When is progress successful?

Per capita income has risen again this year. We do not seem to be happier people because of this.

As early as 1974, the US economist Richard Easterlin first pointed out the paradoxical phenomenon that more income does not mean more happiness. At the time, he shook the traditional economy with this thesis.

If money would make people happy – wouldn’t today’s generation have to be much happier than their parents’?

In our society, money is the medium through which we give value to things. But how would it be if we were to make people’s happiness the benchmark? What if people’s happiness were declared the overriding goal by which we measure the success of our progress?

In such a case, companies and individuals would have to gear their plans and actions to its social benefits from the outset.

Gross national happiness as an alternative to gross domestic product? Sounds absolutely utopian, do you think?

There is even a pioneer in this field: the Kingdom of Bhutan introduced a “gross domestic happiness” in the 1970s. The term was coined in the seventies by the then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck – as an alternative to gross domestic product. Since then, the right to happiness has been written into the constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the state regularly measures it with a thick questionnaire.

Can the world learn from Bhutan?

In Buthan, the non-growth-oriented economic model is anchored in the state constitution. The country is rather poor, but it does not measure its performance in terms of prosperity but in terms of the well-being of its population. The Bhutanese are among the most satisfied people on our planet. In countries like Bhutan and also in the United Arab Emirates there are already ministries of happiness. Other countries are now following this example.

The Happiness Report reports on people’s happiness

The aim of the Happiness Report is to introduce happiness as a measure of successful policy. “Governments are increasingly using happiness indicators as a basis for political decisions,” noted US economist Jeffrey Sachs, one of the initiators. Measuring the success of progress by the happiness of the people is an idea that I think has room for improvement.

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