The Ministry of Happiness

Lord Layard, Emeritus Professor of something terribly brainy at the LSE, is popularly known as ‘the happiness tsar’, because of the sterling advice he’s provided for the government on the vexed question of happiness – or more precisely our apparent lack of it.

Now he’s going to be chairing The Good Childhood Enquiry, a two-year national independent investigation, managed by The Chidren’s Society, into exactly what constitutes a ‘good childhood’ and which ‘aims to renew society’s understanding of childhood for the 21st century, to inform, improve and inspire all our relationships with children’. Apparently this is neccesary because Britain’s 12 million children and teenagers are the unhappiest and unhealthiest in any wealthy European country. So it seems money can’t buy you love – who could have guessed?

Gosh! Is it just me, or is there just a tang of 1984 about all this? Legislating for happiness – even quantifying it – how’s that going to work, I wonder? It’s clearly no laughing matter. And who’s going to head up the Ministry of Happiness – cos it’s only a matter of time til they set one up? Could I nominate Jack Dee?

One thing they are doing in this enquiry is taking evidence from interested parties – parents, professionals and children – into what constitutes a good childhood in today’s society. Hmm. Hope they don’t ask my kids who, last year, said they wished they could go to live in a children’s home because on the TV show ‘Tracy Beaker’, Justine got to have a TV in her room – unlike them, poor, deprived little mites.

I’m sure this all very worthy and necessary. But legislating for happiness? Heck even trying to analyse it seems a tiny bit like pulling the wings off a bumble bee to see how it flies. I wish Lord Layard and his exalted colleagues the best of luck. In the meantime, here is a link that might make you laugh .

Have a happy weekend!


5 thoughts on “The Ministry of Happiness

  1. Thanks for the link.

    Now, I must check with the proper authorities if it’s in my best interest to enjoy this sort of thing.

  2. I remember the “ministry of silly walks”… too funny!

    I was struck that your government is even interested in this question to begin with. It can easily be established that the U.S. government has no such interest — only in legislating that no child is left behind (which is really just punishing poor communities by taking away federal funding for education).

    That said, I agree with you that some of the inclination to study this thing seems overweaningly intrusive and arrogant. On the other hand, I never think analysing this sort of thing is a bad idea. While you may be squarely confident that your kids are not neglected just because they lack televesions in their bedrooms, I’m sure there are plenty of parents who might not be so sure.

    Even if it ends up being silly, more media coverage of good parenting basics is usually never a bad idea.

    Have a great weekend yourself.


  3. So that national stereotype of miserable whinging poms is actually the truth?!?!? Would Lord Layard consider sending the disaffected offspring to the convict colonies I wonder? 😉
    Thanks for Jack Dee. One of my fave comics and we don’t see enough of him in Australia.

  4. I agree with Crankmama that it’s amazing that your government even cares about such a thing. (Contrast that with the US and our “We’ll only care if it’s an election year and we’ll never follow it up with any substance after you vote for us” politicians.) But the study does seem a bit subjective. I mean, I’m pretty sure everyone can agree on some basic things that DON’T make for a happy childhood (abuse, poverty, etc…), but how do you define happiness?

    Maybe they’ll come up with a useful checklist to raise a happy child – 6.2 hours of butterly chasing per month, 4 servings of vegetables a day, 1 weekly trip for ice cream and voila, a happy child!

  5. How did they gather the data? Did they ask children across the UK whether they were happy or not? Did they apply clever multiple choice questions that enabled the researchers to work-out whether the children were happy or not? I’d have thought that happiness it the kind of state that you’re unaware of until you lose it, so the very act of asking, calls it into question. Am I happy? I don’t know, oh dear, maybe I’m not! But I guess how happy you are rather depends on your expectations. Some kids would be happy if they knew where their next meal was coming from – it all brings you back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs …whatever happened to self actualisation?

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