Lib Dems should distance themselves from the ‘happiness’ agenda and start making liberalism more relevant

Come 2015 the government will have gone some way to establish a happiness index in an attempt to shift the focus of quality of life from a purely economic one. Many people are getting involved in this with the launch of the Action for Happiness which brings LSE economists and government advisors together in an attempt to increase national happiness. But when 2015 comes will this be considered useful by the public. Will people vote for it? Will the concept have progressed liberalism?

While I have seen this as a way to help the Lib Dems, I have serious problems with this concept. What do we do to make ourselves happy? Are such activities sustainable and would they continue to make us happy if we continually did them? You may feel happy on holiday, but would you feel happy if you were always on holiday? Happiness is not something you can ‘get to’ by doing certain things. What makes you happy one minute does not necessarily make you happy the next. Happiness is not an end in itself and so is poor guide for policy development.

Happiness is more of a by-product of focusing on other things. Spending time with friends and family, doing a hobby, doing a job you like/love, or helping out in the community are not done because they make people ‘happy’. We have all felt unhappy at times doing any of these activities but we may continue to do them anyway. If the reason we did them was to feel happy, we would probably have given up on most of them (particularly knocking on doors campaigning). We do what we do for fundamentally different reasons and everyone has their own reasons. However, when looked into who are the happiest people they have generally been people who feel fulfilled in their lives.

Fulfilment would be a much more useful concept for politics and certainly more useful for liberals. Liberalism is about the values of liberty, equality and community. It seeks to give people the freedom to choose for themselves what is important to them and to involve themselves in their community as they see fit and develop their talents to the full. This fits very well into the concept of fulfilment that Covey has: To Live, Love, Learn, & Leave a Legacy.

This gives a much more useful concept to make liberalism relevant to people today. That we would look to help people live life how they want to, support their relationships, help families who need it, support people’s education at any age and to help them get involved in their community. The politics of fulfilment is a much more meaningful concept than that of happiness which will not help anyone and will only attract ridicule.

The Lib Dems should distance themselves from this happiness agenda and start talking about liberalism and personal fulfilment.

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations

- George Bernard Shaw

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One Response to Lib Dems should distance themselves from the ‘happiness’ agenda and start making liberalism more relevant

  1. Pingback: Lib Dems need to distance themselves from Cameron’s ‘happiness agenda’: The making of the politics of fulfilment « Solution Focused Politics

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