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Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America and How We Can Get More of It Hardcover – 3 May 2008

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About the Author

Arthur C. Brooks is Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. The author of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, Brooks writes widely about the connections between culture, politics, and economic life in America, and his work appears frequently in the Wall Street Journal and other publications. He is a native of Seattle, Washington, and currently lives in Syracuse, New York, with his wife Ester and their three children.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 26 reviews
51 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Who is happy and why? 4 May 2008
By Brian Ogan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Using cold, hard statistics from the past several years around the globe, Arthur Brooks reviles who is the most warm and fuzzy inside. From that the author states what policies the United States is doing that helps or hurts our GNH. The only problem with it is that it seems destined to become a political and not Sociology book due to his findings. Despite saying, for example, there are happy secular liberals (there is just fewer of them), it is getting bashed by the left while praised by the right. Both of which is a shame, since his true purpose is to show why certain people are happy, not necessarily how to make one happy, from an individual standpoint. He isn't saying conservatives are better politically. Just more likely to be happy.

The only time he does show how to make happiness is where he puts down what our leaders national agenda should be if we want higher GNH. He is looking at the macro level, not the micro. Topics explored include: political affiliation (conservative vs. liberal only; there is no data on libertarians or more specific affiliations yet), religion, family (does kids and marriage really bring happiness?), freedom and security (does the Patriot Act affect our GNH?), work, and money.

I wish there was more content for the price, which is why I'm only giving it 4 stars. Hopefully this might start some new studies to fill in the gaps.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Some of the secrets of true happiness revealed -- or reiterated 23 May 2008
By Christopher Barat - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The author of "Who Really Cares," the tome that turned popular stereotypes about charitable behavior on their heads, is back with more data regarding which groups in the American population report high levels of happiness. No doubt, most outside attention will focus on the very first chapter, wherein Brooks displays that conservatives have consistently been happier than liberals from the early 70s up until the present, but those who toss the book aside in disgust will miss some important insights. Some of the keys to happiness outlined by Brooks include practicing a religious faith, enjoying a happy married life, working at a job with meaning, and giving back to others through charity. A general theme that runs through all of these is that those who refuse to accept victimhood - and instead take steps towards gaining control over those parts of life that can be controlled - are bound to enjoy happy lives. Not a shocking conclusion in and of itself, but it does fly in the face of redistributionist theories that simply "shifting money around" to equalize income will make everyone feel better, not to mention emphases on the god of "self-esteem" (it's always best to strengthen one's own sense of self-worth, as opposed to relying on others to fill our tanks). Lest you think that this is just some partisan screed, Brooks also cautions us that those at both political extremes are among our happiest citizens - and, for that reason, their "tyrannical certainties" should be allowed as little control over our political process as possible. The book gets a little repetitive at times and lifts some of its insights directly from "Who Really Cares," but it's a worthy companion piece to Brooks' earlier volume.
38 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Secularists are not going to like this book 4 July 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Brooks sets out to discover who is happy, and why. The information is likely to surprise you.

For one thing, "Religious people of all faiths are much, much happier than secularists" (p 44). The difference is huge. "Of those who believed there is no way to find out if God exists, a paltry 12% claimed to be very happy people" (p 46). wonder Dawkins and Hitchens' books drip with unhappiness and malice.

And here's one those famous atheists will really gag on: "Religious individuals today are actually better educated and less ignorant of the world around them than secularists" (p 51).

Married people are happier than those who are single, too. Researchers studied people who seemed alike "but one is married and the other is not, the married person will be 18 percentage points more likely than the unmarried person to say he or she is very happy" (61). This will come a as a blow to the feminists.

Among the nations, North Korea is at the bottom of the happiness scale, with Cuba a close second (p 91). What, atheist communism hasn't brought happiness? Shocker.

On the other hand, mere wealth doesn't help much, once a country has achieved a decent level of health and nutrition. At least the wealth of Japan is not helping. And Mexicans are much happier, on average, than the French.

