I got the above cartoon from here. It is a web site that sells books. The author wants to tell us how to become happy — for a fee. The fee is buying his book.
People want happiness. I started to give this post a different name: ARE YOU STILL MAKING A DIFFERENCE? Then I Googled “making a difference”, I realized that title would give the wrong impression. What follows below is an excerpt from speech that Charles Murray gave at the American Enterprise Institute‘s Dinner. The speech explains how European governments are denying their citizens the opportunity for individual happiness.
I start from this premise: A human life can have transcendent meaning, with transcendence defined either by one of the world’s great religions or one of the world’s great secular philosophies. If transcendence is too big a word, let me put it another way: I suspect that almost all of you agree that the phrase “a life well-lived” has meaning. That’s the phrase I’ll use from now on.
And since happiness is a word that gets thrown around too casually, the phrase I’ll use from now on is “deep satisfactions.” I’m talking about the kinds of things that we look back upon when we reach old age and let us decide that we can be proud of who we have been and what we have done. Or not.
To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don’t get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché “nothing worth having comes easily”). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences.
There aren’t many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements. Having been a good parent. That qualifies. A good marriage. That qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours. That qualifies. And having been really good at something–good at something that drew the most from your abilities. That qualifies. Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation, and faith. Two clarifications: “Community” can embrace people who are scattered geographically. “Vocation” can include avocations or causes. (from here)
Are you happy? Can your government make you happy? What Murray argues is that by expanding the role of government, European societies have undermined the happiness of their Peoples. By removing from people their responsibilities and transferring these responsibilities to government, government has made it difficult for people to think their lives can make a difference. If you do not think your life can make a difference, can you be happy?
Cartoon from here.