From the Christian Science Monitor comes this report that “subjective well being” is quickly becoming the measuring rod for British policy.  Of course, that’s just a high-falutin way of measuring whether governments are succeeding in enabling individuals to find the happiness that all those political philosophers say is their true end.  Of course, empirically measuring “happiness” can be pretty difficult without first understanding what happiness is, but that might entail understanding what a human is.  Might as well simply revive the “Ministry of Silly Walks.”

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. I agree with your general worry, but it seems to me that a government could place “subjective well-being” under the purview of policy and get some things right.

    Examples of happiness-motivated policy might be: shortening the average work week, at the expense of generating greater wealth, because many if not most workers would prefer more time to pursue private affairs; requiring employers to grant longer paid vacations per year; raising taxes in order to sponsor civic beauty projects like more flowers hanging from streetlamps, more parks within walking distance of residential areas, or brick sidewalks instead of concrete; and zoning cities such that shops and cafes are only a pleasant stroll away from homes.


  2. […] Mere O reader Peregrine commented right away, pointing out that it might be useful.  He provides several policies that might fall under the promotion of “subjective well being,” such as requiring that employers provide more employers, raising taxes to sponsor civic beauty projects, etc.  […]


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