[Paleopsych] NYT: Net National Happiness
checker at panix.com
Sun Oct 9 00:59:58 UTC 2005
Net National Happiness
Does the United States strike you as a happy country? July 1776, when
Thomas Jefferson claimed the pursuit of happiness as a basic human
right, might have been the last time that happiness was officially
proposed as a national objective. But in Bhutan - as reported in the
Science Times on Tuesday - the question of national happiness is still
up for discussion, thanks to a monarch who insisted, nearly a
generation ago, that gross national happiness is more important than
gross national product.
An economic cynic may argue that a country with a gross national
product as small as Bhutan's can well afford to worry about its gross
national happiness, and that the best way to increase G.N.H. is by
increasing G.N.P. But that is essentially an untested assertion, and
there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it isn't necessarily true.
Our sense of happiness is created by many things that are not easily
measured in purely economic terms, including a sense of community and
purpose, the amount and content of our leisure and even our sense of
the environmental and ecological stability of the world around us.
To talk about gross national happiness may sound purely pie in the
sky, partly because we have been taught to believe that happiness is
essentially a personal emotion, not an attribute of a community or a
country. But thinking of happiness as a quotient of cultural and
environmental factors might help us understand the growing disconnect
between America's prosperity and Americans' sense of well-being.
Some sociologists worry that the effort to quantify happiness may
actually impair the pursuit of happiness. But there's another way to
consider it. The world looks the way it does - as if it is being
devoured by some grievous species - partly because of narrow economic
assumptions that govern the behavior of corporations and nations.
Those assumptions usually exclude, for instance, the costs of
environmental, social or cultural damage. A clearer understanding of
what makes humans happy - not merely more eager consumers or more
productive workers - might help begin to reshape those assumptions in
a way that has a measurable and meliorating outcome on the lives we
lead and the world we live in.
More information about the paleopsych