Did you know that President Obama’s “Yes, We Can” Administration has been funding a research project to invent a composite index that measures happiness? Yes, you read right—an aggregate index that aims to compute your happiness, mine, and our nation’s.
Everybody wants to be happy, and it might be nice to know just how happy we are, but there are plenty of pitfalls in the government’s pursuit of a happiness index. One of the stated purposes of the project is to explore ways of constructing a measurement that could be used “in official government surveys to inform social and economic policies.”
Putting aside the near impossibility of creating a reliable “subjective well-being” index and practically using it in evaluating the effectiveness of government policies, the desire of the government to measure its citizens’ happiness is absurd at best and dangerous at worst.
As a recent National Affairs article titled Saving Happiness from Politics precisely pointed out:
Taken as a whole, the discipline of happiness studies appears to be motivated less by a new understanding of human well-being than by a desire to rationalize and update the policies of the social-democratic welfare state. While advocating a state of well-being, the happiness movement—at least as applied to politics—produces little more than a new defense of the old entitlement state.… [S]ome of the policies advocated by the happiness activists are already realities in many of today’s European welfare states.
Our tax money shouldn’t be wasted in crafting a new defense of big government. For our part, we would be a lot happier if the government would just save the money and the effort.