Everyone wants to be happy and almost everybody wishes to hold “the key to happiness.” But fewer lucky ones end up achieving this inherent aspiration. Depression and despair are viral and widespread. Many economic experts agree that the systems we generally use to measure our economic well-being have failed us. As long as we continue to rely on the GDP, we will lack a timely and reliable set of wealth accounts, the “balance sheets” of the economy. Fortunately, many efforts are underway to develop economic indexes that are far more reliable measures of genuine wealth and progress than the GDP. Amartya Sen is a Nobel laureate in economics from Harvard who has received more than 80 honorary doctorates for his work in understanding the underlying mechanisms of poverty, famine, and gender inequality. He is also one of many leading economists who recognize that, as he put it in 2008, “the gross domestic product is very misleading and something must be done to get better measures of well-being.” Professor Sen and another Nobel laureate in economics, Joseph Stieglitz, are co-chairmen of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, established in 2008 by French president Nicolas Sarkozy to develop an alternative to the GDP.The government of China, similarly, is increasingly recognizing that the nation’s torrid economic growth has come at a growing ecological and social cost. Anielski, author of a groundbreaking book on alternatives to the GDP, The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth, is working with the Chinese government on how to adopt “green GDP accounting.” The goal is to take quality of life and the environment into account when measuring the country’s economic health. There are many other alternatives under development, including one being created by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international consortium of 30 countries that are committed to democracy and the market economy. It is heartening to see the many efforts under way to develop alternatives to the GDP that take into account the health of our lives, the strength of our communities, and the sustainability of the environment. And yet it is no simple task to develop a monetized system that can measure the real determinants of happiness and well-being and do justice to the vast complexities of modern economic life. It may be that no single alternative index will emerge to entirely replace the GDP, and we will come to rely on a variety of indexes, each with its own perspectives, to provide us with as complete a picture as possible of the real state of our economic affairs and our societal well-being. And then perhaps we will be able to develop policies that lead to our ultimate goal, a sustainable prosperity shared by all.It is easy to sympathize with Thomas Jefferson’s remark, shortly after he stepped down as US president, that “The care of human life & happiness, & not their destruction, is the first & only legitimate object of good government.” The question is what that means for government policy and whether the academic study of wellbeing can help. We know that being unemployed is miserable and stays miserable for many years. This is a good argument in favor of policies that promote low unemployment something Japan, Germany, the UK and the US have managed to do, and France, Italy and Spain have not The five authors of The Origins of Happiness, including Professor Richard Layard of the London School of Economics, focus on answers to the question “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life these days?” on a scale of 0-10. It’s not an absurd question, but if a group of academics proposed reforming a nation’s economic institutions and industrial strategy on the basis of answers to the question, “Overall, how rich do you think you are these days, on a scale of 0-10?”? These questions might trouble only the philosophers, except that Lord Layard and his co-authors write of a “revolution in policymaking” based on findings such as “an extra year of education directly raises your own happiness by 0.03 points on average throughout life”. Still, a meagre kind of knowledge is better than no knowledge at all, and it would be willful to ignore what people tell us about how they are feeling. So what do we learn? First, we have a love-hate relationship with our jobs. We know that being unemployed is miserable and stays miserable for many years. This is a good argument in favor of policies that promote low unemployment something Japan, Germany, the UK and the US have managed to do, and France, Italy and Spain have not. But while unemployment is depressing, work itself is no paradise. Self-employed people are happier than employed people by the same margin that unemployed people are less happy. Mr. Krueger and Nobel laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman have shown that of all the day-to-day activities we engage in, commuting and work are the least enjoyable while of all the people we spend time with, colleagues are bad and bosses are worse. The answer, of course, is more jobs, and better jobs. Lord Layard and his colleagues argue in general for evaluating government spending using “a method of cost-effectiveness in which the benefits are measured in units of happiness”. Some policies such as providing ready-mix concrete floors to poor households in Mexico pass this test easily. Others do not. Lord Layard has long been an advocate of devoting more resources to treatment for depression and anxiety. He is right. Even a modest success rate would go a long way here. But beyond that, much depends on the capacity of government to deliver what matters. Quality educational institutions, for example, improve the emotional wellbeing of children, and is an excellent investment in happiness. In his well-researched Book, “Development for an Equitable Society”, Jamil Nasir has dilated in details upon the contours of an inclusive development model which takes care of the weak and vulnerable sections of society and thus makes a strong case for providing equal opportunities to all. He has dedicated a whole section to happiness as a key variable to the well-being of a nation. He has quoted The World Happiness Report, 2013 whose authors have enumerated shortcomings of GDP as the sole measure of development. Keeping this perspective in mind the report ranks the nations on the basis of a composite index of six key variables. Income per capita is the very first building block of happiness. The higher the income, the higher are these countries seen on the ladder of happiness. Healthy life comes next as the constituent element of happiness. It includes both physical as well as mental health.Social security cover makes the third most important ingredient of happiness. In the testing times of socio-economic crisis, it is the stronger bonds with family, friends and social networks which come to the rescue of people in distress. Freedom from corruption and cronyism is yet another important element of the edifice of happiness. Corrupt practices kill merit and deprive people of their due rights and opportunities to grow and flourish. Thus, a transparent and just system which is merit oriented leads to greater happiness. Increased choices offered to people also contribute significantly to their happiness. Generosity is the last and the best constituent of happiness. Acts of empathy, care, kindness and compassion certainly come as sheet anchor in the low and down moments of our lives. Indeed, these generous acts of warmth and hand-holding trigger hope and ignite the flames of fellow-feeling for those who need it the most. Thus, Jamil Nasir concludes in his primer book that there is far more to human life and happiness than money alone. He has rightly diagnosed the ills which have plagued our economic planning and policy choices. Furthermore, he has aptly proposed that our social and economic policies must aim at promoting community cohesion and an inclusive development paradigm. Beyond the shadows of any doubt, we must accord top priority to the pursuit of happiness and constituting a commission on happiness consisting of experts from Economics, Anthropology and Psychology will be the watershed initiative to achieve this noble goal. The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!