Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Murray at AEI: The Happiness of the People

Yesterday I shared Mark Steyn's characterization of the Obama Administration's program as Eurofication; today let us turn to Charles Murray's observations. He recently spoke at the American Enterprise Institute (accepting its 2009 Irving Kristol Award) on the subject of The Happiness of the People, in which he explains why Leftist prescriptions to make various people's lives easier, to whatever extent they actually succeed in doing so, make them less happy. He explains whence comes happiness (in the Aristotlean sense) and how the European model of "Social Democracy"

To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don't get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché "nothing worth having comes easily"). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences.

There aren't many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements. Having been a good parent. That qualifies. A good marriage. That qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours. That qualifies. And having been really good at something--good at something that drew the most from your abilities. That qualifies. Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation, and faith. Two clarifications: "Community" can embrace people who are scattered geographically. "Vocation" can include avocations or causes.

It is not necessary for any individual to make use of all four institutions, nor do I array them in a hierarchy. I merely assert that these four are all there are. The stuff of life--the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one's personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships--coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness--occurs within those four institutions.

Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that's what's wrong with the European model. It doesn't do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.

[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full article.]
I'm not as optimistic as Murray on how science will prove the fundamental tenets of leftism false; maybe that's because I've had enough "scientific consensus" on Gorebal Warming, thank you very much. But you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing and hear his arguments.

1 comment:

  1. Charles Murray is indeed a brilliant man, and I always enjoy his prose. Nevertheless, since but a gadfly I am, all liberally aflutter, allow me to offer a pointer towards Damon Linker's article at The New Republic in which he opines upon the content of Murray's American Enterprise Institute speech.

    ¡Díganme amigos!


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