Time to Legislate our Happiness?


The California State Assembly is taking on the issue of… our happiness.

Former Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon decided it is his job to analyze and find solutions to make Californians “more happy.”

Because the Legislature has been so ‘successful’ creating a ‘thriving place’ for Californians to live, why not give them the opportunity to legislate our happiness as well. Thus, another committee has been created named the Select Committee on Happiness and Public Policy Outcomes to, according to Assemblymember Rendon, “consider possible areas where happiness and public policy intersect.”

I suppose it should not be surprising that California lawmakers believe Californians need more government directives in their lives to create happiness. Because if they believed their solutions were solving homelessness, poverty, crime issues, environmental problems, and the like, then wouldn’t they be convinced their proposals could also create happiness for every Californian?

Assemblymember Rendon told CalMatters that , “… a country that ranks high in happiness with a strong social safety net pretty much jives with my political ideology.”

With a political supermajority in the state legislature, a Governor that agrees with his policies and an electorate that continues to support his party, is California not already a place that “jives” with his political ideology?

Something Assemblymember Rendon, and the rest of his party, need to accept in California is that the policies they have put in place the last decade have not resulted in “joyful” outcomes for those who live here. Between 2021 and 2022, roughly 818,000 California residents moved out of state, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Our homeless population increased another 5.8% in 2023 according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 2022, violent crime increased by 6.1 percent in California, for a total number of 193,019 people being victimized.

What policies could you possibly put into place that would make Californians happy enough to ignore the hundreds of thousands that experience violent crime in the state?

In 2019, only about three in 10 California eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress math exam. If we wanted to improve mental health and overall happiness for our children, a great place to start would be empowering them to learn and building their confidence through an effective education system.

The concern of this committee seems to be that happiness should be at the forefront of policy making, not an afterthought to all the other struggles. Rendon said in his introductory remarks, “If we have everybody clothed, everybody housed, everybody has a job and they are miserable, then we’ve failed at what we’re trying to do.”

I am not sure California residents would see everyone clothed, housed and with jobs as a ‘failure.’ Perhaps their focus and time would be best spent not creating new committees but on solving the multi-issue crises plaguing our state.

Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, a member of the new select committee, said in her remarks, “At the end of the day we need to be making people’s lives better.”

It is very possible to make people’s lives better by focusing our efforts on reducing regulations and tax burdens, improving our broken public education system, cleaning up our streets, and fixing our inefficient healthcare system.

I am interested to see what ‘happiness legislation’ this committee churns out that could possibly combat living in poverty or dealing with neighborhood crime. Californians would benefit much more from legislators analyzing policies currently in place that are not working and are causing misery for the hard-working taxpayers who have to pay for them, rather than fluff committees and legislation.

Emily Humpal is the Pacific Research Institute’s deputy communications director.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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