Read Johan Norberg's, Swedish intellectual and writer, book on happiness, Den Eviga Matchen om Lyckan, this week-end. I enjoyed the narrative on happiness through the times from Aristotle although I don't share the idea of Norberg's competition between Aristotle and Jesus. He suggests that Thomas Aquinas might have had problems of knowing whether God or Aristotle was the greatest and that this might have contributed to his untimely death. I happen to believe that the unique combination of Christianity and the learning from the Antique was what made Europe. According to Francis Bacon Man should subdue Nature which I believe might have been instrumental along with the notion that this is possible with gun powder, the compass and the movable type.
I believe that it is possible to argue that individualism is supported by the happiness concept though. It is rather self-evident that it is easier to accomodate people's idea of what is valuable by securing for the individual to self-actualize his life. Communitarianism does not really exist because there is no "public mind" it is always and indivudual, a leader, that gives his account of the community wish, followers.
Norberg, however, seems to be a little disappointed that the research available from positive psychology is not leading to a development of liberalism. He concludes that Thomas Jefferson was right all along when he claimed that it is the actual pursuit of happiness that matters and not happiness itself. Rather the development of political philosophy since John Rawls seems to have abandoned the happiness of utilitarianism for justice and citizen ship theory. Indeed justice is a core value in positive psychology also believed to be of great importance in the psychology of religion.
What has become then of the religion-like campaign of Obama a couple of years ago. It seems to have been overtaken by another religion-like phenomenon where the Bible has been replaced by the US Constitution. People want America back and this is manifested by reverence of the Constitution as Ginna Lindberg, the US correspondent for the Swedish Radio, pointed out the other day. The Tea Party movement has succeeded in rallying people to the degree that the House of Representatives will fall to the Republicans and perhaps also the Senate as most pundits seem to think.
The reason for this is partly that a gloom, not happiness, has settled over US after the financial crisis. I finally found an article in Foreign Affairs (Nov-Dec 2010) that laid down a more sensible prediction about the future for the US as absolutely quite OK even if the relative power is going down as Asia is rising to the occasion. A lost Midterm election is historically the most likely outcome for the sitting president and most people give Obama the benefit of the doubt. My feeling is that he will return to grace, after all he has leveled out on a 45% approval rating, as the economy is improving because there is no single personality with a strong enough program to challenge him among the Republicans.
It remains to be seen whether a republican House of Representatives is going to affect the Afghanistan war? The Swedes recently made up their mind with a broad consensus position of phasing out the combat mission for a support ditto in 2014 just as Hillary Clinton writes a long article in Foreign Affairs (Nov-Dec 2010) about the need for more diplomacy and development aid. A positive outcome from the Afghanistan mission might however require more combat to maintain a status quo as long as needed for establishing stability which might take some time.