The pursuit of state-sponsored happiness
Is it just me or is happiness starting to get unnecessarily complicated?
It feels like every time you turn around someone else has written a book that offers the key to what seems like one of the most confusing and elusive experiences since the dawn of time - being happy.
So what does anyone stand to gain from French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s proposal to bring the happiness phenomenon to public policy making?
Addressing a crowd on the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse at The Sorbonne University in Paris, Sarkozy predicted the start of a “great revolution” - where happiness, not the GNP would be the key indicator for national growth.
But can the state really do a better job of keeping us happy than we can? And should it be that complicated?
First reactions from the public have been mixed and not without a healthy dose of cynicism.
Columnist Armanita Wordsworth cheekily suggested Sarkozy’s proposal is fitting for a man married to Carla Bruni.
But to be fair, Sarkozy’s plan has been in the works for some time, even before Carla came onto the scene.
It’s been two years since he called on Nobel Peace Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Armatya Sen to map out a plan of action.
You can read their recommendations here but the highlights include maintaining strong relationships, caring for the environment and equality in the workplace.
It also mimics a plan that’s been operating in the kingdom of Bhutan since 1972.
Started by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan’s happiness project was considered the best way to drag the country from its poverty trap. A combination of public education, preserving national traditions and advancing science and general well-being has resulted in a 19-year increase in life expectancy.
But France is far from the poverty line and as Financial Times journalist Ben Hall writes the majority of its citizens enjoy a very high standard of living.
But maybe everything in France is not as rosy as it seems.
A recent BBC report uncovered a disturbing number of suicides since the privatisation of France Telecom earlier this year. World Health Organisation statistics put the rate at 26.4 per cent.
And then there’s the Burqa issue. Back in June the Sarkozy government declared the Islamic dress “not welcome in the territory of the French republic”, sparking huge protest throughout the country.
Surely the right to practice religion is rated pretty highly in a person’s definition of happiness-so where will that fit into the happiness plan?
I tend to think the best plan for happiness is to make your own. What do you think?
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