I think we understand that a one-dimensional look at "progress" through the lens of economic development doesn't serve us well. In a recent article on happiness and wealth, Michael Rustin argues for a greater focus on well-being.
In the article, titled "What's Wrong with Happiness," Professor Rustin says:
Societies like ours are getting richer, but are they getting any happier? This is now becoming a major topic of debate, with a growing literature. It is argued that the connection long assumed to exist between increased affluence and happiness or ‘subjective well-being’ is actually weak for countries above a fairly basic level of prosperity – defined at an annual average gross national product of around $15,000 or $20,000 dollars per head of population. Since many governments in rich countries make continuing economic growth their primary political goal, the evidence that this does not lead to improvements in people’s well-being is, or should be, a serious matter for public policy.
There have been many studies of self-reported happiness, or subjective well being, in different countries, from 1950 onward; and nation-by-nation comparisons show only a small correlation between income levels and selfreported well-being, once countries reach the GNP level mentioned above. Countries where average per capita income is between $20,000 and $35,000 have satisfaction rates only a few percentage points above a whole range of countries where income is below $10,000 (see Richard Layard, Happiness, p32). Though the lowest satisfaction rates are in the poorer countries, a number of nations where average income is under $10,000 have average happiness levels close to those of much richer countries.
As we think about new ways of measuring well-being in communities and nations, figuring out what we mean by well-being is critical. Getting beyond GDP as an indicators of progress is becoming more and more important.
Here's the rest of the article.
(Hat tip: The Jingoist)
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