LETTER : True measures of human happiness

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From Ms Penny Sutton

Sir: How sensitive and incisive I found Geoff Mulgan's examination of the assumption that has underpinned British politics since the war, namely, that economic growth is the key to human happiness ("Money doesn't make the world go round", 27 February).

I especially liked the point he made about the promotion of equality leading to increased well- being and self-esteem. He seemed to get at the heart of the malaise of the society we are currently living in and hint at the reasons behind it; a society which spends heavily on "defensive" measures such as insurance and burglar alarms and "forms of leisure that leave people inert and passive".

It was, therefore, a disappointment to read the final paragraph in which he stated that the new politics of quality and ecology, of ethics and meaning will not happen in this country until our present politicians and civil servants have retired and taken their assumptions with them.

Does Mr Mulgan seriously believe that this generation of politicians and civil servants do not understand the true dynamics of human happiness? That children, indeed their children, flourish and develop the capacity to be healthy and social only with the loving attention of parents who structure their lives with challenge and adventure.

The issue is that the policymakers understand very well the basic ingredients for personal fulfilment and structure their lives accordingly but don't believe that government has any business doing anything more than steering the economy. The problem is one of government's conception of the role of government, not of the failure of government to understand the "new politics of quality and ecology, of ethics and meaning".

Yours faithfully,



27 February