David Cameron Wants to Measure Your Mood

Is how happy you are going to steer government policy?

Reuters reports that Prime Minister David Cameron set out plans to “measure the national mood and help to build a more family-friendly Britain, a potentially fraught endeavour at a time of sharp spending cuts. Cameron said the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which produces data on economic growth, unemployment and crime, would start measuring the quality of life from next April, arguing that current indicators do not show overall wellbeing.

The ONS will ask people how satisfied they are with aspects of their life such as their relationships, locality and work, with the aim of producing national and regional wellbeing measures by the summer of 2012. It will first consult on what questions to ask and how much weight should be given to each factor. Economists have previously expressed scepticism over whether such a gauge would be taken seriously. But statisticians said Britain was leading the way in attempting to record subjective measures of wellbeing with the same rigour as objective data such as household incomes.”

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Britain’s bid to be the first country to officially monitor happiness might soon be followed by France as well. The idea is that economic factors like GDP alone are no absolute indication about the country’s wellbeing, or socially at least. How favourable is it to measure mood though, in times of crisis like these? Surely economic policy couldn’t be informed by a nation’s perceived happiness, especially when these measures are subjective to each individual’s interpretation of happiness, and are also flexible from one period to the other. Perhaps Cameron thinks the study would come out favourably? Only time will tell how happy British people really are with their current unemployment and crime rates.

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