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Monday, November 15, 2010 

A short, disjointed post on nothing in particular.

As Chris argues, the measuring of happiness or well-being as something of a counterbalance to GDP would look on the surface to be likely to lead to more left-wing policies being pursued.

Just as interesting as whether those who are religious are more contented with their life than those with no faith (with the policy implications of such results) would be whether those on the left or right tend to be happier. I can only go by what my answers would be to the possible questions featured at the end of this Grauniad article, drawing on the World Values Survey, which would be almost wholly negative as an indicator; would it be strange if those most in favour of such measuring were in fact among the least happy with their lot? One of the most immediately obvious problems with such measuring is that it operates and concentrates on one's view of self, which can be especially twisted, rather than their view of society and life outside of their own minds, to which I for instance would answer completely differently. It can also be knocked completely out of whack simply by coincidence: if I was answering the how happy were you yesterday question today then small things like Arsenal winning and Chelsea being beaten at home by Sunderland would impact on it rather massively. Perhaps what we really need is a schadenfreude measurer.

It also relies on honesty, which as the merest glance at this survey reported in the Sun makes clear, we all have major problems with. Only a third watching porn online, and the average sex session lasting 20 minutes? Some of us it seems have nothing on Billy Liar. Eric Joyce in what isn't really a post on Phil Woolas notes this: our politicians, like it or not, reflect ourselves. Many of us are living lies, and tell lies to either keep our jobs or stay on benefits. We expect better from our elected representatives when we ourselves are weak. We rant and rave when we ourselves are hypocrites. We are nakedly self-interested, and come up with arguments that put the case for ourselves whether we intend to or not. The same doctors that Joyce has making irrational arguments about student fees despite going on to earn six-figure salaries are those that are convinced they know best about how alcohol should be more heavily-taxed to cut back the harm it does to society. This ignores the impact it will have on those who drink not to get drunk but to make life slightly more bearable - and so could despite good intentions improve our physical health yet impact considerably on our mental well-being. And so we come full circle.

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