Happy Daze

There is word that Britain's center-right coalition government wants to make the happiness and well-being of the British public part of the official statistics. This would be quite a step, given the misery caused by both the recession and the government's plans to cut the country's deficit by cutting a lot of public sector jobs.

Sources told Britain's Guardian newspaper the happiness questions could start coming in the spring. The exact questions are yet to be worked out but some are expected to be subjective ones, perhaps something like, although not exactly like, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you, 1 being totally bummed out, 10 being a state of rapture?". Beginning the happiness surveys toward the middle of next year could be seen as a bet on the business cycle coming to the rescue, with the possibility of the economy being on a further upswing by then.

The Kingdom of Bhutan in Asia has already dumped its conventional GDP and instituted a Gross Happiness Index. It's interesting to see that Bhutan doesn't just ask about happiness, it looks at other criteria including some much more objective ones. Those include the use of time, community vitality, health, education, environmental factors, living standards, and quality of governance. "Psychological well-being" is also a criterion, which sounds a lot like state of mind, which starts to get close to traditional definitions of happiness.

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David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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