A recent New Yorker carries an article comparing a few books on happiness research. Folks are baffled by the fact that GDP per person has risen in the U.S. but reported happiness has not. One explanation not considered is that the government is now consuming a much larger share of GDP and the government tends to spend money in ways that don’t make people happy, e.g., by starting expensive wars, by imposing burdensome paperwork requirements on millions of people, etc.
[One bright spot in this research is “Afghans are, on average, a pretty cheerful lot. (The most cheerful areas of the country tend to be those in which the Taliban’s influence is stronger.)” So the U.S. government hasn’t managed to ruin everyone’s party!]