The Happynomics of Life

Been blissfully offline the last few days, and am just catching up and seeing this by Roger Cohen on the op-ed pages of the NY Times, about Britain’s foray into happiness economics, borrowed in part from the Bhutanese slogan-that’s-becoming-a-movement, “gross national happiness.”


“….the case for trying to measure the happiness of a society, rather than its growth and productivity alone, has become compelling. When Western industrialized societies started measuring gross domestic product, the issue for many was survival. Now most people have enough — or far more than enough by the standards of human history — but the question remains: “What’s going on inside their heads?”

Little that’s good, it seems. Stress has become the byword for a spreading anxiety. This anxiety’s personal, about jobs and money and health, but also general: that we can’t go on like this, running only to stand still, making things faster and faster, consuming more and more food (with consequent pressures on prices); that somehow a world of more than seven billion people is going to have to “downshift” to make it, revise its criteria of what constitutes well-being.

Just what goes into well-being is confounding. Many of the variables — like love and friendship and family relations — are hard to pin down. But British research has suggested that money itself does not confer happiness, although wealthier people tend to be happier; that employment is critical to self-esteem; that women tend to be happier than men; and that people need something beyond the material for fulfillment.”


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