Big Government, Happy Citizens? - Pacific Standard

Big Government, Happy Citizens?

You may like to talk about how much happier you'd be if the government didn't interfere with your life, but that's not what the research shows.
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(Photo: KENNY TONG/Shutterstock)

(Photo: KENNY TONG/Shutterstock)

Finding people who insist they’d be happier if the government would stay out of their lives is not difficult. But new research suggests those people may be fooling themselves.

"At least in the advanced industrial democracies in question, government intervention increases the likelihood that citizens find their lives to be satisfying."

Using data from surveys conducted in numerous nations between 1981 and 2007, a team led by Baylor University political scientist Patrick Flavin focused on the question: “All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life these days?” Respondents answered on a 10-point scale. Their ratings were then juxtaposed with four key indicators of government involvement in the economy, including the generosity of welfare benefits and the extent to which labor markets are regulated.

“Our results,” the researchers write, “firmly and robustly point to one conclusion: At least in the advanced industrial democracies in question, government intervention increases the likelihood that citizens find their lives to be satisfying.”

Their data suggests the impact of activist government on personal happiness is “quite substantial,” and benefits the rich and poor alike.

Perhaps enjoying life is easier when you know there’s a safety net.

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