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[greenyes] The Debate That's Not Happening

Juxtaposed with the fact (excerpt below) that the pursuit of the wealth
doesn't make us happy (at least after the basics are attended to), how do we
reconcile that with the fact that the political will does not exist to
address global warming because it would reduce out "standard of living" ...
and to what frightening depths, perhaps to the way we lived in 1990 ... or,
shudder the thought, in 1980. The very throught is terrifying.

At least we can rest assured that, in the larger picture, that defining
question of times is receiving thorough and robust debate in the
presidential campaign.

The silence is deafening.


August 13, 2004



Wealth and Happiness
Don't Necessarily
Go Hand in Hand

August 13, 2004;

On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 means "not at all satisfied with my life" and
7 means "completely satisfied," it's no surprise that survey-respondents who
make Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans average 5.8, while
homeless pavement dwellers in Calcutta average 2.9.

All in all, sleeping on sidewalks and starving can't hold a candle to
sleeping on satin and splurging.

Not so fast. In the surveys, taken off and on over the last 20 years, the
Inuit people of frigid northern Greenland also average 5.8. So do the
cattle-herding Masai of Kenya, who live in dung huts with no electricity or
running water. And Calcutta's slum dwellers, for whom being only a single
economic rung above the pavement denizens apparently makes a huge
difference, come in at 4.6.

Does money buy happiness? In particular, does raising a nation's income or
wealth, as measured by gross domestic product, raise the population's
overall level of happiness? Intuitively, you'd think the answer is a
definite yes. After all, classic economic theory holds that additional
income allows people to meet additional needs, and the more needs -- or even
wants -- you satisfy, the happier you are. Also, money buys choices. With
$10 you can buy steak or hot dogs, but with only $1 you better hope you have
relish in the fridge. The more choices people have, economists assume, the
happier they are.

Psychologists suggest that things are a lot more complicated. An ambitious
analysis of more than 150 studies on wealth and happiness shows that
"economic indicators have glaring shortcomings" as approximations of
well-being, write psychology professors Ed Diener of the University of
Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Martin E.P. Seligman of the University of
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in an coming issue of the journal Psychological
Science in the Public Interest. The studies show that, in many countries,
"although economic output has risen steeply over the past decades, there has
been no rise in life satisfaction ... and there has been a substantial
increase in depression and distrust."
Government policies to promote economic growth seem, at first glance, like
an obvious way to give people a greater sense of well-being. Economists find
repeatedly that, in general, the higher a nation's GDP the greater its
population's happiness. While that seems to support the
money-can-buy-happiness idea, though, it ignores one thing. Wealthy nations
tend to be democracies that respect human rights and have a fair legal
system, good health care, and effective, honest government. All of these
contribute to well-being. When you account for these variables, the effect
of income itself on the citizenry's happiness practically vanishes.
If psychologists had a seat on a government's economic team, they would
point out that, once a nation reaches a certain level of prosperity, further
economic growth is unlikely to buy additional happiness. Instead, Prof.
Veenhoven says, increasing the citizenry's sense of well-being requires
"less investment in economic growth and more in policies that promote good
governance, liberties, democracy, trust and public safety."

Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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