Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

American politics don’t make me happy—thank goodness

At a banquet of Canadian public intellectuals and philanthropists, a Canadian happiness scholar dismissed my attraction to the idea that talented Canadians might fend for themselves in a wider political association with Americans. It’s a “ludicrous” idea that mustn’t resurface. America is a miserable place; all the wellness indicators say so. Why would we want to be miserable, too?

There are various ways for Canadians within a larger association to continue to feel superior and keep telling the world about their superior social indicators.

Nevertheless, being dismissed as some kind of playful nihilist stings. The charge, however, fairly echoes two centuries of American grief with the "pursuit of happiness.”

In earlier times, Europeans and Europhiles in Canada taught their children that putting happiness in their constitution was vulgar, even hedonistic—not something adult societies would do. Now, after the privileged of the world have consumed a century of American materialism, America is put down for slipping in the happiness stakes.

Despite being the richest, the US only ranked 12th in last year’s OECD’s Life Satisfaction Index. Eleven enviable little countries, including Canada, ranked higher.

Rather than expecting the US—with its burgeoning minorities, numerous regions, and a million legal immigrants a year—to beat Denmark on these indexes, it’d be more informative to rank the gigantic American federation with other great federations—the EU, Russia, Brazil, India, and China, specifically.  

Nevertheless, one thing about America’s relative unhappiness that we should embrace is their perspective on their own politics. American political discontent isn’t always a good thing. However, the smiling alternative could diminish the future for all of us.

Yesterday, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, explained why Conservatives are happier than Liberals. He also noted that moderates lose out to both extremes.

“Correcting for income, education, age, race, family situation and religion, the happiest Americans are those who say they are either “extremely conservative” (48 percent very happy) or “extremely liberal” (35 percent). Everyone else is less happy, with the nadir at dead-center “moderate” (26 percent).

“What explains this odd pattern? One possibility is that extremists have the whole world figured out, and sorted into good guys and bad guys. They have the security of knowing what’s wrong, and whom to fight. They are the happy warriors.”

American extremists and contented Canadians may have the best parties. But, it’s those miserable moderates that we count on to keep us safe and progressing intelligently.

No comments:

Post a Comment