The Economist on Happiness

kinnon —  December 19, 2006 — 1 Comment

OK. I said I didn’t have time to blog. I don’t. But I’m a web subscriber to the Economist and just got my weekly letter from the Editor. (No, it’s not a personal letter.) This issue is on happiness. Here’s a quote from the article:

Capitalism can make a society rich and keep it free. Don’t ask it to make you happy as well
Much of this draws on the upstart science of happiness, which mixes psychology with economics. Its adherents start with copious survey data, such as those derived from the simple, folksy question put to thousands of Americans every year or two since 1972: “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days—would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?” Some of the results are unsurprising: the rich report being happier than do the poor. But a paradox emerges that requires explanation: affluent countries have not got much happier as they have grown richer. From America to Japan, figures for well-being have barely budged.

The science of happiness offers two explanations for the paradox. Capitalism, it notes, is adept at turning luxuries into necessities—bringing to the masses what the elites have always enjoyed. But the flip side of this genius is that people come to take for granted things they once coveted from afar. Frills they never thought they could have become essentials that they cannot do without. People are stuck on a treadmill: as they achieve a better standard of living, they become inured to its pleasures.

See my post on Marketing the Church Part 2-B, below – where a church flyer is promising Happiness.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

One response to The Economist on Happiness

  1. A thought
    I love science. But when scientists cross the line from telling what it is to what it means, then they are stop being scientists and are now philosophers. Do I go to a scientist for my philosophy or a philosopher? When it comes to a discussion of happiness, I’ll choose Aristotle and Pascal.
    The modern pension to choose scientific explanations as the whole story removes us from the moral imperative to make choices that create happiness.
    I’ll try to track down the magazine at the book store tonight.


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