New series by AEI: The Pursuit of Happiness

August 13, 2014 | By Will O'Bryan

The American Enterprises Institute’s new Pursuit of Happiness project explores the meaning of happiness, how to pursue it as individuals, and how government policies can promote it.  With speeches by AEI president Arthur Brooks, columnist Megan McArdle, and AEI scholar Robert Doar, the Pursuit of Happiness project lays out a conservative vision of social justice in which the government creates an environment where all individuals have the opportunity to seek happiness.

One of the speeches by Arthur Brooks, “The Secret of Happiness,” explains that happiness comes from four major sources: faith, family, community, and work.  “Those are your big four. That’s your happiness portfolio. Don’t waste your time on other stuff,” said Brooks.

The other speech by Brooks, “A conservative vision of social justice,” lays out what Brooks calls “The Hope Agenda.” This is a public policy designed to sanctify work and entrepreneurship and help the poor escape poverty by teaching them the values of free enterprise, not just handing them money.

Robert Doar, former commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, gave a talk emphasizing the importance of requiring and rewarding work for welfare payments and promoting the family and a strong economy.

“We didn’t make any disparagements about dead-end jobs or low wage jobs,” said Doar.  “Any job is a step up.”

Megan McArdle, a columnist at the Bloomberg View, spoke about the importance of social capital in poor communities and how it often acts as a substitute for financial capital.  “If we want to help the poor climb that ladder into the middle class… then we need to address this problem.  This is at the core of what opportunity and stability and the American Dream is going to mean to all the poor people trying to climb that ladder,” said McArdle.

In addition to the talks, the Pursuit of Happiness website has a section for readers to share their own stories of “creating value in your life or in the lives of other people” or reading those of others.

Pursuit of Happiness also recommends related books, news articles, and social science research on happiness and conservative social justice.