Freedom vs happiness
Does freedom make us happy? Two things I've seen today suggest not. First, a cross-country study of the link between economic freedom and well-being concludes:
Economic freedom is significantly negatively related to life satisfaction if controlled for the influence of income per capita, unemployment, social trust, life expectancy and aging.
Of course, controlling for income is a big control. The raw correlation between freedom and happiness is positive. The message is that economic freedom make us happy insofar as it makes us rich, but it has no intrinsic value for well-being.
Yah boo sucks to neoliberalism, you might think. If you do, my second reading might discomfort you. This paper says:
Women’s happiness seems to fall – at least in the short-term - when there are changes/improvements in gender rights.
This corroborates work by Sabrina Vieira-Lima.
All this is consistent with Sheena Iyengar's theory of choice overload - the idea that freedom can reduce our happiness because it increases our regret at options not taken. She's written(pdf):
Choosers in extensive-choice contexts enjoy the choice-making process more—presumably because of the opportunities it affords—but also feel more responsible for the choices they make, resulting in frustration with the choice-making process and dissatisfaction with their choices.
I don't write this to deprecate the value of freedom. None of this research undermines the possibility that freedom is an intrinsic good, worth having regardless of its impact upon happiness. Instead, the point is simply Isaiah Berlin's - that there are unavoidable conflicts between basic human values.