I recently did a post on making utopia real. In the comments Chris Edgar and I had a discussion on the place of politics in creating utopia.

Chris and I pretty much agreed that politics alone wouldn’t bring in utopia. I still think this – personal trauma and our relationships aren’t much affected by the laws that politicians past. But now I want to fudge this a bit.

This is because just as I was having this discussion I started reading Affluenza by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss who at the time they wrote the book were at a left-wing (well what’s left of the left-wing these days – let’s call it the progressive side of politics) think tank called the Australia Institute. (The institute is still in existence and producing some of the most interesting social research I know of. For instance they identified ‘downshifters’ in Australia – those who had made a voluntary reduction in their life. Over the previous five years (excluding those who had retired) this was 25% of the workforce. The implications of this to me seem huge – and entirely off the party political radar.

Affluenza: when too much is never enough, is a book about materialism and how it is failing to make our lives anymore enjoyable. Why it is relevant to bringing in utopia is that they deal with politics and public policy as a way of affecting people’s happiness. Which I thought was pretty much futile.

At the end of the book they provide eight points on what governments can do to make people happier (pp.218-224). They are:
1. Measure what matters – that is people’s wellbeing rather than money.
2. Provide fulfilling work. This means favouring in legislation such things as job security, reducing unemployment, encouraging maternity and paternity leave.
3. Reclaim time. Limiting work hours, providing for productivity gains to be traded for reduced work hours rather than just money.
4. Re-do education. Focusing on developing people rather than training them for job slots (which may well no longer exist by the time they graduate).
5. Investing in early childhood. All the research shows that this returns extraordinary dividends.
6. Discourage materialism and promote responsible advertising. E.g. outlaw advertising on children’s TV.
7. Encouraging dramatically a shift to renewables. Having urban planning that preserves trees.
8. Build communities and relationships. Encouraging volunteering and supporting carers.
Any of which would move us closer to a better way of living.

This is a pretty impressive list. It certainly demonstrates to my mind that public policy can impact our private wellbeing.

And I still think that the private is more powerful than the public for our individual experience. With good friends and support people can flourish even in difficult situations but it is very hard for public policy to make up for personal trauma.

So, this book has caused to see more of the possibilities that public policy has for making our lives better. I do recommend that you read it. It is a very thorough demolition of the idea that more money will make us happier (after basic needs are met). It is well written, clear and accessible.

What do you think? Do you think that governments have a role in promoting our individual happiness? Some people regard this with horror – that government has not business trying to do this kind of thing (I understand this view and have a good deal of sympathy for it). Would you like to see the kind of changes that Hamilton and Denniss outline in their eight points? I’d love to hear your views.


Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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5 Comments to “Governments, Laws and Our Happiness (Making Utopia Real #2)”

  1. […] here:  Governments, Laws and Our Happiness (Making Utopia Real #2 … This entry is filed under happiness. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS […]

  2. Paul Campbell says:

    Hi Evan

    Just popped over to say hello!

    I guess my other entry on a separate web site got the ‘severly edited’ routine mainly because of its length. However, if you read it, you will realise that in my experience, and that of Erin Pizzy from 35 years ago, who holds no brief for men – due to the preponderance of the militant feminist movement in high office, social services and in women’s refuges, controlling all things of a ‘domestic’ nature involving children – men as a separate and stifled minority are still getting treated as a political and social non-entity, when it comes to ‘rights’ as a father and house holder in cases of dispute. In the last 1/3 of a century I have seen no tangible proof of social progress for fathers from any political party.

    When it comes to changing the world you need to start with improving the family. Feminists have made fathers redundant, worldwide. Well done girls, now we have a whole generation of feral young men to deal with and girls with ‘attitude to burn’… oops!

  3. Evan says:

    Hi Paul,

    Yes, the editor got annoyed with the length of your posts.

    I mostly agree with what you say. A close friend of mine, an incest survivor with the worst story I’ve heard (and I’ve heard lots), is remarkably hostile to the feminist movement. She finds it lacks philosophical rigour and is often counter-productive (if men are born bastards doesn’t this let them off the hook?), she has also experienced important support from men in telling her story. All of which means she doesn’t have much of a brief for the feminists!

    The impact on young men of their mothers having a series of unsatisfactory relationships with men is coming home to roost I think.

    I think there are things we can do about this. And I think there are some good things being done – but these are very small.

    Thanks for coming over from the other site. And thanks for you comments and the concern they show.

  4. Paul Campbell says:

    “They lost the war but they won the peace”, is a popular epithet levelled against both the Germans and the Japanese.

    In that both have done very nicely after the war (WW2) in rebuilding both their cities and economies from the ashes of humiliating defeat by the Allies. We buy their cars and electronics as the finest in the world…

    So, this organisation has been set up as a latter day German memorial to General Marshall, who, as part of his revival of Germany and Europe, had even coal flown into Berlin during the Berlin Air Lift to help break the Soviet blockade.

    I flew across the Irish Sea in one of those old recycled WW2 DC3 DaKotas in 1959, when a boy. As comfortable as the upstairs of an old bus but with smaller windows, more noise and no heating.

    Global Marshall Plan Foundation
    Ferdinandstrasse 28-30
    20095 Hamburg – Germany

    “One minute for the Global Marshall Plan
    [1 minute]

    Find out, what YOU can do in one minute – from ordering the newsletter to spreading the word to your friends.

    more …

    Five minutes for the Global Marshall Plan
    [5 minutes]

    In five minutes, there are different things you can do, e.g. order the flyer to distribute it.

    more …

    [2 hours]

    Get involved! The ways to support our common goals are manifold: participate in one of the many groups, spread the word etc.”

    This organisation pays homage to a very underrated mitary strategist who had a good grasp of global financial politics also. Worth viewing their website, I suggest?

  5. Evan says:

    Thanks Paul, I’ll check them out.

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