Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is the latest to jump on the Gross National Happiness bandwagon:
The ultimate purpose of economics, of course, is to understand and promote the enhancement of well-being. Economic measurement accordingly must encompass measures of well-being and its determinants…Interestingly, income and wealth do contribute to self-reported happiness, but the relationship is more complex and context-dependent than standard utility theory would suggest. Other important contributors to individuals’ life satisfaction are a strong sense of support from belonging to a family or core group and a broader community, a sense of control over one’s life, a feeling of confidence or optimism about the future, and an ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Bernanke points to all the usual culprits: Bhutan, the OECD Better Life Index, behavioral economists like Daniel Kahneman. He’s previously advocated for more attention to well-being per se (as opposed to economic indicators) in a commencement speech a couple years ago; it’s nice to hear a high-placed U.S. official make happiness a theme, as its gotten increasing attention from foreign governments but has mostly been consigned to academia here.