"There is an interesting overlap between components of prosperity and the factors that are known to influence subjective well being or 'happiness'. Indeed to the extent that we are happy when things go well, and unhappy when they don't, there is an obvious connection between prosperity and happiness. This doesn't necessarily meant that prosperity is the same thing as happiness. But the connection between the two provides a useful link into recent policy debates about happiness and subjective well being."
Thursday, March 24, 2011
There was a sign in Albert Einstein's office at Princeton which said: "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."
With our singular focus on money in our global culture, many carry the belief that simply "more money" equals "more happy". At a very basic level of subsistence more material goods and services in our lives are necessary for a degree of happiness, but beyond the fundamental level, there are diminishing happiness returns on every extra dollar of income or accumulation. All of us know in our heart of hearts that at for anyone who has their basic needs met, the "more money equals more happy" is not really true.
Then, how do we measure the standard of living or true well being happiness in a community or a region? Challenge is that our much of lives and well being do not all fall into the category of "economic activity." Yet the issue remains -- how do you MEASURE the level of progress and standard of living in all of the non-financial dimensions?
In his book "Prosperity without Growth - Economics for a Finite Planet" Tim Jackson states:
Some of the components of "quality of life" - real wealth - are loving relationships, supportive and vibrant community, good health, cultural and creative stimulation, healthy and vibrant natural environment, contributing to society in a meaningful way and spiritual fulfillment.
Yet, ironically, one of the key methods that most countries define standard of living is the measure of "Gross National Product" or GDP, which is simply a financial measure of economic activity. But to meet the Earth’s challenges, these outmoded ways of measuring the “product” of our economy have to be reexamined. They are out of touch with our finite supply of natural resources (or natural capital) upon which our economic growth depends and they are similarly out of touch with the non-financial dimensions of the well being of participants in a society.