Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, gave a talk a couple of weeks ago at the National Geographic Society building. He described the study he has conducted for his book The Road to Freedom.
Brooks concluded, with the help of empirical surveys and data, that happiness is the key to flourishing in life. This is an idea that is, in itself, not new. But Brooks’s book seeks to answer the question of the nature of happiness in light of American conditions, customs, history, economics, and affairs.
Thus, the way he posed the question of happiness had everything to do with what makes America—the land of the free and the home of the brave—happy. The answer is “earned success.”
As part of this Brooks mentioned three basic factors involved in American happiness: genetics, big life events, and choices. The first of the three, genetics, we do not choose, but accounts for 48 percent of our happiness. Second, big life events account for 40 percent of our happiness, and our choices are involved here—but he noted that these never last and human beings tend to be bad at getting the things they seek.
Finally, choices account for the remaining 12 percent of our happiness, in which faith, family, community, and work are the key factors. Life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, then, are realized through genetics, big life events, and choices involving faith, family, community, and work—the lattermost of which brings happiness by “earned success.”
The concept of “earned success” is not money, but a certain fulfillment and value in the work that you do. The success is fulfilling precisely because it is earned and not handed out. This factor is important because contentment with work will inevitably affect faith, community life, family, and even, in theory, big life events.
One of the chief factors in making life a free enterprise, for Brooks, is to become your happiest by choosing the ways you earn. Happiness, then, for Americans is achieved, by and large, in treading the road of opportunity to earned success.
Some have called that “the American Dream.”