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Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America and How We Can Get More of It Audible – Unabridged

3.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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By Brian Ogan on May 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Using cold, hard statistics from the past several years around the globe, Arthur Brooks reviles who is the most warm and fuzzy inside. From that the author states what policies the United States is doing that helps or hurts our GNH. The only problem with it is that it seems destined to become a political and not Sociology book due to his findings. Despite saying, for example, there are happy secular liberals (there is just fewer of them), it is getting bashed by the left while praised by the right. Both of which is a shame, since his true purpose is to show why certain people are happy, not necessarily how to make one happy, from an individual standpoint. He isn't saying conservatives are better politically. Just more likely to be happy.

The only time he does show how to make happiness is where he puts down what our leaders national agenda should be if we want higher GNH. He is looking at the macro level, not the micro. Topics explored include: political affiliation (conservative vs. liberal only; there is no data on libertarians or more specific affiliations yet), religion, family (does kids and marriage really bring happiness?), freedom and security (does the Patriot Act affect our GNH?), work, and money.

I wish there was more content for the price, which is why I'm only giving it 4 stars. Hopefully this might start some new studies to fill in the gaps.
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Format: Hardcover
The author of "Who Really Cares," the tome that turned popular stereotypes about charitable behavior on their heads, is back with more data regarding which groups in the American population report high levels of happiness. No doubt, most outside attention will focus on the very first chapter, wherein Brooks displays that conservatives have consistently been happier than liberals from the early 70s up until the present, but those who toss the book aside in disgust will miss some important insights. Some of the keys to happiness outlined by Brooks include practicing a religious faith, enjoying a happy married life, working at a job with meaning, and giving back to others through charity. A general theme that runs through all of these is that those who refuse to accept victimhood - and instead take steps towards gaining control over those parts of life that can be controlled - are bound to enjoy happy lives. Not a shocking conclusion in and of itself, but it does fly in the face of redistributionist theories that simply "shifting money around" to equalize income will make everyone feel better, not to mention emphases on the god of "self-esteem" (it's always best to strengthen one's own sense of self-worth, as opposed to relying on others to fill our tanks). Lest you think that this is just some partisan screed, Brooks also cautions us that those at both political extremes are among our happiest citizens - and, for that reason, their "tyrannical certainties" should be allowed as little control over our political process as possible. The book gets a little repetitive at times and lifts some of its insights directly from "Who Really Cares," but it's a worthy companion piece to Brooks' earlier volume.
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Format: Hardcover
Brooks sets out to discover who is happy, and why. The information is likely to surprise you.

For one thing, "Religious people of all faiths are much, much happier than secularists" (p 44). The difference is huge. "Of those who believed there is no way to find out if God exists, a paltry 12% claimed to be very happy people" (p 46). Hmmm...no wonder Dawkins and Hitchens' books drip with unhappiness and malice.

And here's one those famous atheists will really gag on: "Religious individuals today are actually better educated and less ignorant of the world around them than secularists" (p 51).

Married people are happier than those who are single, too. Researchers studied people who seemed alike "but one is married and the other is not, the married person will be 18 percentage points more likely than the unmarried person to say he or she is very happy" (61). This will come a as a blow to the feminists.

Among the nations, North Korea is at the bottom of the happiness scale, with Cuba a close second (p 91). What, atheist communism hasn't brought happiness? Shocker.

On the other hand, mere wealth doesn't help much, once a country has achieved a decent level of health and nutrition. At least the wealth of Japan is not helping. And Mexicans are much happier, on average, than the French.

And here is one I would not have guessed: "For most Americans, job satisfaction is nearly equivalent to life satisfaction. Among those who say they are very happy in their lives, 95% are also satisfied with their jobs" (p 159).

This is a interesting and fun.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was motivated by the fact although "the pursuit of happiness" is enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, "little has been done ... to find out what actually makes America a happy nation" (front inside of dustcover). The book argues that what make America happy are: political orientation, marriage, income (albeit unequal), giving to charity, and work. These are the subjects of the chapters of the book, divided into parts: "The culture of happiness" and "the economics of happiness." The latter is a misnomer for the "business of happiness."

The first part consists of four chapters and the second includes a few more chapters. While Part I focuses on non-monetary matters like family, religion, and such, Part II is mainly about the connections of happiness to money; how money can sometimes "buy" happiness; and why inequality, no matter how bad, does not prevent individual upward mobility. In the end the book concludes that happiness is a personal and internal condition; if someone wants it, he/she must work full-time for it. Among the chapters of Part II, Chapter 8 on giving to charity as "the secret of buying happiness" is simply the greatest.

The book ends with a list of prescriptions for happiness: avoiding extremism, having a religious faith, having a decent family life, serving and protecting freedom, promoting equality of opportunities for all, celebrating work, giving to charity, respecting the humanity of others including enemies, and limiting government involvement in the business of life. Some of the prescriptions derive beautifully from the analyses of the book, and some appear to be ideological afterthoughts - poorly articulated and perhaps not even necessary.
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