Average happiness differs markedly across nations and there appears to be a system in these differences. This paper considers the role of quality of governance, and in particular the role of technical quality as opposed to democratic quality. A comparison of 127 nations in 2006 shows strong correlations between the quality of governance and average happiness of citizens. The correlation between technical quality and happiness is +0.75 and the correlation between democratic quality and happiness is +0.60. Technical quality correlates with happiness in rich and poor nations, while democratic quality only correlates with happiness in rich nations. The quality of governance appears to be more important for happiness than the size of governments: the relation between quality and happiness is independent of size, while the relation between size and happiness fully depends on quality. The correlation between technical quality and happiness appears to be independent of culture; it exists not only in western nations, but also in Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. This indicates that technically good governance is a universal condition for happiness, and not just a western ideology. Democratic quality adds substantially to the positive effects of technical quality once technical quality has reached some minimal level.

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doi.org/10.1007/s10902-009-9144-7, hdl.handle.net/1765/16280
Journal of Happiness Studies
Department of Sociology

Ott, J. C. (2010). Good Governance and Happiness in Nations: Technical Quality Precedes Democracy and Quality Beats Size. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(3), 353–368. doi:10.1007/s10902-009-9144-7