I have been thinking and reading about happiness ever since I came across the work of Michael Argyle on the subject in the 1970s. And I think I can finally summarize the facts about it very simply.
It seems that happiness is to a quite extraordinary degree a trait rather than a state. In other words, we are born happy, unhappy or somewhere in-between. There are a lot of people who are always miserable (most Leftists, for instance) and some who are always sunny in mood no matter what. Even when we find that some classes of people (e.g. married people) are happier than others, it seems likely that it is more a case of happier people tending to marry rather than marriage making you happy.
That is of course rather counter-intuitive. We can all think of events that have made us happy or unhappy so we assume that it is events (or at least external things) that are responsible for our degree of happiness. But it is not so. The events only ever have a transitory effect. We soon settle back to how we were before. The most striking evidence of that is that people who have accidents that leave them paraplegic or quadriplegic (i.e. with very limited use of their limbs) do not sink into irretrievable depths of despair but in fact report after a year or so that they are roughly as happy after their accident as they were before their accident.
So policies aimed at making people happy are pissing into the wind. They are trying to alter what basically cannot be much altered. So in a democracy, political policies have to be aimed at what people WANT, not at what will make them happy -- because nothing can do that.
Which is very pesky for the Left. They have recently discovered the happiness research literature and it has perked them up greatly. "If money will not make you happy, then there's no problem with us taking it off you", has been their hopeful cry. By the same reasoning one might argue that if losing your legs does not make you lastingly unhappy, then there is no harm cutting everybody's legs off either.
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