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Economics of Happiness: The New Economy


Changing the Rules to Benefit America’s People


sociated under it.” Likewise, the Consti- tution of the United States declares that government is to promote, among other things, the general welfare of the people. Americans are able to achieve a better life, as we’ve proved many times in the past, benefiting mightily as a result of forward steps ranging from democracy, women’s suffrage and civil rights to inventive technological lead- ership. Although history shows that this has been accomplished primarily by changing national policies, any new economy delivering improved well-being is first brought about largely by active citizens that choose to invest more time in building a nation that reflects increasingly enlightened values. Everyone’s quality of life—from


by John de Graaf and Linda Sechrist


Most Americans are facing their most significant economic challenges in generations. From the hardships of unemploy- ment to the perils of mounting debt, worry about the health of a national economy that depends on consumerism and market success dominates our conversation. But have we asked what the economy is really for?


S


ince the Second World War, we have been assured that more eco- nomic growth is good for us. But is


it? By any measure, the U.S. economy, in its pursuit of constant growth, is in dire need of critical life support. Too many people have lost jobs, homes, scholarships and retirement savings, along with peace of mind, in the face of complex uncertainties. Those individu- als that have jobs are earning less in real income than in 2001, even though they spend more hours working and commuting than previous generations. We’ve had enough of the official


mantra: Work more, enjoy less, pol- lute more, eat toxic foods and suffer illnesses, all for the sake of increasing the gross domestic product. Why not learn ways to work less and enjoy it more; spend more time with our friends 16


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and families; consume, pollute, destroy and owe less; and live better, longer and more meaningfully? To do all this, we need fresh solutions that engage America’s people in redefining goals for the economy (what we want from it) as opposed to the economy’s goals (what it demands from us).


An Economy Based on


Quality of Life Although an economy based on a high quality of life that makes people happy may sound revolutionary, Thomas Jeffer- son, the third U.S. president, enshrined the pursuit of happiness as a human right when he drafted our Declaration of Independence. Jefferson emphasized that America’s government was, “to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible for the general mass of those as-


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today’s parents to future generations of great-grandchildren—depends upon in- dividuals collectively working to build a new economy based on the concept of genuine wealth. In his award-win- ning book, Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth, ecological economist Mark Anielski explains this new and practical approach grounded in what people value most, which he states is: “Love, meaningful relation- ships, happiness, joy, freedom, suffi- ciency, justice and peace”—qualities of life far more vital than blind economic growth and material possessions.


Preferred Measure


of Progress To determine whether our economy promotes the greatest good or the happiness of the American people, we need to understand what makes us happy and how economic policies enhance or thwart our pursuit of happi- ness; we also need a better instrument of economic measurement than the gross domestic product (GDP). The GDP counts remedial and


defensive expenditures for pollution, accidents, war, crime and sickness as positives, rather than deducting these costs. GDP also discounts the value of contributions such as natural resources and ecosystem services, improvement in quality of life, unpaid domestic work, volunteer work, good health and social connection.


Anielski, in concert with economic


experts such as Charles Eisenstein, au- thor of Sacred Economics, Hazel Hen-


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