In the next five years, policy-makers around the world will embrace economic theories (e.g. those of Richard Layard) aimed at creating happiness. The Tower of Economic Babble is rubble. Long live the new, improved happiness economics!
Cash-strapped governments will love Layard's theory that high taxes on high earners make everyone happier. (They reduce envy in the less fortunate while saving those now super-taxed from their regrettable motivation to over-work.) It also makes political sense to turn people's attention from upside-down mortgages and looted pension funds to their more abstract happiness that you claim you can increase.
Just a few ripple effects from the coming high-powered promotion of happiness:
• Research funding will flow to psychologists who seek advances in happiness creation.
• Bookstores will re-name self-help sections as "Happiness sections"; then vastly expand them to accommodate hedonic workbooks and gratitude journals in rival formats.
• In public schools, "happiness" will be the new "self-esteem," a sacred concept to which mere educational goals must humbly bow.
• People will pursue happiness for themselves and their children with holy zeal; people whose child or spouse displays public unhappiness will feel a heavy burden of guilt and shame.
Will such changes increase general citizen happiness? This question is no longer angels-on-head-of-pin nonsense; researchers now claim good measures for relative happiness.
The distraction value alone should benefit most of us. But in the short run, I at least would be happy to see that my prediction had come true.