Happiness is booming. Or the study of happiness is, at least.
The effort to supplant or complement the crude measure of gross domestic product, has seen the birth of gauges such as gross national happiness (thanks, Bhutan) and the just released “happy planet index” (New Zealand, since you ask, comes in 28th of 151 countries; Costa Rica is top, Botswana is bottom; see the top, erm, 28 below).
And bookshelves are groaning under the weight of happiness focused tomes.
But how the heck do you measure happiness?
In a long essay for the US magazine the New Republic, Deirdre McCloskey surveys the many attempts to define happiness over the centuries, and warns of the “creepy new economics of pleasure”.
Happiness-economists are “longing … to count the golden sands of life”, she says.
Many believe they can calculate happiness by asking people to rank their happiness on a scale of one to three.
“The happinesss measurers very much want to direct us and are itching to engineer a happy society,” she writes. “They do not know what they are talking about, but are very willing to put ‘policies’ about it into practice anyway.”
That’s a surface-scraping summary. Read the piece, it’s good.