WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Thursday authored an op-ed for MSNBC illustrating how public policy decisions have failed to make good on the founding fathers’ promise that our government has a role to play in protecting Americans’ pursuit of happiness. Following last week’s release of Gallup’s World Happiness Report, in which the United States dropped out of the top twenty happiest countries for the first time, Murphy makes the case for government to get back into the happiness business and to reevaluate the measures we use to determine the success of public policy.

“All of the measures we use to determine how Americans are doing tell us that our nation is trending quickly in a very positive direction. Leading quality-of-life indicators are flashing green as of late. The unemployment rate has never been this low for this long, inflation has cooled, GDP is surging, and violent crime rates are tumbling. So, then, why are more and more Americans feeling so unhappy?” Murphy wrote.

Murphy asked whether we should reconsider the measures used to evaluate the success of our public policy: “This is an important question to answer, because government does need to be in the happiness business. The public sector isn’t responsible for delivering the last mile of personal happiness — what you’re passionate about, whom you connect with, where you find purpose and meaning — but it is responsible for setting the rules for a society in which finding happiness isn’t so hard. It was no less than our Founding Fathers who commanded government to set the conditions for people to find true contentment. It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence — the state must guarantee the right of people to pursue happiness.”

Murphy laid out the policy decisions that have bred broad-based unhappiness: “Some of this retreat from society is cultural and personal, but much of this Great Withdrawal has been caused by bad public policy choices. The failure to regulate social media has caused us to retreat into our devices, trading meaningful in-person relationships for insufficient virtual ones. The decision to keep wages low, forcing people to work longer hours just to maintain the same quality of life, has eroded the time we have left to hang out with friends, attend church or engage in hobbies. The choice to look the other way as corporate monopolies gobble up the market has led to rising costs and hollowed-out downtowns and main streets.”

“The sum of these decisions has left Americans feeling not just lonely, but also powerless. It’s difficult to be happy when it feels like no matter what you do or how hard you work, the system is designed to benefit only the people at the very top. Finding your purpose is nearly impossible when something as simple as providing a good life for your family feels out of reach. The quest for happiness is perhaps the most fundamental piece of the human experience, and yet at almost every turn, we have created structural obstacles to living a happy and fulfilled life,” he continued.

Murphy concluded: “Low unemployment rates and a growing economy are important objectives, and of course it’s easier to be happier if you have a job. But these indicators can’t serve as government’s only measures for what makes a successful policy. We should also pursue an agenda that rebuilds our connections and obligations to one another — the proven necessary foundation to broad-based happiness.”

Read the full op-ed here.