Talking about Happiness

This week on Free Will, I chat with Eric Weiner, author of NewYork Times bestseller, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. I didn’t always agree with Eric’s interpretation of some of the happiness data, but I found this a really fun, though-provoking hybrid of travel and science writing. As it happens, I met Eric when he called to interview me for this article on why Republicans are happier than Democrats, which appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post. Here’s my appearance:

Nowadays, politicians are hesitant to explicitly utter the H-word, choosing instead to dance around the subject. It’s only a matter of time, though, before Republicans begin to crow about their happiness. “They can say, ‘Look, I’m not being a stuffy, old-fashioned conservative,’ ” says Will Wilkinson, a policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute. “There is real science that shows that if you go to church, if you don’t get divorced, you’ll be happier. That’s tempting to any politician.”

Eric had asked whether using happiness research for political purposes was mostly just a left-wing thing, or if it might appeal to conservatives too. I said that if there are findings congenial to conservatives, and there are, then you can bet it won’t go unmentioned, especially if it gives a scientific patina to what they believed in anyway. David Cameron was first out of the blocks on this, but I bet we’ll see plenty of conservative references to happiness findings in the future.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center