For the last decade, some social scientists have been arguing that “happiness measurements” should replace or supplement established economic standards to judge a society’s “success.” Many environmentalists also support the idea as a way of putting lipstick on policies that could slow down economic growth. And now, the idea is deemed ready to leave the ivory tower for implementation as government policy.
One can understand the appeal for the ruling elite and their camp followers of consultants and lobbyists. If government assumes the power to promote happiness, officials would have to “consult with experts” to figure out criteria by which a society’s “gross happiness index” could be measured. (As we will see below, that process has already started.) Once these standards were determined, a new bureaucracy would have to be established—let’s call it HAA, the Happiness Advancement Administration—to promote happiness goals and enforce happiness regulations. One could even imagine a presidential debate, in which the challenger looks into the camera and earnestly asks, “Has your government made you happier today than you were four years ago?”