As readers of this blog may know, Bhutan has long produced a Gross National Happiness indicator as an alternative measure of welfare to more traditional economic indicators (e.g. GDP). Happiness measures have gained some traction elsewhere, and research on the economics of happiness (starting from the Easterlin paradox and its critics) has gotten quite mainstream. But official, public measures of happiness are still the exception rather than the norm. But not, it seems, in Lithuania:
Lithuanian capital to install public ‘happiness barometer’
The mayor of Vilnius plans to install a huge screen on the town hall to broadcast a real-time “happiness barometer” that will monitor the mood of the Lithuanian capital.
The giant display will monitor the level of happiness among the city’s 520,000 residents by showing a number on the scale of one to 10 that reflects tabulated votes sent in by locals from their mobile phones and computers.
“This barometer is a great tool for politicians. If we take a decision and see a sharp fall in the mood of the city, then we know we have done something horribly wrong,” mayor Arturas Zuokas said.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, most citizens aren’t that tapped into government activity, and so real-time reactions are likely to be more noise than signal. On the other hand, I’d rather CNN report on the noise-like fluctuations of happiness than to hear another billion stories about why the Dow was up or down ten points today (or, why various mostly clueless pundits think the Dow was up or down ten points, anyway).
What would such a story look like? “Happiness was up 5% today on strong sunshine, moderated by a predicted storm this weekend and reports of possible cost overruns in the new Defense Department IT overhaul…”? Try writing your own fictional happiness trend story in the comments!