Paul Jacob

The more serious problem is, as Pogo found, us. For years the jovial folks at Gallup have tracked our sense of personal well-being in their polling. But respondents’ responses are apparently a tad fickle. For instance, Gallup “found that asking political questions before asking about well-being significantly depresses the life satisfaction score.”

I’d call that a leading happiness indicator.

It turns out that gross national product, i.e. wealth, may best indicate gross national happiness. “We demonstrate that richer individuals are more satisfied with their lives, and that this finding holds across 140 countries, and several datasets,” wrote Daniel W. Sacks, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, three researchers from the Wharton School, in a 2010 paper on the subject. “Across each of these countries, the relationship between income and satisfaction is remarkably similar.”

Who would have ever guessed?

Still, we mustn’t throw in the towel or fail to fully fund this most critical research. Our national security may be at stake.

After all, France has a head start, launching a commission in 2008 that boasts two Nobel Prize winners. As French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced, revving up the happiness race, the “time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being.”

Consider mighty Bhutan, the geographically small Himalayan country ruled by the big ideas of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. Many years ago, he proposed a Gross National Happiness Index and empowered a commission to help finds ways to achieve greater national glee.

Can we allow the United States of America to fall behind?

Let me answer that question paraphrasing Patrick Henry’s famous speech: “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me good numbers measuring happiness or give me death!”

You might think I’m simply telling a tall April Fools’ Day joke. I only wish. Instead, I bring you a tell-tale sign that we’re governed by incredible fools . . . 365 days a year.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.