The eco­nom­ics of hap­pi­ness

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

cham­pi­oned a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to gauge the growth and progress of a na­tion. In­stead of gross domestic prod­uct (GDP), Bhutan has turned the world’s at­ten­tion to­wards gross na­tional hap­pi­ness (GNH) as a mea­sure of a na­tion’s devel­op­ment. The Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness In­dex re­jects the idea of ma­te­rial wealth as the sole in­di­ca­tor of devel­op­ment. In­stead, it broad­ens the base for mea­sure­ment of devel­op­ment and in­cludes in it sev­eral other as­pects of hu­man life like cul­ture, men­tal health, com­mu­nity co­he­sion and en­vi­ron­ment etc. Suc­cinctly put, it calls for a balanced and broad-based ap­proach to defin­ing devel­op­ment.

What are the fac­tors that bring hap­pi­ness? Cer­tainly, in­come mat­ters. You have to have some in­come to meet your needs and sup­port your fam­ily. An empty stom­ach does not make a happy per­son. If you are un­able to feed your baby or buy medicine to treat your child’s ail­ments, you can­not be a happy per­son. It is nec­es­sary that the pub­lic poli­cies that are made en­sure that the peo­ple’s ba­sic needs are met. For in­stance, peo­ple must get health care, clean water, a clean en­vi­ron­ment and ed­u­ca­tion – which are some of the build­ing blocks of hap­pi­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Hap­pi­ness Report of the Earth In­sti­tute of Columbia Univer­sity, un­em­ploy­ment is a ma­jor killer of hap­pi­ness. “A bad job is bet­ter than no job”, the report says. Em­ploy­ment pro­vides in­come. It also helps peo­ple re­alise their so­cial needs through net­work­ing. It is, there­fore, es­sen­tial that the state puts em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion at the top of its pub­lic pol­icy agenda.

This does not mean that in­come and fi­nan­cial well-be­ing can guar­an­tee hap­pi­ness. Hap­pi­ness calls for a ju­di­cious en­vi­ron­ment on which fi­nan­cial well-be­ing works. A level play­ing field for ev­ery­one, equal­ity of op­por­tu­nity and ef­fec­tive and speedy ju­di­cial reme­dies against un­fair­ness are the ba­sic re­quire­ments of such a ju­di­cious en­vi­ron­ment. So­ci­eties that are rid­dled with cor­rup­tion, and which dis­re­gard rule of law in gov­er­nance fail to bring hap­pi­ness to their peo­ple. Lack of mer­i­toc­racy and deep so­cio-eco­nomic in­equities among peo­ple do not make a happy so­ci­ety.

The cre­ation of a happy so­ci­ety needs the gulf be­tween the rich and the poor to be bridged. “Hap­pi­ness is equal­ity”, says Prof Robert Skidel­sky of War­wick Univer­sity. High level of in­equal­ity among peo­ple di­min­ishes their hap­pi­ness. A big pala­tial

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