Feeling good

Michael Rogin

  • The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream by Studs Terkel
    Hamish Hamilton, 439 pp, £15.95, February 1989, ISBN 0 241 12667 3
  • More than Bread: Ethnography of a Soup Kitchen by Irene Glasser
    University of Alabama Press, 180 pp, $22.95, November 1988, ISBN 0 8173 0397 9

Ronald Reagan left office more popular than any departing President since the end of World War Two. The same month Americans interviewed in a telephone poll achieved on a happiness scale the highest score in decades. Reagan’s popularity and American self-satisfaction have not risen together because of any general improvement in the standard of living: the rich are richer than they were a decade ago, the poor are poorer, and the average American stands about the same. It is not prosperity that accounts for the return of American happiness, but rather the terms on which the inhabitants of the United States connect their private lives to their sense of national well-being.

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