Mary Louisa Toynbee, known as Polly Toynbee, is a British journalist and writer, and has been a columnist for The Guardian newspaper since 1998...
Could a government dare to set out with happiness as its goal? Now that there are accepted scientific proofs, it would be easy to audit the progress of national happiness annually, just as we monitor money and GDP.
Inequality makes everyone unhappy, the poor most of all, and that is well within the remit of the state. More money gives less extra happiness the richer we get, yet we are addicted to earning and spending more every year.
People want the right to die at a time of their own choosing. Too many families have watched helplessly as a relative dies slowly, longing for death.
It is now possible to quantify people's levels of happiness pretty accurately by asking them, by observation, and by measuring electrical activity in the brain, in degrees from terrible pain to sublime joy.
One in six people suffer depression or a chronic anxiety disorder. These are not the worried well but those in severe mental pain with conditions crippling enough to prevent them living normal lives.
My mother begged doctors to end her life. She was beyond the physical ability to swallow enough of the weak morphine pills she had around her. When she knew she was dying I promised to make sure she could go at a time of her choosing, but it was impossible. I couldn't help.
So what really works? Treatments in jail do some good, but it's mostly too late: finding a family and a job or just growing older make most prisoners eventually give up crime.
This is indeed a clash of civilisations, not between Islam and Christendom but between reason and superstition.
The strongest predictor of unhappiness is anyone who has had a mental illness in the last 10 years. It is an even stronger predictor of unhappiness than poverty - which also ranks highly.
My Lords temporal, today is the day to rise up against the regiment of Lords spiritual and proclaim the values of enlightenment, compassion and common sense.
Working lives are for the state to influence. Unemployment makes people unhappy. So does instability.
But how odd that in this heathen nation of empty pews, where churches' bare, ruined choirs are converted into luxury loft living, a Labour government - yes, a Labour government - is deliberately creating a huge expansion of faith schools.
There is all the difference in the world between teaching children about religion and handing them over to be taught by the religious.
Crime is only the worst example, but it is a paradigm for other Labour policy disasters. No one tells the voters that crime is falling: let them stay scared senseless.
Happiness is a real, objective phenomenon, scientifically verifiable. That means people and whole societies can now be measured over time and compared accurately with one another. Causes and cures for unhappiness can be quantified.
But instead of standing up for reason, our government is handing education over to the world of faith.
Most people come to fear not death itself, but the many terrible ways of dying.
Openness about death has led to greater care about all aspects of dying.
But the single overwhelming reason why jails are bursting is longer sentences given for more crimes.
How do you make any sense of history, art or literature without knowing the stories and iconography of your own culture and all the world's main religions?
In the polls, over 80% support the right to die and have done for the last 25 years. Even 80% of practising Catholics and Protestants support it, plus 76% of Church Times readers.
The best care on earth cannot prevent us all dying in the end.
Thresholds of pain, indignity and incapacity are entirely personal.
Is anyone serious about the politics of happiness? David Cameron dipped a toe in the water, using the word lightly, but denying the hard policies it implies. Labour shies away from it, but should take up the challenge.
What is all that ministerial toil and effort for, if not a constant attempt to allow the greatest number to live in as much happiness as possible?
Feminism is the most revolutionary idea there has ever been. Equality for women demands a change in the human psyche, more profound than anything Marx dreamed of. It means valuing parenthood as much as we value banking.
The pens sharpen – Islamophobia! No such thing. Primitive Middle Eastern religions (and most others) are much the same – Islam, Christianity and Judaism all define themselves through disgust for women's bodies.
Islam, Christianity and Judaism all define themselves through disgust of women's bodies.
Nothing keeps people together like the exalted conviction that they alone are to be spared that eternal anguish of hell fire to which everyone else will be condemned.