American political scientist Benjamin Radcliff recently used statistics to show that: ‘The differences in your feeling of well-being living in a Scandinavian country (where welfare programs are large) versus the US are going to be larger than the individual factors in your life. The political differences trump all the individual things you’re supposed to do to make yourself happier – to have fulfilling personal relationships, to have a job, to have more income. The political factors swamp all those individual factors. Countries with high levels of gross domestic product consumed by government have higher levels of personal satisfaction.’ Fewer economists now think that being taxed as little as possible results in people better enjoying ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. So, if we are beginning to work out from the natural experiment of low public spending in the UK and USA just how important higher public spending is, what can we do if we happen to live and work in the UK or USA?

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