By Mara Hvistendahl The Intercept
Starting in 2016, the men who run the United Arab Emirates went all-in on positivity. They installed a giant smiley face on the dome crowning a Dubai police station. They created a Ministry of Tolerance and a Ministry of Happiness, as if inspired by George Orwell. And they began funding research, bankrolling prominent global intellectuals to study the psychology and science of bliss.
For women living a second-class existence, activists sentenced to years in prison because of their Facebook posts, and LGBTQ+ people jailed after kissing in public, the UAE is of course not a happy place, and the branding effort might have flopped if not for the efforts of one man: renowned Columbia University economist and United Nations power broker Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs helped the UAE take its message to the world. He supercharged the happiness drive, giving speech after speech linking it to pressing global issues. He called Emirati leaders “exemplary” and “wise.” At one point, he even sat on a Dubai stage with two other white male economists and CNN anchor Richard Quest and helped lead a crowd of Emiratis and expats in a round of “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands.”