Monday, 23 November 2009

Referendums make you happy

Referendums make you happy. Yes, they really do. This point may not have appeared in last week's report by the All Wales Convention report but it comes from a very reputable source.

The economist Richard Layard reports in his brilliant book Happiness - Lessons from a New Science how citizens are more content where they have a regular say on policy decisions.

This is based on what he calls the "remarkable results" from a study of democracy in Switzerland. "In every Swiss canton (or region) policies are often decided by referendum," he reports. "But in some cantons citizens have more rights to demand referendums than others.

"It turns out that people are much happier where they have more rights to referendums. If we compare those cantons where these rights are the most extensive with those where they are the least extensive, the difference in happiness is as great as if they had double the income."

So what's it to be? Double your money or another referendum? Perhaps these conclusions could be tested by a controlled experiment giving more referendum opportunities in either North or South Wales, and offering cash to citizens in the rest of the country.

We could set up a new committee - call it the Half Wales Convention - to investigate who emerges the happier.

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