Friday, December 18, 2009


In the last few years I have seen increasing attention to the concept of measuring national well-being through happiness rather than more traditional metrics such as GDP per capita. This has been seized on by some on the left, I suspect for the following reasons:
  • Using economic measures the U.S. comes out on top, while in terms of happiness other countries -- particularly the Scandinavian welfare states -- occupy the top ten.
  • Happiness is difficult to measure, and such ambiguity is useful to those who promote policies which result in poor performance on objective economic-based criteria. This is basically the phenomenon which can been seen sometimes when leftists dismiss the rampant poverty and deprivation found in Cuba by saying "But the people there are all smiling and happy."
In any case I haven't paid a great deal of attention to the happiness concept because it seems silly and doesn't appear to be taken seriously by that many people. When politicians start calling for such measurements to be used in formulating policy I'll keep a sharper eye.

That said, I found it amusing to find this list of the 50 states and District of Columbia as ranked by their happiness. I colored each state red for those which voted Republican in the last two presidential elections, blue for those which voted Democratic and purple for those which switched. See if you can spot a pattern:
1. Louisiana
2. Hawaii
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Arizona
6. Mississippi
7. Montana
8. South Carolina
9. Alabama
10. Maine
11. Alaska
12. North Carolina
13. Wyoming
14. Idaho
15. South Dakota
16. Texas
17. Arkansas
18. Vermont
19. Georgia
20. Oklahoma
21. Colorado
22. Delaware
23. Utah
24. New Mexico
25. North Dakota
26. Minnesota
27. New Hampshire
28. Virginia
29. Wisconsin
30. Oregon
31. Iowa
32. Kansas
33. Nebraska
34. West Virginia
35. Kentucky
36. Washington
37. District of Columbia
38. Missouri
39. Nevada
40. Maryland
41. Pennsylvania
42. Rhode Island
43. Massachusetts
44. Ohio
45. Illinois
46. California
47. Indiana
48. Michigan
49. New Jersey
50. Connecticut
51. New York
I don't think this stuff should be taken very seriously, but it's something to think about next time someone argues about the virtues of measuring happiness.

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