In 2014, when it was announced by Gallup that North Dakota was the happiest state in the union in 2013, the news was immediately touted by Republicans around the state. They saw it as proof positive that their policies are working.
But the 2015 survey results, covering polling done in 2014, shows North Dakota tumbling from 1st to 23rd. Something tells me the politicians won’t be touting this poll.
So, what happened? Oil prices are a concern for the state, sure, but the economy here is still strong. Jobs are still plentiful and incomes are high. According to Gallup, the big swing happened not because of economic dissatisfaction but rather because North Dakotans reported a higher rate of unhealthy activities like smoking:
North Dakota tumbled from the top spot in 2013 to 23rd in 2014. North Dakota’s drop was mostly attributable to a drop in its residents’ overall life evaluation, coupled with worsened health-related behaviors such as higher smoking rates, reduced exercise and less healthy eating compared with 2013.
It is what it is, I guess, but if we’re measuring happiness who is to say that people who smoke and eat junk food aren’t happy?
I realize it’s not politically correct to endorse such behaviors in this era increasingly byzantine public health policy and digital jacobins intent on enforcing a certain sort of lifestyle, but what is liberty if not, among other things, the freedom to have bad habits?
Sure, smoking and junk food will probably shorten your lifespan, but does that mean people who do those things aren’t happy?
It’s a little hard to take seriously a poll wherein “happiness” is defined (at least in part) as making lifestyle choices in line with what pollsters think they ought to be.
Why don’t we ever measure happiness as the number of freedoms and choices citizens enjoy?
Meanwhile, North Dakota lawmakers in both the House and the Senate struck down bills this session – by wide margins – which would have dramatically increased tobacco taxes. Expect the anti-tobacco zealots, when they inevitably put that issue on the state ballot, to cite this poll as evidence.