Want to be happy? Participating in a vibrant civil society is key

Who doesn’t want to be happy? But often, the pursuits and pleasures we assume will bring happiness never do in the end.

Writing in Philanthropy Daily, middle-school teacher Abigail Clevenger suggests that participating in a vibrant civil society — family, church, and local community — is a key ingredient for achieving personal and national happiness. She launches her argument off a recent speech by the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks on “the secret of happiness”:

The problem is that we try to measure happiness, both personally and nationally, with what is easily measured: money and material goods. So we quickly become a nation primed for consumption and the never-ending quest to satiate unlimited desires. The government ends up encouraging materialism and the assumption that money (or entitlements) can buy happiness. Alas, time and again, the stats clearly demonstrate that money just doesn’t buy elusive happiness.

Again, for an individual or society to be happy, statistically speaking, it should invest in its civil society, and one way of the best ways to do that is through charity. But to be effectively charitable, you need to have a system in place that most allows charities to flourish. An “entitlement” society does not always allow us to be charitable. It also takes away the opportunity for us to “earn” success or work personally and creatively for the common good of others, another point Brooks makes.

For Brooks and AEI, the free market and enterprise system provides the paradigm most “in accord with virtue” that allows for flourishing civil societies. In contrast, the entitlement-driven progressive agenda puts up bureaucratic barriers that often hamstring civil society (family, church, and local community).