Happiness is a trending topic, which seems to defy economics: Can a society be ruled by the « pursuit of happiness » (this is part of the oath of US citizens, isn’t it?). And if the answer is positive, how can you measure happiness to ensure there is progress in the pursuit of it? Here are several indications of the new importance of happiness in economics and hints on the relationship between the two concepts.
Read on and watch the trailer of a documentary to be released very soon!
It seems that tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has an answer, as it guides its policy through a Gross National Happiness index, and not GDP. The « variables » of this index are showed on their web site. I advise all national statistics systems to follow or improve the guidelines described, and implement them, giving them as much or more importance than economic growth, which should be a tool, not an end.
Can Humans be happy if the Planet is in bad shape? To answer this question, the New Economics Foundation in UK has established a simpler, though powerful, Happy Planet Index, which combines roughly the Ecological Footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy. This foundation has also conducted surveys in various countries to understand how each people assesses life-satisfaction, with surprising results.
The Social Cohesion department of the Council of Europe is also seriously looking at well-being of citizens, and how to measure it. If you are ready to read serious stuff, you can download this PDF book from their site.
Even China has put happiness in front of economic growth in terms of objective this year, reveals the Economist.
However, who knows how the Chinese view happiness? It seems the government is sensitive to maintain a low rate of unemployment, and rationalize the current system. « China must measure happiness » says leading Chinese economist Hu Angang on China Dialogue.
Chinese government could probably ask the New Economics Foundation to conduct a nation-wide survey on the matter.
Happiness is a serious subject, and the shift of our societies to the pursuit of happiness rather than economic growth is a goal which requires deep insights and long term perspectives. A recent documentary by the International Society for Ecology and Culture can help disseminate this deeply rooted but somehow new (for some of us) perspective.
The economics of happiness includes the following trailer and an interview of Helena Norberg-Nodge on NBC:
We’re excited to watch it soon, we hope.
The pursuit of happiness is probably incompatible with the indefinite pursuit of economic growth, which causes pressure on ecosystems and unbridled competition. The path to happiness in a sustainable economy exists. We have to invent it.