-- By Tom Phillips
Harvard professor Steven Pinker is out with another of his weighty books about how the world is getting better all the time. This one's called "Enlightenment Now." Readers should appreciate his contrarianism; his mass of statistics about the world's rising prosperity, improving health, reduced violence and increasing personal satisfaction is a welcome antidote to studies that show humans growing more lonely, pessimistic and frightened.
There's a fly in the cream, though. While Pinker's global stats generally show that happiness rises along with income, here in the United States, the pursuit of happiness has ground to a halt. In recent decades, Pinker reports, American men have gotten no happier, while women have actually grown less happy. This could simply reflect the stagnation in middle-class incomes since the 1970s. But happiness is not an isolated phenomenon -- it reflects much broader societal trends.