The politics of Happiness

There is an interesting news from Nature journal on a book written by a law professor Derek Bok, a former Harvard president.  The title of the book is “The Politics of Happiness”.

These are some excerpts from the Nature news:

In The Politics of Happiness, law professor Derek Bok, a former Harvard president, argues that it is time to rethink the goal of politics: to promote well-being rather than wealth. His appeal that this is both necessary and timely rests on two key points: first, that there is an increasingly solid body of evidence about the causes of happiness and its individual, social and environmental benefits; and second, that most people are unaware of and need education about what will give them lasting satisfaction.

Happiness is a legitimate goal for government policy, Bok argues, because it is more than a private, transient feeling. Lasting happiness — well-being or ‘flourishing’ — depends on the ongoing process of how we live our lives. Well-being encompasses close relationships, utilizing our strengths, helping others, having a sense of purpose and believing that what we do makes a difference. Hence the pursuit of lasting happiness can lead to the development of more productive, cohesive, caring and sustainable societies.

Bok’s second contention is based on studies revealing that people do not understand what will make them happy, and thus fail to act accordingly. The solution, he asserts, requires a political response through mass education. Wealth, possessions, appearance or fame do not bring lasting happiness, despite the messages promulgated by advertisers and the media. Bok proposes transformative education such as coaching parents, instructing teachers and providing school children with the know-ledge of how to lead satisfying lives. Quality programmes that improve social and emotional skills in school children, or broader projects such as the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York — which supports families through parenting workshops, pre- and after-school programmes and child-oriented health schemes — have demonstrably improved personal development, relationships and academic achievement. Happiness is a skill that can be learned.

We may have been wrong to believe that economic prosperity would bring happiness, but the evidence suggests that happiness and social well-being are likely to bring economic prosperity. Moreover, where prosperity arises from post-materialist values, it has the potential to enhance well-being without costing the earth.


One Response to The politics of Happiness

  1. Christine D says:

    Thanks for sharing bro. It will be good if Singapore government read the journal. SG has again taken the #1 most competitive country in the world.

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