2003: The Rich Got Richer . . .
. . . and so did everyone else.
11:00 PM, Dec 29, 2003 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Which leaves happiness, a commodity many argue cannot be bought with money. America's Founding Fathers were certainly onto something when, in the Declaration of Independence from British tyranny, they held it to be "self-evident" that the "Pursuit of Happiness" is among the unalienable rights of all people. But they failed to opine on whether that pursuit would be aided or impeded by increased material well-being.
Charles Murray, the social scientist who has written a book on the subject of happiness, says that although moving from very poor to reasonably well off increases happiness, students of the subject are uncertain whether beyond that point more income results in greater happiness. The portion of Americans who consider themselves "very happy" or "pretty happy" has hovered around 87 percent in recent years. So it seems unlikely that wealth, which unambiguously increases choice, can also produce misery, although it may produce the leisure time in which to find things to be unhappy about. This economist leaves the final decision about the relationship of wealth to happiness to sociologists, and confines himself to wishing all of our readers a prosperous and happy New Year.
Irwin M. Stelzer is director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, a columnist for the Sunday Times (London), a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.