View Poll Results: Which should economists and policy-makers focus more on?

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  • Wealth / GDP

    4 40.00%
  • Well-being / Happiness

    6 60.00%
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Thread: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

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    Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    I've been reading a lot about Happiness Economics lately. Generally speaking, having more money doesn't make people any happier once their basic needs are met. Things that do have a correlation with happiness include a successful marriage, having lots of friends, donating time/money to people in need, being religious, not having kids who are still living at home, having a job, and having leisure time.

    The King of Bhutan measures his nation's progress in terms of "Gross National Happiness"...a measure of his citizens' subjective well-being by polling them on how happy they are. Today, Bhutan is one of the happiest places on earth despite having a relatively low GDP per capita.

    I was wondering if maybe we wouldn't be better off adopting a similar metric. If money doesn't make people any happier once their basic needs are met, why are nearly all of our economic policies geared toward optimizing our production or distribution of wealth? Would we be better off to focus more on improving our happiness rather than our wealth?
    Last edited by Kandahar; 10-08-10 at 06:42 PM.
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Happiness and well-being change radically from one person to another, but GDP growth/decline is something that is pretty fact-oriented. For that reason, and pretty much that reason alone, GDP should be the gauge IMO
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    Happiness and well-being change radically from one person to another, but GDP growth/decline is something that is pretty fact-oriented. For that reason, and pretty much that reason alone, GDP should be the gauge IMO
    From the sounds of it the King of Bhutan seems to be doing just fine with a GNH over a GDP. Think I'll look up some things about Bhutan.
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    You know the other reason why Bhutan is so happy?

    Outsiders are banned except under strict accompaniment during tourism.

    I tried to get a visa to go there when I was last in Asia and it was virtually impossible. You need over $200 USD per day to go, and you have a guide who only lets you go to specific places.

    They haven't been corrupted by our globalist economy or our ideas about materialism.

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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Yeah, it's one of the most closed societies in the world. They're VERY reluctant to allow outside influences into the country. But it's not generally an uber-repressive place like, say, North Korea. It's a hybrid of a benevolent monarchy and a representative democracy. It's an interesting system of government that could probably never work in most other parts of the world. But I think the point is that they've figured out what makes their citizens happy, and striven to improve those variables...even at the expense of things that make their citizens wealthier like most countries.

    I'm not necessarily saying that economic development is an unworthy goal. There is a very strong correlation between national income and national happiness, but only until a nation has enough to avoid poverty. The least happy nations in the world are the ones you'd expect - sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia, etc. But once a nation has a sufficient level of affluence, the relationship with happiness ceases to exist. The happiest nations are not always the wealthiest. Bhutan, Costa Rica, and Colombia are very happy places.
    Last edited by Kandahar; 10-09-10 at 07:29 PM.
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Wealth is well-being. The problem is that people tend to define wealth too narrowly to only mean money.

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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    But I think the point is that they've figured out what makes their citizens happy, and striven to improve those variables...even at the expense of things that make their citizens wealthier like most countries.
    Somewhere along the way they retained values of what matters most in life. In Bhutan's case, they are largely Buddhist, and so materialism is not as important because it is not a means to an end in of itself.

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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    Happiness and well-being change radically from one person to another,
    True, but polling them can at least determine how happy they are in the aggregate.

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter
    but GDP growth/decline is something that is pretty fact-oriented. For that reason, and pretty much that reason alone, GDP should be the gauge IMO
    I disagree. GDP per capita is typically used as a proxy for well-being, despite the fact that it has little relationship with well-being...at least for developed countries.
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    Happiness and well-being change radically from one person to another, but GDP growth/decline is something that is pretty fact-oriented. For that reason, and pretty much that reason alone, GDP should be the gauge IMO
    GDP is a horrendous measure of wealth. It doesn't count barter transactions are increasing net utility (though I hate to use that phrase), and it also counts government spending as being as efficient as private spending when it clearly is not, since we know what we want better than the government.

    Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. Psalm 24
    "True law is right reason in agreement with nature . . . Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature [and] will suffer the worst penalties . . ." - Cicero

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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    I've been reading a lot about Happiness Economics lately. Generally speaking, having more money doesn't make people any happier once their basic needs are met. Things that do have a correlation with happiness include a successful marriage, having lots of friends, donating time/money to people in need, being religious, not having kids who are still living at home, having a job, and having leisure time.

    The King of Bhutan measures his nation's progress in terms of "Gross National Happiness"...a measure of his citizens' subjective well-being by polling them on how happy they are. Today, Bhutan is one of the happiest places on earth despite having a relatively low GDP per capita.

    I was wondering if maybe we wouldn't be better off adopting a similar metric. If money doesn't make people any happier once their basic needs are met, why are nearly all of our economic policies geared toward optimizing our production or distribution of wealth? Would we be better off to focus more on improving our happiness rather than our wealth?
    I don't think they really have the ability to control either. it seems rather haphazard



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