Saturday, February 24, 2007

On the happiness of nations

Mahalanobis is discussing the happiness, or reported subjective well being, scale. The subject has gained a lot of momentum since The Economist did a story on its special, years end, issue and David Cameron argued that SWB should influence policy:

"It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB - general well-being," he said.

"Well-being can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture and, above all, the strength of our relationships.

"Improving our society's sense of well-being is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times."

Tom West, in a comment in Marginal Revolution, brings out this intriguing point:

I get a strong feeling that happiness research is frowned upon by a lot of economists because it threatens the motivation behind the one thing they know how to do well: create growth.

There's pretty strong evidence that the ideal conditions for creating growth (such as insecurity, high labor mobility, and increased inequality) are not conducive to happiness. If one decides that even the desired end-product doesn't produce happiness, then it's a pretty short road to asking why we're making ourselves miserable pursuing an outcome that doesn't make us happy.

And if we do that, then a lot of economists holding hammers get told that the world is not necessarily a big nail.

In any case, it's always nice to have a glimpse at how nations compare in the happiness scale, as measured in

Marks, N., Abdallah, S., Simms, A, Thompson, S. (2006).
The Happy Planet Index. London: New Economics Foundation
.

So here it is. [
I'm sure readers will understand that, for reasons of space, I had to make a random, arbitrary, cut point.]


Nation SWLS Score


DENMARK 273
SWITZERLAND 273
AUSTRIA 260
ICELAND 260
BAHAMAS 257
FINLAND 257
SWEDEN 257
BHUTAN 253
BRUNEI DARUSSALAM 253
CANADA 253
IRELAND 253
LUXEMBOURG 253
COSTA RICA 250
MALTA 250
NETHERLANDS 250
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA 247
MALAYSIA 247
NEW ZEALAND 247
NORWAY 247
SEYCHELLES 247
ST KITTS AND NEVIS 247
UAE 247
USA 247
VANUATU 247
VENEZUELA 247
AUSTRALIA 243
BARBADOS 243
BELGIUM 243
DOMINICA 243
OMAN 243
SAUDI ARABIA 243
SURINAME 243
BAHRAIN 240
COLUMBIA 240
GERMANY 240
GUYANA 240
HONDURAS 240
KUWAIT 240
PANAMA 240
ST VINCENT AND THE 240
UNITED KINGDOM 237
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 233
GUATEMALA 233
JAMAICA 233
QATAR 233
SPAIN 233
ST LUCIA 233
BELIZE 230
CYPRUS 230
ITALY 230
MEXICO 230
SAMOA WESTERN 230
SINGAPORE 230
SOLOMON ISLANDS 230
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 230
ARGENTINA 227
FIJI 223
ISRAEL 223
MONGOLIA 223
SAO TOME AND PERINI 223
EL SALVADOR 220
FRANCE 220
HONG KONG 220
INDONESIA 220
KYRGYZSTAN 220
MALDIVES 220
SLOVENIA 220
TAIWAN 220
TIMOR-LESTE 220
TONGA 220
CHILE 217
GRENADA 217
MAURITIUS 217
NAMIBIA 217
PARAGUAY 217
THAILAND 217
CZECH REPUBLIC 213
PHILIPPINES 213
TUNISIA 213
UZBEKISTAN 213
BRAZIL 210

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