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The Forum > Article Comments > How are we going? Happy? > Comments

How are we going? Happy? : Comments

By Nicholas Gruen, published 6/10/2005

Nicholas Gruen asks how happy we are with our lives, jobs and incomes.

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As well as general wealth or happiness, sustainability would become important.

The “Wellbeing of Nations” index has attempted to combine human wellbeing with ecosystem wellbeing. In one survey in 2001 (unknown if there is a more recent survey), Australia was ranked 18th out of 180 countries

“Germany ranks 13th, Australia 18th, Japan 24th and the United States 27th. In more than 140 nations, ecosystem stress is higher than human wellbeing - evidence that most people's efforts to improve their lot are inefficient and overexploit the environment.”

However there was a proviso even for the highest ranking country.

“The best performing country is Sweden, which earned the survey's top ranking, even though the report considers it an "ecosystem deficit" country: it obtains an advanced standard of living through environmental damage.”

So it appears that many countries have a long way to go to achieve overall sustainability and overall wellbeing.
Posted by Timkins, Thursday, 6 October 2005 10:55:40 AM
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I totally agree with the notion that human wellbeing / happiness / emotional wealth, call it what you will, whilst being marginally dependent upon income, finance and economic issues, embraces a whole range of other inputs and experiences, most notably personal physical health, balanced lifestyle, self respect etc. (not intended as an exhaustive list).

Changes to industrial relations legislation will not effect me, I have organised my working life to be independent of such matters (sense of self control is important for me – possibly more so than others, but such eccentricity is a hallmark of the nature of individuals).

Timkins, your post I would likewise concur.

Sustainablility is an issue and will become more significant in the future, when population growth will pressure the sustainable into unsustainable.

Interesting table rankings, Scandinavian countries taking out the top 4 rankings and Dominica, for some reason, taking 5th with Canada.

I found the result of North Korea outranking China a strange anomaly – I guess starving people to death sustainably ranks better than starving them to death unsustainably.

Iraq at the bottom of the list was obvious – but Afghanistan better than Syria says a lot about the quality of Baathist governments.
Posted by Col Rouge, Friday, 7 October 2005 11:05:22 AM
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Lower the tax burden,get every one working,fewer public servants and Govt regulation,then we will all have more time for relaxation and family fun.

As tax and the BS increases so does stress and long work hours for the really productive.We are tying ourselves in knots with fewer positive outcomes.

The Nanny State,litigation,whimpish attitudes,red tape have made us all synical and apathetic.

Wars do cleanse the spirit,rid us of all the BS and make us appreciate what we have,but the price is enormous.
Posted by Arjay, Friday, 7 October 2005 11:04:25 PM
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We’re not as happy as we could be because we’re taught to value the wrong things. Things like career and wealth, through to more abstract concepts like power and dominance…these are not important. But we grow up believing they are, so when we don’t achieve these goals, we’re unhappy. If we do achieve these goals, we find it’s not like we thought, and so we’re unhappy.

When you hear the term ‘successful’, it’s almost always associated in terms of career or some such. Why do we measure success in this manner? There is nothing contradictory about being poor but still successful, or not having a good job but still being successful. Success is how we handle what we are given. It is how we play the cards we are dealt…there is a bit of luck involved, but it’s mostly about appreciating what we do have, not hating ourselves for what we don’t. It’s about how you interact with people every day. Make someone laugh, congratulations, you’re a success! Avoid being an asshole, and the rest writes itself.

At my office, whenever someone says something like: ‘We need to increase productivity to make budget!’, all I hear is: ‘GIMME GIMME I NEED MORE’ in a booming evil satan-voice. Because that’s all they’re really saying. There’s truly no such thing as enough for these people, and it’s an attitude that damages not only the world around them but themselves as well.

I, on the other hand, need nothing more than…a paper hat and…a bit of wood, and I’ll be happy all day. Wait. That was a paper hat…a bit of wood…and a tonne of powerful hallucinogens. THEN I’ll be happy all day. Ah, the simple life.
Posted by spendocrat, Wednesday, 12 October 2005 10:40:22 AM
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Spendo – spot on.

Values associated with money, winning, dominance seem to be the values taught sub-consciously, if not overtly. Look at the media (cess)pool and disagree.

Values associated with altruism, family, compassion and community are lip service to massage the conscience of the world. 95% of the wealth held by 5% of the world? How is this good value?
Posted by Reason, Wednesday, 12 October 2005 1:00:44 PM
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Much of economics is about optimisation, using limited resources to best effect to attain goals. More output = greater ability to make everyone better off, at least in terms of income and facilities. Economists aim to umderstand the drivers of economic growth, and to explain the implications of different policies which affect this.

As an economist in Canberra in the '80s, I wrote a paper suggesting that in order to properly optimise, you need to understand "the meaning of life." Without a view as to what is our purpose and greatest welfare, any attempt at optimisation must be partial rather than comprehensive. More recently, there have been attempts, e.g those described above, to broaden consideration of what contributes to our well-being. However, they rarely touch on the fundamentals.

I think that, ultimately, the spiritual dimension of our lives is most important for true happiness. I also think that in most societies, in most periods, there has been an underlying acceptance of this. This tended to be weakened in the heady rush of science-based material prosperity in industrialised societies, and more recently elsewhere. I was interested in Bihar state of India in the early 70s, a place of extreme climate, extreme poverty and extreme social injustice which had recently experienced drought, floods, famine and widespread disease, to find that the people in general seemed happier, more harmoniious, than those in Europe. Spirituality was still central to them.

That said, a degree of economic security, good health and education facilities, etc, lay a foundation for people to have the scope to pursue deeper ends than when they are fighting for survival.

Ultimately, our unhappiness derives from ignorance and delusion, craving and attachment, a false concept of ego, me, mine in a world where everything is rapidly changing, there is no solidity, no permanence. Only through addressing this at an individual level can we eradicate the causes of suffering and debelop wisdom, love, compassion, happiness.

This is probably easier in a society whose leaders understand and embrace this approach than in one where the leaders are concerned primarily with ego-driven power and status.
Posted by Faustino, Sunday, 16 October 2005 7:50:08 AM
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