Happiness is…a Higher GDP

Several have argued against using the GDP as a measure of economic well-being. Starting with the Bhutanese king’s suggestion of measuring Gross National Happiness, to the UN’s Human Development Index up to some economist’s suggestions of measuring garbage production as a measure of well-being. The French president seems to feel strongly about it, and is taking serious measures to find a substitute. From Time:

…Sarkozy, …early this year appointed a high-powered task force–boasting not just one but two economics Nobelists, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz–to devise a GDP replacement. Similar “ditch-GDP” noises can be heard frequently from enlightened sorts who care a lot about the environment, health care, education and happiness. [link]

The usual criticisms apply – until something that’s as consistently, easily and reliably measured as the GDP is found, it will be hard to change people’s minds about it. These are all outlined in the article. It is interesting to note though, especially for critics who claim that happiness doesn’t grow with GDP, that GDP growth is, in fact, closely linked with higher well-being.

…the recent explosion in happiness surveys has enabled a soon-to-be-published reappraisal by the University of Pennsylvania’s Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, who find that happiness tracks per capita GDP pretty closely. Money really does matter. GDP does too. [link]

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