When the Founding Fathers signed on to the proposition in the Declaration of Independence that the “pursuit of happiness” was an inalienable right, few if any imagined that it might become the government’s responsibility to help Americans catch that happiness. It still hasn’t. But elsewhere in the world, national leaders are starting to think that a government’s performance should be measured not just in terms of securing “life, liberty, and property” (which was the original phrase before Jefferson’s tinkering — see here), but also happiness.
Many in the U.S., too, think that we should be taking up happiness as a national yardstick. In fact, since about 2000 there has been a land rush on among researchers and policymakers to measure, study, describe, and promote happiness. Where did the happiness boom come from? I try to answer that question in my latest Boston Review column, here.