Read Roger Cohen in Sunday’s NY Times on the The Happynomics of Life.
He looks at the recent initiative in the UK to develop a measure of happiness of the public. The idea has been much derided as at attempt by the Cameron government to deflect attention from the economic misery it is about to impose.
But Cohen points out that in a world of relative surplus (at least for the industrialized world, and at least relative to historic expectations) broader measures than GNP will become more and more important.
Just what goes into well-being is confounding. Many of the variables — like love and friendship and family relations — are hard to pin down. But British research has suggested that money itself does not confer happiness, although wealthier people tend to be happier; that employment is critical to self-esteem; that women tend to be happier than men; and that people need something beyond the material for fulfillment.
Starting next month, the government will pose the following questions and ask people to respond on a scale of zero to 10: How happy did you feel yesterday? How anxious did you feel yesterday? How satisfied are you with your life nowadays? To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
The point for the access to justice world is this: Being able to move forward after a marriage fragments, getting to stay in an apartment, having the government protect you for an abusive former boyfriend, feeling that you have a remedy when the plumber leaves the leak leaking, all these increase happiness, with maybe no impact on GNP.
In the last few years, we have tried to estimate and collect data on the impact on people’s economic well-being, but not thought about how to meaure broader impacts.
Lets start experimenting with questions that might do that. Some ideas:
- Did using this software make your more confident about your abilities to manage life’s crises?
- Did the self-hep center help you resolve a family problem? If so, how long had the problem been unaddressed?
- Has this service improved your confidence that the government will listen to you?
- Have you been sleeping better since the court case ended?
Please make suggestions.