Happiness is …

TheGlobeandMail.com – Opinions/Letters to the Editor (If You’re Happy And You Know It, Vote For Me – Focus, Dec. 4)
Dec. 7, 2010.   Eric Noël

Since 2007, Oxford Analytica has performed global research to support the Legatum Institute and its annual Prosperity Index, where Canada now ranks 7th/110 countries (If You’re Happy And You Know It, Vote For Me – Focus, Dec. 4).

For each nation, we’ve looked into economic fundamentals, entrepreneurship, health, education, freedom, security, governance and social capital, using 89 standard variables (mostly objective data) with demonstrated effect on economic growth or personal well-being. Only about 30 of those variables can be affected by government policies. It appears that successful countries enjoy a virtuous cycle of self-reinforcing drivers: political freedom, good governance, economic liberty, enterprising and healthy citizens. Choice and opportunity matter a lot, and life satisfaction calls for a limited but wise role of the state.

Government policy is not about raising individual happiness in a paternalistic way, but to improve the livability of citizens’ environment, notably living conditions conducive to earned success and human flourishing. Whatever Canadian happiness index we use, choosing between fixing the state of a miserable minority, versus maintaining a satisfied majority, will always be a difficult public dilemma.

Eric Noël, Quebec City

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