Create all the happiness you are able to create: remove all the misery you are able to remove. Every day will allow you to add something to the pleasure of others, or to diminish something of their pains. And for every grain of enjoyment you sow in the bosom of another, you shall find harvest in your own bosom; while every sorrow which you pluck from the thoughts and feelings of a fellow creature shall be replaced by beautiful peace and joy in the sanctuary of your soul. Jeremy Bentham quoted by Richard Layard.
After my blog post last week on the growing social science of happiness, I began to think about Maine Governor Paul LePage. Every time I see him on television he seems so unhappy, sometimes to the point of anger. The governor’s latest demagoguery was just one more, albeit extreme, example. This unhappiness puzzles me. It seems that someone in his circumstances should be happier. Something must be keeping him from happiness.
He has twice been elected to the highest office in Maine public life. It seems like that should give him some satisfaction in his life. Perhaps he is still bothered that in both elections he failed to garner the support of the majority of voters.
He should be well off financially. Being the big cheese at Mardens must have paid well and he certainly should have been smart in how he managed his personal assets, he earned himself an MBA. With the new income tax changes in Maine he and other higher income individuals are paying less in taxes. Maybe the tax cuts are not enough to keep all his friends from moving out of Maine.
As a state employee he has good health insurance so he need not be anxious about the financial burdens from injury or illness. Could it be that he worries about the precarious circumstances of tens of thousands of Mainers without health care coverage because Maine did not expand federally-paid-for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act?
News reports suggest that he has a nice home in the Boothbay region and he appears to have a delightful family. Friends of mine who have met his wife report that she is a wonderful person. Is that not reason enough to be happy?
And he lives in Maine. It is not that we don’t have problems to work on, but it is a pretty good place to live. This is a place where one is more likely to be happy than many others on the planet, like the home state of the Governor’s good friend Chris Christie.
So why does he look and sound so unhappy when I seem him on television or hear him on the radio? The unhappiness looks like anger sometimes, and that anger is widely distributed, aimed at Democrats, out-of-staters, Syrian refugees, Ebola nurses, and even some of his fellow Republicans.
I hope I am wrong and the façade of unhappiness and anger is not real. My wish for Governor LePage and for all Mainers – Republican and Democrat, asylum seekers and native born, wealthy and the homeless, addiction counselors and MDEA agents – is that they may enjoy a happier new year in 2016.