Will Wilkinson has a good essay on happiness statistics from the Prospect posted at Cato today. It's an interesting and subtle treatment of the proper amount of salt to take with one's social scientific studies, and also deserves the award for Best Use of Dead Kitten Imagery in a Blog:
A steady rate of growth may be necessary to keep happiness and other good things at a high stable level. (Imagine a guillotine, on which a kitten is strapped, connected to a bicycle that must be pedalled ever more quickly to keep the blade aloft. Slow down, and the kitten gets it.)
Will also combats a case of moronic acronym coinage:
David Cameron says, "It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB–General Wellbeing," by which he means happiness. With Cameron's endorsement, the cockle-warming politics of happiness has officially become a multi-partisan affair, no longer the property of Labour peer Richard Layard and other social democrats. And why shouldn't it be? Certainly no one disputes that there is more to life than money, or more to politics than the size of the economy.
However, Cameron's contrast implies that increased GWB might have to come at the expense of GDP growth and economic liberalisation. Yet if you really profess to care about happiness, you must care about economic freedom and economic growth too. Our happiness depends on them more than almost anything else.
If I were trying to come up with three letters that convey broad-based happiness, I'd avoid GWB.
In related news: Kitten Thinks Of Nothing But Murder All Day