Economists and thinkers often talk about GDP/GNP per capita as their discussion parameter when talking about national happiness. FT reported last week of Bhutan’s efforts in finding the the true Gross National Happiness (GNH). It also noted that most of the developed world is now bent on finding ways to maximize not the GDP, but GNH! It’s amazing to note that possibly, money can’t buy happiness.
Some years ago the economist Richard Easterlin showed that, just as would be expected, wealthier people in any given country are more likely to tell a survey-taker that they are happy with their lives than are poorer people in the same country. However, Easterlin also found two other things that don’t fit so well with the economic perspective. First, he found that as countries get richer, beyond the level where basic needs such as food and shelter are met, people don’t report being any happier. For example, although today most Americans surveyed will tell you they are happy with their lives, the fraction of those who say that they are happy is not any higher than it was 40 years ago, when average incomes in the United States were considerably lower and few could even imagine developments like mobile phones or the Internet. Second, he found that–again, once you get above a basic sustenance level–on average, people in rich countries don’t report being all that much happier than people in lower-income countries. The finding that people in rich countries don’t report much greater happiness than those in lower-income countries–even though, in any given country, the rich say they are happier than the poor do–is called the Easterlin paradox, after its discoverer.
Funny – isn’t it, when we put this in perspective where most people seem to be running after getting richer on one hand have always wanted to be satisfied and happy on the other?
There is no denying to the fact that money is very important, however, entertainment per capita is a relevant new benchmark in this economy where we are not totally over with the ripple effects of the depression cycle worse than the Great Depression of 1929. Entertainment has to be associated with a hard form as well as a soft form. Economies and governments have to provide ways for their people to find an easy, inexpensive catharsis to their feelings to let the balance be.
Food for thought: How often do you measure life by the moments that take your breath away?