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Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America--and How We Can Get More of It Hardcover – April 22, 2008
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"Arthur Brooks makes me--how else to put it?--happy. He makes me grossly, nationally happy. If you want to be a real American you need to pause in your life and your liberty and pursue some happiness by reading this book." -- P.J. O'Rourke
"Arthur Brooks may be the most innovative and creative analyst of public policy in America today. His insights are in a different league and may lead to an entirely new approach to thinking through public policy. Gross National Happiness is a must read for every person who wants to understand what policies America needs." -- Newt Gingrich
"Happiness is God, marriage, and work. A Republican campaign slogan? No: hard science, as collected by Arthur C. Brooks, emerging as one of the leading--and most original--social observers of his generation." -- David Frum, author of Dead Right and Comeback
"Happiness is an idea etched into our national creed. But what does it mean, exactly? With intriguing statistics and engaging examples, Arthur Brooks explores what makes us happy, which types of people are happiest, and what it means for our nation's future. Gross National Happiness is a fresh look on one of America's oldest tenets--how the pursuit of happiness makes America great." -- Carl J. Schramm, president and chief executive officer of the Kauffman Foundation and author of The Entrepreneurial Imperative
"In this splendid volume, Arthur C. Brooks cements his reputation as one of the nation's premier students of American society. Always driven by data--not ideology--he offers an authoritative account of the social bases of happiness. Just as important, he explores the public policy implications of his findings. It is a fun read, and should put a smile on the face of even the most unhappy among us." -- William A. Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
"Is anybody happy in America? Actually, a lot of Americans are--and they're not necessarily the ones you'd think. In Gross National Happiness, Arthur Brooks tells us why supposedly crabby conservatives are actually happier than supposedly lighthearted liberals--and what all of us can do to find more happiness in our lives." -- Michael Barone, Senior Writer for U.S. News & World Report and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics
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The Book is broken into two main sections: "The Culture of Happiness" and "The Economics of Happiness." The first section is the book's strength, the latter is less convincing, although the chapter asking "Does Money Buy Happiness" is right on the mark.
I do not see eye to eye with the premise of the book, namely, that personal happiness is the measuring stick for the choices we (or the government) should make. To my way of thinking, a standard of righteousness trumps the "happiness card" and takes the trick: It is more important to do what is right than to be happy. Yet happiness comes near the top, so I think it is important to observe what is correlated with happiness -- and what is not.
Here are a few fascinating correlations when it comes to happienss: In 2004, 22% of secular liberals claimed to be very happy, while 50% of religious conservatives made that claim. In that same year, 42% of married people claimed to be very happy, while 17% of divorced people, 20% of widowed people, and 23% of never married people made that claim. Overall, 31% of the population claimed to be very happy, 55% happy, and 13% "not too happy."
Those of us who consider ourselves to be very happy have long noted that cynical, critical, and bitter types are unhappy. They seem bent on spreading their gloom to others, and nothing aggravates them more than we "mindless" happy individuals. We could not help but observe how religious people and people who accept absolute values seem happier, so these statistics mesh with life experience. But it is interesting to see the actual stats that verify our personal conclusions.
The second half of the book, dealing with government policies, etc,, is constructed upon more interpretative grounds. Correlations are always tricky (and the author repeatedly cautions readers in this regard), and it is tempting to confuse correlations with causes. It could very well be that unhappy people prefer certain types of government, while happy people prefer other types.
I found this a book WELL WORTH READING, although it may anger unhappy individuals. My experience in dealing with people (I am a 30-year veteran of pastoral ministry) is that unhappy people do not enjoy being unhappy, but they really like the way of thinking that creates unhappiness.
The facts in this book don't lie and go a long way in clearing up a few basic myths about who's who in American society.
In this, Brooks points out that Liberals, by a huge margin, don't walk the talk when it comes to being compassionate and philanthropic. They want everyone else to pay for their causes while they don't write checks or put their own skin in the game, whining constantly. The often maligned Church-going traditionalists, quietly take care of business for everyone else and are much happier for it, and have again, by a huge margin,intact nuclear families.
Sharon Albert Psy.D
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