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Nic Marks

Director, Happiness Works

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Should Governments start to measure what really matters to people - their happiness? Or should they stay out of such a private matter?

David Cameron, UK prime minister, has recently announced that the UK will create a new indicator of National Well-being. He said as much in his TED talk last year and now he is walking his TED talk! This is something we have argued for at new economics foundation for some time - and I also lay out my thoughts in my recent TED book - The Happiness Manifesto. But are we right? Is this a valid aim of government? Or should government just simply stay out of such a private realm? Indeed can government stay out of this realm? Fo example unemployment makes people unhappy but does inflation? Should a government therefore concentrate more on security of jobs than controlling the money supply? What about education - should kids be educated to fulfil labour market requirements or to lead fulfilling lives? So many areas that Governments touch our lives - the economy, the financial markets, health services, schools, local engagement and the built environment. How could they be different - nay better?
DISCUSS ... I would love to know TEDsters views!

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    Feb 23 2011: I was looking at a news feed yesterday which was about Texas voting on permitting handguns on university campuses.
    There was an accompanying advertisement with a picture of a battlefield with one soldier applying a white patch and the slogan "Stop severe bleeding fast - saves lives" (sorry, I'm not going to give them another ad).
    Gross Domestic Product would be improved by the gun sale, the ammo, and the anti-coagulant. Even "better" would be if the anti-coagulant didn't work and a funeral was necessary. Surely we can devise a measure which better reflects how well a nation is doing than the GDP. And as others have pointed out in this thread, the U.S. constitution guarantees "pursuit of happiness" so how do we know how well they are doing in enabling this if there is no measure of success? I know it was pointed out that it is only the right to engage in the pursuit, not the achievement, but we can leave it to the citizen to do the pursuing and take the average achievement as being a proxy measure for the success of enabling of the pursuit which is the government's constitutionally required job. It would certainly be a better measure than GDP.

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