Happiness and Human Rights

Article excerpt


This paper uses cross country regression analysis to look at the effect of physical and socio-political human rights on human happiness. The evidence of the paper supports the view that human happiness is positively related to both physical and socio-political human rights, and finds that the marginal effect of physical human rights on human happiness is much greater than that of socio-political human rights.


Unfortunately, in the modern world, political, ethnic, and religious cleansings are still quite common occurrences. Just recently, in the very backyard of Europe, the birthplace of western civilization, Bosnia experienced the horrible problem. What's further, dictatorships, repressive governments, totalitarian regimes, and pseudo democracies, in which there are little or no political human rights, are not atypical forms of government.

There is a lot of expressed concern and focus on human rights. In international dealings between the U.S. and China, and between the U.S. and other countries, human rights are often an issue. The United Nations has a human rights council. Human Rights Watch has an entire website exclusively devoted to human rights and human rights violations (Human Rights Watch 2011).

It is well known that successful guerilla and revolutionary activity ultimately depends on winning the hearts of the people. In a similar fashion, in the long term , it is probably the case that the lack of human rights and human rights violations are not likely to be sustainable in the face of real opposition by ordinary people.

This paper looks at the effect on happiness of two major categories of human rights, physical human rights and socio-political human rights. Finding the quantitative weight of human rights, and of different forms of human rights, on happiness is important in and of itself, for its consequences, and to properly assess the gravity of various kinds of human rights violations. To the extent that the absence of human rights diminishes human satisfaction in countries and is not compensated in people's eyes by some other factors, there is hope that human rights violations will eventually be lessened or eliminated.

In addition, knowledge of the relative weights of different kinds of human rights on happiness is essential for the proper administration of human rights policy. If given the current allocation of resources to different types of human rights, the per dollar effect of spending on one type of human rights is greater than that for another, then current policy is not rational. In this case, rational policy requires that spending be shifted from the lower per dollar return factor to the higher dollar return factor until the returns are equalized.

While the importance of socio-political human rights may be politically controversial, the potential importance of physical human rights for human happiness and welfare seems to have been accepted far back in antiquity. In the Bible's book of Job, when Satan has not yet succeeded in getting Job to curse God by destroying his wealth and his possessions, he appeals to God to let him attack his person, using the argument that when Job's person is attacked he will surely curse God.

The paper is organized in the following way. Section I provides background literature for a few of the quantitative investigations of human happiness determinants. Section II provides a simple model of human happiness with two types of human rights as the main explanatory variables. Section III identifies the measures used for happiness, for physical human rights, and for socio- political human rights, and their sources. Section IV presents and interprets the results of cross country regressions of happiness on physical and socio-political human rights. Section V concludes.

Background Literature

A lot of the literature looks at the relationship between happiness and economic variables, but there seems to be little, if any, that focuses on human rights as potential happiness determinants. …