And here is one I would not have guessed: "For most Americans, job satisfaction is nearly equivalent to life satisfaction. Among those who say they are very happy in their lives, 95% are also satisfied with their jobs" (p 159).

This is a interesting and fun.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
sources of happiness in America 20 July 2008
By V.H. Amavilah - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book was motivated by the fact although "the pursuit of happiness" is enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, "little has been done ... to find out what actually makes America a happy nation" (front inside of dustcover). The book argues that what make America happy are: political orientation, marriage, income (albeit unequal), giving to charity, and work. These are the subjects of the chapters of the book, divided into parts: "The culture of happiness" and "the economics of happiness." The latter is a misnomer for the "business of happiness."

The first part consists of four chapters and the second includes a few more chapters. While Part I focuses on non-monetary matters like family, religion, and such, Part II is mainly about the connections of happiness to money; how money can sometimes "buy" happiness; and why inequality, no matter how bad, does not prevent individual upward mobility. In the end the book concludes that happiness is a personal and internal condition; if someone wants it, he/she must work full-time for it. Among the chapters of Part II, Chapter 8 on giving to charity as "the secret of buying happiness" is simply the greatest.

The book ends with a list of prescriptions for happiness: avoiding extremism, having a religious faith, having a decent family life, serving and protecting freedom, promoting equality of opportunities for all, celebrating work, giving to charity, respecting the humanity of others including enemies, and limiting government involvement in the business of life. Some of the prescriptions derive beautifully from the analyses of the book, and some appear to be ideological afterthoughts - poorly articulated and perhaps not even necessary. But, hey, why stress the negative when the purpose of writing is to communicate thoughts freely? No one should be penalized for sharing their thoughts. A good read.

Amavilah, Author
Modeling Determinants of Income in Embedded Economies
ISBN: 1600210465
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Great Correlation Between Happiness and Values 21 May 2009
By Edward J. Vasicek - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Arthur C. Brooks has written quite the book, "Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America and How We Can Get More of It." The volume is a puree of statistics blended with the author's interpretations of those statistics. Whether you agree with Brooks' analysis or not, the statistics engage the mind.

The Book is broken into two main sections: "The Culture of Happiness" and "The Economics of Happiness." The first section is the book's strength, the latter is less convincing, although the chapter asking "Does Money Buy Happiness" is right on the mark.

I do not see eye to eye with the premise of the book, namely, that personal happiness is the measuring stick for the choices we (or the government) should make. To my way of thinking, a standard of righteousness trumps the "happiness card" and takes the trick: It is more important to do what is right than to be happy. Yet happiness comes near the top, so I think it is important to observe what is correlated with happiness -- and what is not.

Here are a few fascinating correlations when it comes to happienss: In 2004, 22% of secular liberals claimed to be very happy, while 50% of religious conservatives made that claim. In that same year, 42% of married people claimed to be very happy, while 17% of divorced people, 20% of widowed people, and 23% of never married people made that claim. Overall, 31% of the population claimed to be very happy, 55% happy, and 13% "not too happy."

Those of us who consider ourselves to be very happy have long noted that cynical, critical, and bitter types are unhappy. They seem bent on spreading their gloom to others, and nothing aggravates them more than we "mindless" happy individuals. We could not help but observe how religious people and people who accept absolute values seem happier, so these statistics mesh with life experience. But it is interesting to see the actual stats that verify our personal conclusions.

The second half of the book, dealing with government policies, etc,, is constructed upon more interpretative grounds. Correlations are always tricky (and the author repeatedly cautions readers in this regard), and it is tempting to confuse correlations with causes. It could very well be that unhappy people prefer certain types of government, while happy people prefer other types.

I found this a book WELL WORTH READING, although it may anger unhappy individuals. My experience in dealing with people (I am a 30-year veteran of pastoral ministry) is that unhappy people do not enjoy being unhappy, but they really like the way of thinking that creates unhappiness.
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