First, the Forbes premise:
How content are the residents of your state? And what about their mental and physical health, how do they rate their communities in terms of those important measures? Those are the questions posed by the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which just released the results of its research for 2013.
Based on interviews with more than 178,000 American adults living in all 50 states conducted from January to December 2013, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is actually an average of six different indexes, which track:
- Life evaluation
- Emotional health
- Work environment
- Physical health
- Healthy behaviors
- Access to basic necessities
In a nutshell, the heartland and “fly-over” states won out big time; only one coastal state (Washington) and not one state housing a top metropolitan area made the top 10. Even more specifically, the west and midwest are doing the best job wowing their residents, with 9 out of the 10 of the top 10 states falling in those categories. And even within these areas, there are some surprises, particularly the predominance of prairie and mountain states among those most pleasing to their residents.
The news is …
… that Wisconsin improved in happiness from 20th in 2012 to 14th in 2013. Moreover …
In another interesting insight, the poll ranks the well-being of the nation as a whole, using the same set of criteria. And perhaps surprisingly to those touting continuing improvements in the economy, the well-being of the country as a whole dropped from 2012′s 66.7 to 66.2, the same as 2011, suggesting that the upswing in the national mood may be over.
In a separate ranking, Gallup calculated the 11 states that had made the steadiest improvement since 2010, when the recession officially ended.
The states on that list, in order, are
Since 2010. What has happened since 2010 in Wisconsin? Hmmm …
So what difference does the replacement of Democrats statewide by Republicans statewide have to do with happiness? Good question, which prompts this headline.
To delve a little deeper into what constitutes “well-being,” the Healthways researchers have developed a series of 5 criteria that can be used to evaluate quality of life. They are, and I quote:
- “Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals;
- Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life;
- Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security;
- Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community; and
- Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.”
A state senator I follow on Facebook termed this “Happy days are here again!” (You can guess which capital letter follows her last name.) Which is interesting seeing as how this state was supposedly torn asunder in 2011 and 2012, with government employees forced to pay (less than taxpayers funding their salaries) for their benefits (that are better than taxpayers funding their salaries). And if you believe Democrats, our state’s economy has been suffering as a result ever since then, despite the fact that state unemployment numbers are lower than the national average.
I’m not sure I consider a jump from 20th to 14th to be that significant. Actually, the 20th ranking in 2012 might be more significant, suggesting that, despite all the political crapola of Recallarama, most Wisconsinites were able to put things in their proper perspective.
As for the five happinesses, government has to do with no more than two of them. This state remains overtaxed, and every dollar government takes from you is $1 you can’t use anywhere else. Those tax dollars are used for public safety functions as listed in number four, but if government is stronger than community, then there really is no community in the social sense of that word.
Jonah Goldberg wrote this about Washington, but it certainly applies to Madison too:
I’ve long believed there’s a strongly held view in Hollywood and D.C. that says that without the government in Washington American society would descend into anarchy almost instantaneously. People are walking around downtown Peoria. They are perfectly calm and rational. Mr. Jones says “good morning” to Mrs. Smith. “Nice weather, huh?”
Then, as if Landru had replaced the noontime chime with the code phrase “the federal government is gone,” someone shouts, “The federal government is gone!” and anarchy immediately ensues, with rape and rapine fast on its heels. Upon hearing the news that Washington stands idle, Mr. Jones attempts to ravish Mrs. Smith. His dastardly plan is only foiled because Slim Pickens ordered the ol’ number six.
And I’m not talking about panic over a nuclear strike or the news that Cthulhu has started his horrible feast on Capital Hill. I mean that I think there’s a notion — more like an unarticulated assumption — that it’s the government in Washington that holds society together. This is somewhat implied in the way Obama talks about government as the word for the things we all do together and his efforts to sow bowel-stewing panic over the government shutdown. It’s implicit in all the talk — from Republicans and Democrats alike — that the president needs a “vision” for the whole country and that he “creates” jobs.
The simple fact is that if the federal government disappearedtomorrow — and the media didn’t report it — it would take days or even weeks for many people to even learn about it. And the news would not come from marauding barbarians on motorcycles laying waste to communities. It would mostly spread with the news that there’s something wrong with the Post Office. And if somehow you could keep the Post Office going — and with it the checks from the treasury — people could go months without murdering, raping, or even running with scissors.
A liberal might respond, “Aha! You concede the point that people need those checks from government!” Well, yes. But the government also needs those people to need those checks. My point isn’t about wealth-transfers, it’s that normal people don’t look to the federal government for much direction or meaning in their lives.
Goldberg was writing about the difference between statutory law and what Jonathan Rauch defines as “hidden law,” “which is the norms, conventions, implicit bargains, and folk wisdoms that organize social expectations, regulate everyday behavior, and manage interpersonal conflicts.” The “hidden law” governs community, and that is much more important than what the windbags in Washington, Madison, your county seat or your city or village hall devise to make themselves more powerful.
The other thing, of course, is that Wisconsin’s ranking is destined to crater from 14th in 2013 to 50th in 2014, for reasons unrelated to do with politics and government.