The Corner

Happiness and the Left

Will Wilkinson writes at Politico:

Happiness research has been and continues to be used to bolster the high-tax anti-economic growth agenda of the far left. To understand how this happened, you need to grasp why social scientists once believed that economic growth doesn’t boost a country’s happiness.

It all goes back to the early 1970s when Richard Easterlin, an economist at the University of Southern California, looked at the spotty survey data available at the time and found that, more money made individual citizens happier but, paradoxically, didn’t make a country any happier overall. To explain this perplexing pattern, which was dubbed the “Easterlin paradox,” a host of left-leaning thinkers fixated on the hypothesis that it’s our relative standing that matters for happiness. It took us a generation to figure out that Easterlin’s research was off the mark.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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