Robert F. Kennedy Jr., younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, said in 1968:
“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armoured cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.”
“Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”
Does this still hold true today? What makes you happy? How do we go about achieving happiness? Does the search of maximisng our happiness reduce somebody else’s state of happiness? How can we measure happiness? Is it possible for policy to foster and encourage happiness within an economy?
Below are some links to this new branch of economics.
The UN’s resolution 65 makes for a very interesting read. UN Happiness
The Bhutanese have come up with a model for happiness within economics and is explained in this TED presentation. Plus this interesting article explains the concept in Bhutan HowStuffWorks
Finally , take a look at this summary of an LSE Public Debate with reference to Happiness.
Needless to say the National Income figures are restricted in what the can tell us. So is there an alternative in gauging standard of living and ultimately societal happiness?