t mean they are not really after you. 



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