16 February 2009

on the fate of humanity

I stumbled upon a set of three lectures given by economist Richard Layard in 2003 and titled "What causes Happiness?". Here are the links (PDF):
  1. What is Happiness and are we Getting Happier?
  2. What Causes Happiness? Rethinking Public Economics
  3. What would make a happier society?
This mostly advocates (and justifies with scientific findings) a change in public policy. One of the points mentioned is an education reform which covers what I have recently thought of. Teaching values (again) and emotional intelligence (finally) to all children.

But there's much more in those lectures which shows that the current focus in politics (be it conservative or liberal) is in the wrong place: the economy does just not matter as much as everybody claims. People matter much more. I will write more on all this later, but let me just give you a start to reading Layard. In the last fifty years, the economy in the US (and many other countries) has grown by a lot, but happiness of the population stagnated, crime increased, mental illness increased, trust among people decreased. And all those changes are not just significant, but by a factor of two each at least! I don't want to describe where this leads us if trends go on like this. There is a way out and Layard describes it well.

PS: As an extra-perk I noticed in the statistics that three out of the five most happy countries in the world (according to scientific measure) are just those three developed countries that are well-known for their high use of cycling as a means of everyday, everybody transport. Namely The Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland! Remember that you don't (just) bike for the environment or your fellow citizens; you bike for your own health and happiness.


Kate said...

I think you should read Will Ferguson's book 'Happiness'

Robert said...

thanks for the hint, I will look that up!

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