THE FREQUENT FLYER
What makes a populace happy?什麽使人民感到幸福快樂？
How to make a populace happy? Our columnist has a few theories
LAST MONTH, I talked about the happiness that the people of Jakarta always seem to exude. But what makes a populace happy?
This topic has fascinated thinkers for centuries. Around the 18th century, they began to move away from believing that happiness was determined by factors beyond our control, such as luck, fate or genes. William Cobbett, an English pamphleteer and journalist, espoused a fresh view: ‘I defy you to agitate any fellow with a full stomach.’ The implication was that happiness was not about chance but about getting the basics right.
This view still dominates happiness literature. The World Happiness Report (inspired intriguingly by Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness goal) and the OECD Well-Being Framework both stress the importance of governments satisfying basic economic, physical and psychological needs.
These needs are fulfilled with peace, rule of law, healthcare, education, employment and employment insurance, a measure of equality (or at least equality of opportunity) and non- corrupt institutions.
This makes sense. But it’s hard to establish that the above factors really lead to greater happiness.
The missing parts of this jigsaw, as experts increasingly acknowledge, are the soft elements: healthy relationships, community belonging and a sense of purpose. Even Napoleon understood this back in the day and rallied his troops around powerful revolutionary narratives. Yet these imperatives are difficult to achieve, especially in an age of divisive social media and isolating technology.
So what should governments do? I say two things. First, the overt. There is little doubt that events that bring communities and countries together have an impact: think what the London Olympics or the Diamond Jubilee achieved in the UK or the effect of the Singapore Grand Prix or even the warmth created every year by an increasingly institutionalised Christmas. Such large-scale moves create excitement and help people forge community spirit.
The second, and increasingly more important, is the ‘nudge’ – techniques to encourage citizens to make decisions that are in everyone’s best interest. Singapore has been a master of this: think the Stop at Two family planning campaign of the 1960s or the outdoor gyms at entrances of public housing estates. In Scandinavian countries, the green footprints leading to rubbish bins reduced littering by 46 percent. There are questions about intrusion and efficacy, but in the pursuit of happiness surely such nudges are worth pushing further?
All of this matters, not just for the citizens of a country (obvious), but for everyone else too (less obvious). Because sightseeing and landmarks are never enough; because, just as with Jakarta, a place with happy people is simply a better place to travel to; a place with stability, community spirit, fun relationships and responsible behaviour makes for a more engaging, fulfilling and human experience. It’s perhaps not something countries tend to mention when marketing themselves to the outside world, but for me, it’s an attractive sell.
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這是數個世紀以來一直令思想家著迷的問題。直到18世紀左右，他們才開始不再將快樂歸因於不受人類操控的因素，如運氣、命運或基因。英國時政評論家兼記者William Cobbett提出一個新觀點：「我倒 想看看你能否在民衆飽腹時煽動他們。」這句話的弦外之音是：快樂並不是單靠偶發事件，而是需要從基礎做起。幾個世紀後，這種看法依然主導著快樂的原則。由不丹國民快樂指數啟發的世界快樂報告和經濟合作暨發展組織均強調，政府需照顧人民在經濟、物質和心靈的基本需求。這些需求能夠透過和平、法治、醫療、教育、工作、就業保障、平等（至少達到機會平等）和廉潔而得到滿足。這聽起來相當合理，但很難證明滿足上述因素真能讓人民幸福快樂。愈來愈多專家承認，快樂拼圖所缺少的正是和諧關係、社區歸屬和使命感等軟性元素。很久以前，拿破崙已經很清楚這一點，便利用打動人心的革命言論來號召軍隊。可是在現今社會，社交平台和科技令人變得疏離與自閉，使軟性手段難以起作用。那麼政府該怎樣做呢？我認為有兩個方法：其一是提升公衆凝聚力。倫敦奧運、英女王登基60周年紀念、新加坡格蘭披治一級方程式大賽，甚至是日漸制度化的聖誕節，皆能凝聚社區和國家。這類大型活動可以引起市民的興趣，從而發揚社區精神。第二點「推動力」更為重要，用以鼓勵市民採取有利社會整體利益的決定。新加坡運用這技巧可謂駕輕就熟，最佳例子包括1960年代的二孩計劃生育政策，或是在公共屋邨（組屋）入口處設戶外健身設備。在北歐諸國，以綠色足印標誌指引垃圾桶位置，成功減少46%亂拋垃圾的行為。儘管有人質疑這些做法流於「家長式」，而且功效成疑，但是為了追求快樂，這些「推動力」不是應該進一步發展嗎？凡此種種，不單直接惠及國民，亦間接令全人類受益。因為觀光和景點永遠不夠，擁有快樂人民的地方肯定是值得前往旅遊的地點，雅加達就是一例；因為一個穩定、社區關係融洽歡欣、國民擁有公民意識的地方，能為旅客帶來更親切、滿足和充滿人性光輝的體驗，讓人樂在其中。這些也許不是各國推廣旅遊業時的宣傳重點，對我卻別具吸引力。