There is a flourishing literature on happiness and how it relates to governmental policies and incomes inequality.

There is a lot to say here, some philosophical, and some empirical.

Empirically, one should read the following citation (and the journal is pretty money).

Ott, Jan. Journal of Happiness Studies 2005 (6:4) “Level and Inequality of Happiness in Nations”

In this, she (he?) discusses how inequality in wealth is related to greater happiness as well as looking at the happiness reported in various states. Apparently Pakistanis are pretty unhappy, and so are Russians.

In terms of the philosophy, many people note that once people get basic things like food and shelter and transportation accorded to them, they become more or less happy. SURVEYS are used to assess people’s happiness and I think this is methodologically flawed, because of the way that being asked that question primes a positive response. People want, strongly, to believe that they are happy and so are likely have a very strong prejudice in favor of answering that question in the affirmative. The self-image reasons alone are probably strong. Also, I don’t think happiness is just an internal state that can be reported at the time of a question. Happiness concerns one’s entire life, and require deeper introspection than just “I’m feeling good in this psych lab.”

Aristotle for one thought that happiness had an objective component and so was not assured merely by FEELING happy, one had to have a certain combination of activities and commitments in order to be happy. Think about the last time you were engaged in a cherished activity. Time seemed to fly by and most of your troubles just melted away. Runners describe this, but so do people who read, and people who have hobbies like woodworking or painting. What this suggests to me is that happiness is a MODE OF ENGAGEMENT with life and so can’t be measured by a simple “are you happy, yes or no?”


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