Public policy can lead to happiness

World Happiness Report

Recently, the United Nations issued its second World Happiness Report. What first grabbed me was not the report itself, but a quote in the news release about the report from Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, one of the report’s editors:

“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to the people as they themselves characterize their well-being. More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world.”

How can I put this? Duh-with-a-capital-D.

From peaceful and orderly elections to movements like Occupy and the Arab Spring, I think people are continually telling their governments the policies they want and need to support and enhance their well-being. Individuals and communities are constantly speaking up about the policies they want regarding land and water use, food safety, education, transportation, public health and safety, transportation, labor laws, and the myriad other issues of public governance that impact private well-being.

Maybe it’s just that leaders are finally listening.

In marketing terms, this would be the producers finally listening to their marketplace. Qualitative and quantitative research into the needs and desires of those you seek to serve can only help in designing a better product or service outcome.

The report ranks countries on six key measures:

  • GDP per capita
  • Social support
  • Healthy life expectancy at birth
  • Freedom to make life choices
  • Generosity
  • Perceptions of corruption

What country came out on top in the latest happiness report? Denmark. This Huffington Post article summarizes points where Denmark shines:

  • Health care
  • Support for new parents
  • Gender equality
  • A feeling of responsibility for one another
  • And believe it or not, support for cycling

And how did the United States rank? 17th, trailing our neighbors Canada and Mexico, surprising high-rankers like Panama and the United Arab Emirates, and the usual champs like the Nordic countries, Australia, Costa Rica, Australia, and New Zealand.

Perhaps it’s time for us voters to start electing representatives and leaders who listen to what we say matters for our current and future well-being.

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