Friday, September 30, 2011

Should we legislate for quality of life?

In a provocative Nature essay, Charles Seaford suggests that:

  • Governments worldwide should measure and monitor well-being using national surveys.
  • An internationally accepted well-being statistic should be developed and communicated to the public.
  • Public debate around this statistic will prompt policy-makers to maximize well-being over economic growth.
A figure from the paper shows similar levels of national happiness in the US and Costa Rica, but the average American has a much, much larger ecological footprint than the average Costa Rican.  Thus, he argues, while moderate economic growth is correlated with happiness (Zimbabwe is pretty much at the bottom of the happiness chart, and loss of income is more damaging than the same amount of income gain is beneficial), substantial economic growth is not required for national happiness.

Discussion Questions
What makes you happy?
How does money factor into this?  (Be honest here...).
How can you consume less but focus on those core things that make you happy?
How would we legislate for quality of life?

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