Monday, February 18, 2019

Sriram Balasubramanian — Wellbeing measurements, Easterlin’s paradox and new growth models: A perspective through gross national happiness

 A good article.

Based on my observation as a traveler years ago, many people in so-called "poor countries" as "happier" than most people in developed countries, but this is true most of those people that were rural and their lifestyle was close to the historically indigenous culture. They were "happier" in the sense that they had few wants and those wants were mostly needs that were met through "tribal" culture and simple technology.

"Happiness" is in the mind, and it is grounded in the level of consciousness of individuals and their collective consciousness as communities and societies. So-called primitive societies have developed social systems and personal development that generally serves well in its environment. External conditions are not sufficient in approaching happiness as a subjective factor. In fact, some of the unhappiest people I have known were extremely wealthy. They dealt with their issues through substance abuse or abnormal behavior.

Traditionalisms have been saying that real happiness is within and that status, power and wealth can at best provide a palliative. They can only serve as a façade.

The problems, challenges really, arise when these traditional systems come into contact with developed systems and new conditions begin to predominate. The problem is one of scale. Scaling up "underdeveloped" systems to meet the criteria of the West presents the challenge of also bringing along the positive aspects of so-called primitive cultures. That generally doesn't happens, it seems from experience, especially when traditional peoples are forced to adopt new ways and fit themselves into an alien mold, either owing to changing conditions, or by force.

This also brings in the current conflict between traditionalism and liberalism, especially when liberalism is viewed as neoliberalism. This is also connected with the West perceiving its shouldering "the white man's burden" by bringing the 18th century Enlightenment to the rest of the world and forcing it on traditional peoples in the name of progress.

It not going to be possible to develop a very useful Gross Happiness Index under those conditions, since it won't fit the realities of the dialectic that the world is now in the midst of going through. The good news is that the "holy grail" of unlimited growth that underlies neoliberalism is being challenged by changing circumstances and neo-imperialism and neocolonialism are being challenged by emergent powers.

Wellbeing measurements, Easterlin’s paradox and new growth models: A perspective through gross national happiness
Sriram Balasubramanian | Consultant Economist, International Finance Corporation

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