Jack McConnell blasts Labour’s “caveman” attitude to Happiness Index
Former Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell has hit out at Labour’s dismissal of the ‘Happiness Index’, published yesterday by the Office of National Statistics. Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Michael Dugher MP rejected the Measuring National Wellbeing Programme as “a statement-of-the-bleeding-obvious [and] a waste of taxpayers’ money,” prompting Lord McConnell to describe Labour’s response as “ignorant” and to say of Dugher “the guy sounds like a caveman”.
Of course, there is much that is not ideal about this government’s foray into wellbeing economics. The results so far are extremely limited and focus largely on the subjective (“Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?”), though this is due to change as the programme develops. Some commentators have rightly warned that, like any information, it could be abused and misrepresented by the government in pursuit of ideological ends.
But ultimately it is difficult to defend any approach to economic policy other than one rooted in wellbeing economics. In order to claim a successful economic policy we have to know what the purpose of the economy is, and I challenge you to propose a better purpose than making us as equitably, sustainably happy as possible.
Don’t think for a second that an economy without a wellbeing compass is purposeless. The purpose of our current economic policies is clear: to maximise the wealth and power of the very richest. Studying our wellbeing instead of just GDP gives us the opportunity to debate whether this is a noble cause, and challenge whether we ever agreed to it in the first place.
I applaud Lord McConnell for seeking an opposition to this government that is worthy of the name. We are in an historic crisis and we need leaders prepared to find and articulate a radically different path to the one that got us here. Sadly, it seems, the Labour party is not that opposition.
It’s remarkable in support of me to have a website, which is useful in favor of my experience.
My good friend suffers from depression. She cannot work, the standardised form they give her regularly to access her mental health and whether or not she is eligible for sickness benefit is an appallingly intrusive and insensitive document. She remarked that every time she had to answer the questions on it, it was enough to make her want to top herself. She showed me a copy, it was heavy reading indeed, more of an interrogation than anything resembling support or advice. So too were the trips to the doctor, where “playing up” to the condition lead to all sorts of self reinforcing behavior that would affect her for weeks afterwards, all so she could get help! The point of telling this story is to illustrate my argument that you simply cannot deal with mental health in a statistical or standardised manner, its about caring for individuals and their complex conditions. Anything less is dehumanizing.
I would argue the methodology is unsound, asking people to rate their happiness (the most intimate, subjective and unquantifiable thing in the world) out of 10 is like asking someone to tell you their life story by answering yes or no.
I’m not a social researcher by trade but this is mind numbingly simplistic. I’m most baffled by the fact that they have even coloured in a map, well this is profoundly sad, wait oh “im from such and such”, “well Im from such and such which incidentally has been shaded slightly more red which indicated (according to the boffins) that I am statistically more likely to be happier than you, sorry”
I thought we got over this kind of guff when new Labour fell from grace.
This just goes to show how utterly bereft of ideas we are when this is the new vogue in civilisation’s performance.
There are things you can count and measure, like suicide rates, liver transplants, or ecosystems collapsing and we do very little about them.
I was once meeting Dugher for work reasons, and in between listening, was keen to tell of how he’d got a piece in the Sun denouncing the Lib Dems as ‘soft on terrorirm’ because they had this human rights agenda. Seems like he wants to be the new John Reid.