Quantitative Happiness

by Professor Jack

We’re all familiar with them: people, departments, bureaucrats, government agencies, even fellow workers—all in charge of enforcing group standards that are only marginally related to the products and services the rest of us understand to be the purpose of our jobs and professions.

Every large organization has such overseers: schools, universities, corporate headquarters, medical clinics, hospitals, local, state and federal agencies.

In other words, these are the enforcers: the functionaries entrusted with making sure the rest of us abide by the proper ideology. In more brutal times, they were called commissars. Today they go by many harmless-sounding names, often involving the word “quality,” but not limited to that. They are the “quality assurance” people, but also the “risk managers,” the “review” people, the “control” people, the “diversity officers.” Their titles proliferate as quickly as their ranks.

Interesting, isn’t it, that those entrusted with the qualitative life of organizations spend the vast majority of their time and budgets on quantitative matters. They are the collectors and collators of stats, the disseminators of paper forms, the overseers of processes, the dispensers of certifications, the schedulers of workshops that reinforce their expectations and requirements.

They hear the complaints of the aggrieved, and monitor the attitudes of the offending. They administer freedom and quantify the happiness of the collective.

These people comprise whole echelons within organizations. Public school administrators, for instance, have grown in number far out of proportion to either students or teachers. Diversity officers within universities, both public and private, now consume huge percentages of already-tight operating budgets. Student senates and courts act in many cases as unfettered Star Chambers in efforts to impress behavioral and cognitive conformity on coed life.

This begs the question: Why are we awash with such people? What explains the role of these new workplace magistrates? Why do we unquestioningly accept their authority?

And who watches these watchers?

Any large bureaucracy, any complex organization, will require coordinated effort all down through the workforce. That has always been the case, but it used to be handled through the arts and mechanics of leadership and management. Today, however, it is different. Something has interposed itself between leaders and followers. Often neither of them is consciously aware of it, but it is real, and suffuses corporate and public life at every level in these times.

Until we come to understand this, and who is behind it, we will be tossed to and fro with the winds of the times, willing accomplices in our own merely quantitative happiness.