Does Economic Growth Make Us Happy?
What makes us happy? Good health? Good relationships? Money? If the latter, can money really buy you love and/or happiness? And what exactly is happiness anyway?
Such questions are frequently pondered deeply, but rarely answered with certainty and consistency. In reality, everyone is happy (or unhappy) for a different combination of personal, demographic, gender, cultural and spiritual reasons. Some people are comfortable with their lot, while others are always looking to keep up with the Jones’es, or increasingly the Zhangs or the Singhs.
Recently the Earth Institute of Columbia University published the first World Happiness Report which attempts to paint a global picture of how comparatively happy people are across the world.
The report itself comes from a position of healthy scepticism about the worship of material things.
“The sages taught humanity, time and again, that material gain alone will not fulfil our deepest needs,” writes world-renowned development economist and Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs in the introduction.
Sachs and his fellow authors take their cue from the Kingdom of Bhutan’s own Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index introduced by the secluded Himalayan country’s King in 1972.
GNH, which preferences the goal of happiness over the goal of wealth, serves as a counterweight to the ubiquitous Western-driven focus on the economic indicators of Gross National Product or Gross Domestic Product.
GNH posits a view that people living on less than $1 a day in Bhutan or anywhere else could be happier than much wealthier and materially endowed, but much more stressed out and disconnected (as the cliché goes) citizens in North America, Europe and increasingly East Asia and other emerging economic regions.
“The sages taught humanity, time and again, that material gain alone will not fulfil our deepest needs,” says Jeffrey Sachs, Earth Institute director.
People in the latter...