Review: The Politics of Happiness–What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being

4 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Best Practices in Management, Civil Society, Complexity & Resilience, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Democracy, Disease & Health, Economics, Education (General), Education (Universities), Electoral Reform USA, Environment (Solutions), Future, Intelligence (Public), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Politics, Priorities, Public Administration, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Righteous, Mis-Leading Title

June 20, 2010

Derek Bok

First off, I’m back. After three months integrating into a field position with a prominent international organization, with three days off the whole time, I am finally able to get back to reading, and have about fifteen books on water I was going to read for UNESCO but will now read and review for myself. Look for two reviews a week from this point on, absent another tri-fecta (volcano, storm, minor coup).

This book is the first of three books that I am reviewing this week, the other two are The Hidden Wealth of Nations, which will be a five, and Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being, probably a five as well, but I continue to be stunned as how people limit their references to the last 10 years when so much has been done that is relevant in the last 50.

This book is not about the politics of happiness. It is more about the possibilities of public administration of happiness.

This will be a long review–apart from the author being one of a handful to truly top-notch minds with a historical memory, the topic is important–much more important than I realized until I starting following unconventional economics (ecological economics, true cost, bio-mimicry, sustainable design, human development and non-financial wealth).

The author opens with Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness (GNH) concept, with four pillars (good governance, stable-equitable social development, environmental protection, preservation of culture). Elsewhere (on the web) I learn that the 72 indicators are divided into nine domains (time use, living standards, good governance, psychological wellbeing, community vitality, culture, health, education, and ecology).

From there the author moves to the 1800’s and Jeremy Bentham, and of course our own Founding Fathers who included “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. As I have commented before in reviewing other books such as 1776; What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States, and The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country, happiness in those days was interpreted as fulfillment, “be all you can be,” not frivolous joy of “excessive laughter.”

The author identifies and discusses six factors pertinent to happiness in the US context as he defines it: Marriage; Social Relationships; Employment (wherein trust in management is VASTLY more important than the paycheck); Perceived Health; Religion (in sense of community not dogma) and Quality of Government (as which point I am reminded of George Will’s superb Statecraft as Soulcraft; Quality of government is further divided into Rule of Law, Efficient Government, Low Violence and Corruption; High Degree of Trust in Public Officials and Especially Police; and Responsive Encounters by Citizens with Government.

Note: 30 million in US population are “not too happy.”

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2006 Forbes Blank Slate On Education

Articles & Chapters, Education (General), Education (Universities), Information Society, Intelligence (Public)
2006 Forbes Blank Slate
2006 Forbes Blank Slate

Although I had long recognized that intelligence at the national level is remedial education for policy-makers and their staff who live in a “closed circle,” it was the juxtaposition of Derek Bok’s review of education with my own on intelligence in the same issue that made me realize we need a Deputy Vice President for Education, Intelligence, and Research.  I tried to get Colin Powell interested in the idea, to no avail.  In my view, we will always need spies and secrets, but they must be cast in the context of a Smart Nation, and our secret intelligence budget is so large now that it can safely afford to become a modest bill-payer for advances in education and research that are part of the Smart Nation triad.

It is not for me to do anything other than champion the idea–others actually manage the money and it is they who decide how the taxpayer dollar is spent.

Review: Universities in the Marketplace–The Commercialization of Higher Education

4 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Education (Universities)

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Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Structured Look at University Prostitution,

June 18, 2003
Derek Bok
Derek Bok, former President of Harvard University and author of two useful books on “the state of the nation”, has done a very fine job of examining the commercialization of the university, with separate chapters on athletics (the golden goose tends to cost more to maintain than most realize, both in financial terms and in terms of negative impacts on scholarship); scientific research; and customized executive education offered on a for-profit basis.While the author concludes with some recommendations, the book is best for its reasoned discussion of the problems. The prostitution of the universities, and the blandness of undergraduate education, are issued that will not be solved by any one community, any one state, or even by Congress. This is going to require a President committed to national education and public health as the “first plank” of any national strategy to united and nurture what I think of as the “seven intelligence tribes”: national (spies and counterspies), military, law enforcement, business, academic, non-profit and media, and religions-clans-citizens.

As we have seen in time since 9-11, all of these tribes appear to be failing–national on 9-11, military in Afghanistan and Iraq, law enforcement on Hamas and Pakistani terrorists still active within the US, business in general (Boeing being had by Airbus, for example), now in this book, the universities, the failure of the media to support the debate on going to war with Iraq, and of the New York Times in ethics specifically, the self-indulgent failure of the Catholic Church to police its own priests–this is not a pretty picture. In all of this, the university is central to the creation of a public that should be fully versed in “civitas” and electing public officials who are liberally educated as well as scientifically trained. That does not appear to be happening. This book helps explain why.

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