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January 11, 2005

Come On, Get Happy

Economics is often called "the dismal science."  But as we've mentioned before (see our series of posts), a handful of dismal scientists are taking a closer look not at what makes the economy hum, but at what puts smiles on our faces.

Research on moods and well-being has traditionally been in the domain of psychologists.  But economists are increasingly drawn to these topics because, as this this Financial Times (UK) article details, traditional measures of economic output (including Gross Domestic Product) have become almost wholly decoupled from our sense of well-being.  To wit:

Economic output as measured by GDP has risen steeply in recent decades in the developed economies but people have not been getting significantly happier...If the link between GDP and happiness no longer exists, one of the key objectives of government policy in keeping GDP on an upward trajectory is called into question.

And interest in the topic is spreading beyond academia. The Gallup Organization, one of North America's top polling companies, is developing a phone survey to measure national well-being, based on the the work of happiness researchers.  According to one of the economists working with Gallup, "If all goes well, we should be able to implement the method a year from now. I hope it could, years from now, become as important as GDP."

Now that would be something to smile about.

Posted by ClarkWD | Permalink


Great Blog! Thought I would make a quick and indirect comment.
I don't know how to get around the GDP-like measuring sticks until banks stop loaning for interest. Want a 10K interest-free loan for home repairs? Move to Ithaca, NY where this actually happens via their local currency the Ithaca Hour. How $ is used in our society benefits those who create it and militarily defend it's use. Want a different economy? Check out solari.com timebucks.org and any of the other local investment/economic initiatives being tried world-wide (or listen to the Wizards of Money series online that links our economic assumptions directly to the depletion of natural resources). Want austerity measures that cut your nations healthcare & education and deplete you natural resources? Apply for IMF/WorldBank loans that are underwritten on Wall St. by CitiGroup et al.
My cynically expressed hope for the future,

Posted by: PG | Jan 26, 2005 2:45:13 PM

With the documentary One Happy Movie set for release this spring, and In Pursuit of Happiness (narrated by Danny Glover and featuring Howard Zinn, Dr. Richard Davidson, Ed Begley Jr. and others) scheduled for release later this year, happiness is getting hotter and hotter.

Optomen Television of Britain is planning a documentary series where they make a whole town happier based on the research findings, and another British company is planning a happiness reality television show.

The world's first regularly scheduled television program entirely about happiness is The Happiness Show, which premiered as a cable TV program in May, 2003, and now presents all of its dozens of episodes for free through its site at www.thehappinessshow.com

Posted by: George Ortega | Feb 20, 2005 9:08:35 PM