Jeffrey Sachs on Economic Growth and Happiness

[H]appiness is achieved through a balanced approach to life by both individuals and societies. As individuals, we are unhappy if we are denied our basic material needs, but we are also unhappy if the pursuit of higher incomes replaces our focus on family, friends, community, compassion, and maintaining internal balance. As a society, it is one thing to organize economic policies to keep living standards on the rise, but quite another to subordinate all of society’s values to the pursuit of profit. [more]

5 thoughts on “Jeffrey Sachs on Economic Growth and Happiness

  1. This is the same J.Sachs who without an eye’s blink used to advise economic shock terapies to nations in distress. Obviously all of those people were able, as a result, to live balanced and happy life. OK, people do change their views every so often. But what is “a happy life”? People are happy or unhappy for widely diverging reasons.


  2. You are right, Jeffrey Sachs is the architect of the “shock therapy” Poland went through. I admit that when I read his texts on development for the first time (knowing that), I wondered somewhat. However, whatever he has done in the past, his current activities are highly important, as I see it.

    But what is “a happy life”? People are happy or unhappy for widely diverging reasons.

    Nobody (neither Sachs, nor me) has pretended to know what happiness is. I think nevertheless that we can agree that happiness is what people really pursue – not GNP growth. This was the main message of the text I quoted. Indeed, Sachs is emphasizing exactly what you do – that happiness (or well-being) is “multivariate”, so it is a bad idea to stick to one flawed measure to achieve it.

    What is “health”? Can you easily define it? I doubt. It is easy to find out the meaning of “not healthy”, but not of the opposite. Nevertheless, public health is one of the main goals of governments – and rightly so.

  3. I do have a problem with notions which aim at making me happy. I do not claim I like the world ( or its current dynamics) around me but at the end of the day it is up to me to define my own happiness and create conditions which will make me happy. However, we may achieve a new situation where the world is more “people friendly” and that includes our governments, political and economic systems. I do not think we would become happy but in many ways our life would be much “easier”.


  4. I guess, the idea of Sachs and others (and mine) is not to directly make you happier, but rather to concentrate more on providing circumstances/an institutional framework where you may be happier than under the prevailing one. There are things that with certainty don’t make people happy – unemployment, poverty, insecurity, lack of freedom and the like. But, of course, whether you are happy at the end of the day or not, cannot be directly influenced by anyone.


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