Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Gross National Happiness

  1. Jul 12, 2006 #1
    From Wikipedia :

    Is the definition and measurement of Happiness (either individual or national) a feasible objective?

    What do forum members consider to be the necessary and sufficient conditions for Happiness (either individual or national)?

    How would we go about establishing a "Happiness Index" whereby we could evaluate the "happiness health" of individual social groups or nations?

    Is the pursuit of Happiness (either individual or national) more worthwhile, more satisfying and ultimately more rewarding than the pursuit of purely material (eg financial/economic) objectives?

    Best Regards
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 12, 2006 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Happiness isn't hard to measure. Simply ask somebody to rate their life from 1-10. It could easily be slapped onto the end of census forms.

    The conditions for happiness are not a mystery either since it has been studied to death what causes happiness. The biggest one is love (partnership), followed by a feeling of importance. The importance one is rather vague and can be caused by numerous things such as doing great things in the past (scored the winning goal in the hockey finals), working towards something great (designing the space shuttle), or simply having people rely you (being a parent).

    The persuit of happiness is probably a better idea than the persuit of wealth. Just as an example America is a wealthy country but it doesn't look like sales of antidepressant medication will slow down any time soon. What does that tell you about the quality of life?
  4. Jul 12, 2006 #3
    Yes, this is one way to measure it. Similarly, we could measure "wealth" by asking people whether they thought they were wealthy on a scale of 1-10. Do you believe this would give us an accurate picture of wealth distribution around the world?

    You admit it is "rather vague" . In fact the necessary conditions for happiness are far from straightforward. There are a multitude of factors including many chemical, genetic, psychological, social, environmental, health, behavioural, all influencers of happiness. The list of factors which influence happiness is an extremely long one.

    It seems to me that if one must choose between pursuit of happiness and pursuit of wealth (ie if the two were mutually exclusive) then it would be irrational to pursue wealth. I believe the main reason why people DO pursue wealth is because they believe wealth will also bring them happiness.

    Best Regards
  5. Jul 12, 2006 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Sounds like fertile soil for a PF poll to me.
  6. Jul 12, 2006 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Note that Jefferson didn't say we had a right to be happy (he was to have many sorrows in his own life, like the early deaths of his wife and daughter). He said we have the right to pursue happiness, and that's very much a different question.

    How did the King of Bhutan deal with the plain fact that it often happens that one person's happiness is contradictory to that of another person? Algebraic sum? A wash? That would be the assumption of the term Gross. Did Ken Lay deserve to be happy at the cost of his investors being unhapppy? Was the whole Enron scandal a happiness wash, with offsetting values?
  7. Jul 12, 2006 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think that's the idea. A happiness reading would be high if a population had found a way to make happiness a postive sum game, as opposed to a zero sum game.
  8. Jul 12, 2006 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    "If men were angels, no government would be necessary..." Pretty thinking but not for real.
  9. Jul 12, 2006 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well... there's a lot of grey area wherein many people can be happy I think.

    Just because you're working for The Man and making him "happy", doesn't mean you are "unhappy".
  10. Jul 12, 2006 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    I would say that ACIPCO provides a gleaming model of how to make both the capitalists and the workers happy.
  11. Jul 21, 2006 #10
    This one is from Netscape News.

    Check out this list of Happy Countries.
  12. Jul 21, 2006 #11


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    That report seems a little misleading in using ecological footprint. Of course that explains why industrialized, net consuming nations scored so low, but it has nothing to do with the happiness of their citizens. One can consume much more than the landmass of one's country will be able to sustain long into the future and still be quite happy.
  13. Jul 22, 2006 #12
    Conventional economic models do not stress economic growth as the ultimate objective.

    Probably the greatest fear of economists is when markets grow too quickly. A large upward change in prosperity means price instability, which shocks consumption, saving, inventories, causing uncertainty in just about everything. The US Fed purposefully enacts recessionary measures when they feel this sharp growth is occurring.

    The ultimate objective from an economist's point of view, it would seem, is stability. So the measure of GDP, ironically, helps economists determine whether there is "too much" growth happening, and is not used as a scorecard.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2006
  14. Jul 25, 2006 #13
    yes..... but let's just hope that not all nations do the same!

    Best Regards
  15. Sep 18, 2006 #14
    Happiness is good for health - if it makes you happy then it is good for your health. There are things that we get and respond to as though it makes us happy, when in actuality it makes us more sick. Such actions, which have the illusion of giving us happiness increase scarcity, rather than producing opposite - abundance. This is called consuming beyond the means which you able to maintain without depriving yourself of good health.

    [itex]consumption>means(good\ health)[/itex]

    [itex]consumption<=means(good\ health)[/itex]

    Desirable dimensions. Popular inventions often try to maximize some of the following properties.


    The less you have to carry to reach a destination. (inverse of linear mass density)


    The less time that has to pass while reaching a destination. (inverse of dispersion)


    The less energy you need to get somewhere. (inverse of force)


    The more that can be moved in a given time. (inverse of "cooking time")


    The more mass that can be operated on per energy cost. (inverse of helicity and CAPE)


    The more time per energy expended. (inverse of power)

    Such inventions prefer certain properties in the following order:

    In otherwords, a greater reap-to-sow ratio. We are lazy and are happy when our needs are met with minimal effort. We value distance over mass, mass over time, and time over energy.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2006
  16. Sep 19, 2006 #15


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    So, if we eliminated all pork from our lives, the denominator would approach zero, resulting in our happiness tending towards infinity.

    Maybe the Jews are right afterall... :biggrin:
  17. Nov 2, 2006 #16


    User Avatar

    But these are two different kinds of questions. Happiness is something individual, but wealth is based on other people. Wealth needs a reference frame, but happiness does not.
  18. Nov 13, 2006 #17
    We are generally a social species... so I'd say they both wealth and happiness need reference frames. A sociology study said that getting married (to the right person of course) on average yields about the same amount of happiness as earning an extra $70k/year (the study was referenced in Scientific American, which I don't always pay attention to (Mom sends it to me), but I'd just gotten engaged at the time... to a social theorist http://sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&articleID=000EC8FA-800F-13F3-800F83414B7F0101.)

    I also think everyone does 1-10 scales differently so it isn't really a great idea, eq, ask a hospital clerk about the 1-10 pain scale when people check into the ER. Some people that can't walk say they are "fine" while someone else is screaming over a jammed finger. (I say 10 is uncontrollable screaming vomiting or bowel movements) -- that's enough to riun a day. :yuck:
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: Gross National Happiness
  1. Happiness (Replies: 4)

  2. Is it national news? (Replies: 59)

  3. Nationality of PFians (Replies: 57)

  4. The national lottery! (Replies: 36)