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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘Happiness’ metrics arbitrary, meaningless

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James Bovard is correct that government bias and manipulation of a national happiness index is potentially problematic ("Dollars for smiles," Commentary, Monday).

Last month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published its Better Life Index, which ranks member countries according to 24 criteria. Which criteria, and why 24 of them? The happiness lobby can manipulate not just data, but the questions as well. Who is to say that another measure for quality of life shouldn't be added to the 24 in the OECD index, or that one of the variables no longer applies?

Measures of happiness and well-being are intended to inform conclusions about what is best for all of us. While these surveys and indexes may uncover interesting lifestyle trends, it is important to remember that true happiness is something that every individual must determine for himself. National happiness indexes are no substitute for individual judgment.


Research associate

Competitive Enterprise Institute


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