Simon Jenkins is quite possibly the most engaging journalist around. His book Thatcher and Sons is certainly one of the best critiques of modern politics as it is practiced today. However, his recent article in The Guardian shows that, like self-proclaimed ‘non-libertarian’ David Cameron, he is not a libertarian.
In fact there are many similarities between the Tory leader and Jenkins in this article. We have of course the inevitable rant against people being paid too much, but we also have echoes of Cameron’s argument last year that it is the job of politicians to make people happier. Jenkins writes:
We might even see a resurgence of the “happiness” movement of the early 1970s; of Schumacher’s “small is beautiful” economic theory. We might find a new appreciation for the king of Bhutan’s edict on the importance of “gross national happiness”, and for John Ralston Saul’s remark that the American mission of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was nothing to do with money. Saul called for a more subtle understanding of contentment, “to escape the 20th-century idea that you should smile because you’re at Disneyland”.
Of course, Disneyland is not for everyone, especially it seems members of the Canadian Intelligentsia such as John Ralston Saul. Much better a night at Toronto’s Opera House, I presume. Yet such judgements are limited. Better that everyone is free to enjoy their lives without the judgement of others; especially the judgement of the King of Bhutan, living in exquisite luxury, while his underlings just survive.
Jenkins writes that Britain might even “inch up the University of Michigan’s world happiness survey from its present miserable ranking of 21st, below Mexico and the US”. I thought all this nonsense about happiness had gone away. Any attempt politicians make to turn this into policy will result in incursions upon our freedom as well as being destined to fail.
Freedom is what matters when it comes to happiness, because happiness comes in many shapes and sizes. To quote the great Dennis Miller: “You like the Red Skelton painting? Buy the Red Skelton painting. You like “Home Improvement”? Tape it and go over it like the Zapruder film. It’s your life; live it on your terms”.