The American constitution’s deference to individual freedom appears quaint even archaic today. The fledgling 18th century government was created to engender “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”: crucially, not happiness itself.
Yet in the 20th century governments worldwide started trying to maximise national income and minimise unemployment. Witness the hammering politicians receive if gross domestic product starts to falter or the unemployment rate rises.
Now it is fashionable to try to maximise happiness too, rather than simply leave people free to pursue it themselves. As Aldous Huxley foresaw in the 1930s, private happiness has entered the purview of public policy.
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If nothing else, the upcoming budget week shows us the priorities of the government. We all know by now that this government is increasingly laying its political fortunes at the feet of a budget surplus and hoping that this will continue to drive down interest rates. It is one way that are attempting to deal with the feeling that the cost of living is continuing to rise.
There are rarely any major surprises on budget night: sure, the occasional announcement captures us off guard but after weeks of leaks and warnings about ‘tough decisions’, we all know what to expect. Then the sales job begins and we continue on our merry way.
The problem is, however, that a treasurer will never look us in the eye and tell us unpleasant truths. Sure, we are told that it is time we tighten out belts, but never will one admit to the limitations of both their projections or the very flawed models they are working with.
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My favourite day is Sunday. Maybe it’s because I worked almost every Sunday for a good five years, now when I don’t have to work it still feels a bit like I’m sneaking the day off.
Fridays are obviously fantastic. Although that feeling is amplified on a Thursday if I’ve worked the previous weekend and am staring down the barrel of three days off.
Saturdays have many things going for them, but the feeling of freedom is dampened for me by the ominous thud of a pile of newspapers the size of a house that sometimes sit there all weekend guilting me about the fact I never open the Arts section. And then there’s Tuesday. Blue Tuesday.
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