Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America--and how We Can Get More of it

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Basic Books, 2008 - Political Science - 277 pages
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Who are the happiest Americans? Surveys show that religious people think they are happier than secularists, and secularists think they are happier than religious people. Liberals believe they are happier than conservatives, and conservatives disagree. In fact, almost every group thinks it is happier than everyone else. In this provocative new book, Arthur C. Brooks explodes the myths about happiness in America. As he did in the controversial Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, Brooks examines vast amounts of evidence and empirical research to uncover the truth about who is happy in America, who is not, and-most important-why. He finds that there is a real “happiness gap” in America today, and it lies disconcertingly close to America’s cultural and political fault lines. The great divide between the happy and the unhappy in America, Brooks shows, is largely due to differences in social and cultural values. The values that bring happiness are faith, charity, hard work, optimism, and individual liberty. Secularism, excessive reliance on the state to solve problems, and an addiction to security all promote unhappiness. What can be done to maximize America’s happiness? Replete with the unconventional wisdom for which Brooks has come to be known, Gross National Happiness offers surprising and illuminating conclusions about how our government can best facilitate Americans in their pursuit of happiness.

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Gross national happiness: why happiness matters for America-- and how we can get more of it

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Can money buy happiness? Are happier people better citizens? Who are the happiest Americans? Brooks (business & public policy, Syracuse Univ.; Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About ... Read full review

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I gave this book 5 stars but I'd like to place an asterisk next to it with the admonition that books about public policy are not for everybody. However, I do think everyone could benefit from reading this book.
Arthur Brooks idea of maximizing happiness rather than consumption (GDP) is so simple and profound that it's bound to be revolutionary. Gross National Happiness is filled with insights into what really makes us happy and how we can get more of it. Traditional economics is based on the flawed assumption that utility (happiness) is derived from some optimal combination of consumption. An important simplification that allows us to model decisions, but this same assumption can be very dangerous, especially as we try to create policy that maximizes utility (happiness).
For those involved in policy decisions or for those that consider themselves an informed voter this book is a must read.
***I'd also like to give special thanks to Rachel Ayerst and the author Arthur Brooks for sending me, a poor college student interested in public policy, a signed copy after I mentioned that I hoped to read the book. I hope that kind act brings them both lots of happiness.***
Tim Ernst


Americas Pursuit of Happiness
The Politics of Happiness
Happiness Is a Gift from Above

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About the author (2008)

Arthur C. Brooks is Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. The author of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, Brooks writes widely about the connections between culture, politics, and economic life in America, and his work appears frequently in the Wall Street Journal and other publications. He is a native of Seattle, Washington, and currently lives in Syracuse, New York, with his wife Ester and their three children.

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