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Indicators - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2005-02-08 11:56
Indicators
Public
On my way to class yesterday I heard just the beginning of an NPR discussion on adding happiness as a new economic indicator. The speaker noted that while the "quality of life," as it is defined economically, has increased twofold in the last fifty years, people are no more happy with all their stuff than they were without it. Given my prior research and continuing interest in the development and use of indicators (both traditional and alternative), naturally I was intrigued.

Indicators in general have had mixed success. Their "facts at a glance" nature that makes them so popular is also their downfall, especially when they are used independent of their context. Many politicians thing more about changing the number than understanding the implications of the number and changing the conditions. Also, once indicators are established, they generally remain in place, unquestioned, even when they no longer measure something useful. The notorious "Gross National Product" (now "Gross Domestic Product"), a throwaway indicator developed in the Great Depression, has remained the salient international economic indicator even though it does not actually reflect the quality of life, individual wealth, and a number of other things people think it means.
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paul
paulschreiber
2005-02-08 13:21 (UTC)
(no subject)
GNP and GDP actually measure two different things ... if I could remember enough Econ 102, I'd post here, but I don't want to get them backwards.
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josephhall
josephhall
2005-02-08 16:22 (UTC)
great Economist article...
There was a great Economist article, "The pursuit of happiness; Bhutan", from the 18 Dec 2004 U.S. Edition on Bhutan and GNH (Gross National Happiness)... I'll send it to you.
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Fata Morgana
chimerically
2005-02-08 19:59 (UTC)
Re: great Economist article...
Thanks!
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shallwedance_
shallwedance_
2005-02-13 10:02 (UTC)
(no subject)
My guess is that, as the economy, science, and national infrastructure progresses, people's expectations rise too. As the old saw goes, you can't buy happiness. Actually, I remember another NPR I heard saying that even if someone is happy now, if conditions remain the same, the happiness will fade. And if things are going well before taking a turn for the worse, instead reverting to emotionally neutral, people's emotional state tend to dip into the negative. Happiness would seem to be an indicator of the rate of progress, a sort of differentiated progress, if you will.
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