Happiness and Politics"



Giovanni De Sio Cesari



The economic system is by definition oriented towards material well-being: happiness, spiritual well-being, is something different, it is a personal matter. It is dictatorships that claim to make people happy; democracies do not have these illusions. The problem is to understand what is meant by happiness, which over time has taken on different meanings. The Latin word "felix" meant fertile (for example: "Campania Felix") and therefore prosperity, good fortune corresponding to the Greek "eudaimonia" (literally: good demon). Happiness was therefore understood in the sense of well-being, while the modern meaning of happiness would correspond to the Latin "beatus", which currently remains only in the religious field (the blessed saints or the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount). The concept in the modern world is no longer evoked for its vagueness, replaced by indicators of well-being (which is not only economic), and this happens precisely because the concept of happiness in romanticism has taken on another meaning. In short, in the 18th century (for a Goldoni), a marriage was defined as happy if husband and wife observed their duties and enjoyed their rights as prescribed; from Romanticism onwards, we speak of love as happiness because we think of love as something absolute, superior, religious in short: well-being is not enough. It is said that the term happiness in the political field was born with the Enlightenment, but in reality, the reference to happiness is not only an aspect of Enlightenment reformism, but even before it was said that absolute kings had to act for the happiness of their subjects. The most famous text in this regard is the one referring to the Declaration of Independence of the United States: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." But what did they mean by "Happiness"? Anyway, "Happiness" comes from "happ", which meant fortune. So, happiness meant prosperity: it relates to the rights of the liberal state, which, as is known, were life, liberty, and "property" (and not "happiness"). I believe that happiness is not a political category: the state can aim for the well-being, not the happiness of its citizens. Happiness is something existential linked to purely personal needs. The Christian is happy to go to martyrdom because he believes he will meet God, and more banally, we are happy when the girl of our dreams says yes, when our child utters the first word, when a loved one overcomes an illness, and so on: the state cannot provide for these things, nor can it establish what makes us happy.