"Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?" We learned this week that that is one of four new questions being inserted into the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Household Survey as the UK's official number crunchers try to assess the well-being of the nation.
The purpose of this exercise is not to get Britain thinking happy thoughts as the axe falls: the determination to measure well-being pre-dates both the coalition and the age of austerity. The real point is to find a better way of measuring social progress than simply how much stuff we have got.
I can't get no satisfaction,
I can't get no satisfaction.
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can't get no, I can't get no.
"Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand." (Huxley, ‘Brave New World’ Ch16)
“You can't make flivvers without steel-and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get."
...governments could be judged by how happy they make us.
An adviser to the Prime Minister*, David Halpern, told us that within the next 10 years the government would be measured against how happy it made everybody.
*Note this was an advisor to Mr Blair
But he said the government also had to focus on the long-term and he said "the country would be better off if we thought about well-being as well as economic growth".
GDP was too "crude" a measure of progress as it failed to take into account wider social factors - he cited the example of "irresponsible" marketing to children, an immigration "free for all" and a "cheap booze free for all", which had all boosted economic growth at the expense of social problems.