Summary/ Analysis of the article “How Happy Are You? A Census Wants to Know” by John Tierney

The article “How Happy Are You? A Census Wants to Know” by John Tierney, reveals how a small town called Somerville is providing a slight different content in the new census. The census sent to the citizens in Somerville was altered with a new question ” On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy do you feel right now?” The census was altered due to the advocacy by psychologists and economists, however “… without debate over how to do it and whether happiness is even the right thing for politicians to be promoting.”(Pg1) I think happiness can be promoted and it is promoted in many ways. Social media is used as a tool of promotion about happiness because it makes you believe that you need certain things in order to be happy such as; having the latest and most expensive car, money, good looks, and so on. The government already influences the happiness of the citizens by making decisions that will affect the community by lowering or raising taxes, therefore it is already promoting happiness to society.

The census has turned out to have various reactions from the citizens of Somerville. The author mentions that “… one man gave himself only a 6…” explaining that he is not satisfied with his height and that he wishes he could know Quechua fluently. Meanwhile, other residents “… felt flattered by the city’s attention.” I think everyone has a different meaning of happiness; therefore it would be very complicated for the government to be able to measure it. It depends a lot on the people if it could be measured, just like Connor Brennan said “ Of course, any survey like this is going to depend on the mood of the person at that moment.” (Pg2) However, if it is necessary to have a measurement of happiness in order to improve the community then by all means they should come up with an efficient method to do so. There are methods that could be similarly used such as the one Jetpac startup uses which is analyzing pictures of instagram to determine how happy the community is (click here for the article). Hence, if the government would measure the happiness of communities then it will have to think about all of the resources that it needs in order to do well. It’s just a matter of observing what the community is interested in, just like in Somerville where they are trying to improve the parks and bike paths. Resources such as efficient healthcare, education, and protection systems are important as well for the well-being of the community.

However, it can never be accurate to make every single person happy because as I mentioned earlier, everyone has different meanings of happiness and it would cause more conflict to satisfy all of them. For my well being I would say that as long as I can help my family and other people either economic or emotional wise, it fulfills my meaning of happiness. I also think that even though we all have a different meaning of happiness, we all share at least some general ideas of it such as being economically and socially stable. Therefore happiness could be measured if it’s for the purpose of improving the community, and it can be promoted but it doesn’t mean everyone will agree with it.