by Arthur C. Brooks
GLENN: The name of the book is Gross National Happiness. Arthur Brooks is with us and I know, Arthur, that we only scheduled a few minutes with you and I appreciate you hanging on. I'm just fascinated with what you found on why happiness matters, who the happy people are and how you find happiness. We were talking about the people in Hollywood here a second ago and the difference between conservatives and liberals. It's really just traditional stuff that we learn from our parents and our grandparents that make us happy.
BROOKS: It's also that, but there's one other thing, Glenn, which is something that you brought up right before the break which is grievance. The Democrats have not always been this way but over the past, at least the past 15 years, the Democratic party has cobbled together grievance groups and people who define themselves with respect to their grievances, whether they're real or not. I mean, I'm not going to deny that some people have real grievances. But if you define yourself in that way and the party defines its power on the basis of people's grievances, this is basically a misery-provoking machine on our hands.
GLENN: Well, but that goes right to -- you said the three big umbrellas, if you will, are religious freedom, political freedom and economic freedom. That takes away two of those freedoms.
BROOKS: Oh, sure. Basically if you define yourself as not having freedom, as being oppressed, as having a big grievance against the government or against people with power or people with money, I mean, even if you do have some sort of a grievance, if you define yourself in that way, every day you'll be wallowing in it.
I mean, there are some conservatives that do that, too. But that's really the characteristic of what you hear in Mr. Obama's speeches and Mrs. Clinton's speeches.
GLENN: Well, that's what I wanted to kind of go to because I find it amazing that somebody like Barack Obama and his wife are -- I know this is counterintuitive to everybody who just watches the press releases and sees the snippets on TV, but especially his wife. She has talked about she feels guilty all the time, guilty, guilty, guilty. And she's angry that she had to pay for Princeton and Harvard. I mean, you've got to be kidding me. How is it that they can, for the first time, feel proud of their country and yet they're wealthy, they are well educated, they are -- they could be the first African-American couple in the White House in the Oval Office.
BROOKS: Yeah, they are utterly privileged people. They have so much more privilege than you or I have, you know, enjoyed in the run-up to any sort of professional success that we would have that it makes you wonder why are they so resentful and why are they trying to play on the resentment of others. But once again, this is the power structure of liberal Democrats today, and I'm not saying that they're wrong on every issue. I mean, I have no problems with a lot of their issues -- I mean with a lot of their politics or a lot of their points of view, but I have to say if we're looking for happiness as a country, we can't be looking at it with respect to the grievances that we face. I mean, even looking back on our privileged lives and trying to pick out the grievances. I mean, it's really a recipe for misery.
GLENN: I will tell you that in my life I have found, and I think part of it is because of I'm just riddled with ADD. I have to be busy and I'm best when I'm busy. In my life I am generally happiest when I'm working the hardest. Is there a connection to hard work? Because I see people now, you can't get people to work hard. And the misery factor seems to be going up.
BROOKS: Yeah. You know, the data are really weird on this, and this completely shocks me. If somebody asks you what percentage of Americans are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, most people will predict about 30%. In reality it's 89% of working Americans.
BROOKS: 70% of working Americans, even if they became independently wealthy, would not quit their current job and you find that most Americans, if you ask them anonymously, they will look into their hearts, more Americans say they wish they could work more than the percentage who say they could work less. So when we say we need more leisure and people push leisure on us and we need more work life balance, we have to think about that very carefully because the data don't support that. The data say that hard work is the value that brings a lot of bliss for a lot of us.
GLENN: Okay, so wait a minute. So what does that tell us? I mean, is it to the point to where we're running away from something or is it just that -- is there something else that showed you that work is -- there's something -- I mean, you know, it's like Thomas Jefferson said, you know. There's something about a farmer and sticking his hand in the soil every day. There's something about hard working people.
BROOKS: Well, work, it depends on where you're working. There's a reason that work doesn't give so much satisfaction in France and the reason for that is that the labor market is so rigid that people are badly matched with their jobs. In America we've got a pretty well functioning labor market and so if you want to build decks on the backs of people's houses, you can get the skills and do that. If you want to become a college professor like me, you can go to school and you can do that, too. And so if you are well matched with your profession, you are going to have more meaning in your life, have more success and create more value for other people because service to others is the key to this thing. And you are going to be able to do it. That's the reason that work is so satisfying in America and it probably isn't in other places.
GLENN: You know, that's really -- because as you're saying this, I'm thinking to myself about -- I'm thinking about working here, and I love my job but I hate the frustration of New York, and the frustration isn't even with 18 million people here. It's not about the traffic, it's not about anything. What it is is the union restrictions, it is the government restrictions, it is -- it's all the crap that comes with this city that makes it damn near impossible to get anything done.
BROOKS: Yeah, it's people pushing you around, and that's how a lot of Americans feel. They just say leave me alone, to create value, to serve other people, to find meaning in my personal values and my personal life. Yet there's this huge, you know, government industrial complex out there that's dedicated to pushing people around, to taking from one group of people and giving to another. And, you know, who's responsible for that? To my view the answer is we are because we're demanding for politicians to protect us from every kind of danger. Take my shoes off at the airport. There's misery.
GLENN: Wait a minute. So where is the disconnect? Because Obama will say we've had enough of this "Go it on your own" society and I say no, we haven't -- what?
BROOKS: Not even close.
GLENN: We're not even close, exactly right. Not even close. But why is it we are attracted to that?
BROOKS: Because in the short run we want security. In the short run we want goodies. In the short run we're anxious about our economic security and we're resentful about people who have more. And so it wins votes to tell people that they're miserable and to promise them goodies. What we know is in the long run that stuff comes home to roost, to, you know, misquote reverend Jeremiah Wright. That's what will really come home to roost is when we strip away our liberties. That will come back around and sooner or later you'll be stuck in the airport security line and miss your flight and at that moment the security policy that you acquiesced to from your congressman will make you miserable because it took away your liberty.
GLENN: The name of the book is "Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters For America and How We Can Get More of It" is out now in bookstores everywhere. Its author is Arthur Brooks. And Arthur, it is a pleasure talking to you. We'll talk to you again.
BROOKS: Thank you, Glenn.
GLENN: Thank you. Bye-bye.
You know, isn't it amazing that your gut tells you all of this stuff but now somebody's finally done all the research on it. And you look at the research and you're like, oh, thank goodness; I thought it was me. This goes again back to what my gut has said for a long time. It's not just you. People like us, we just don't ever say it out loud because of political correctness and everything else. Start saying it out loud. It's not just us.