This article employs World Values Survey measures of life satisfaction as though they were direct measures of utility, and uses them to evaluate alternative features and forms of government in large international samples. Life satisfaction is found to be more closely linked to several World Bank measures of the quality of government than to real per capita incomes, in simple correlations and more fully specified models explaining international differences in life satisfaction. Differences in the relative importance of different aspects of good government are tested for, and a hierarchy of preferences that depends on the level of development is found. The ability of governments to provide a trustworthy environment, and to deliver services honestly and efficiently, appears to be of paramount importance for countries with worse governance and lower incomes. The balance changes once acceptable levels of efficiency, trust and incomes are achieved, when more value is attached to building and maintaining the institutions of electoral democracy.