A lot of our happiness is outside our control, a University of Minnesota research project concludes. In that portion that we do control, four factors stand out: faith, family, community, and work.

Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute finds the last the most surprising: “Popular culture insists our jobs are drudgery, and one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged.” The survey tells a different story: “More than 50 percent of Americans say they are ‘completely satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their work. This rises to over 80 percent when we include ‘fairly satisfied.’ This finding generally holds across income and education levels.”

Brooks thinks there’s a specifically America devotion to work: “Vocation is central to the American ideal, the root of the aphorism that we ‘live to work’ while others ‘work to live.’ . . . When Frederick Douglass rhapsodized about ‘patient, enduring, honest, unremitting and indefatigable work, into which the whole heart is put,’ he struck the bedrock of our culture and character . . . .rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money.” Whatever their income, “Americans who feel they are successful at work are twice as likely to say they are very happy overall as people who dont feel that way.”

Brooks concludes that free enterprise is superior to other systems precisely because it “reates more paths than any other system to use ones abilities in creative and meaningful ways.”

More on: Economics

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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