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The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies Paperback – September 1, 2001
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He accuses economists of wanting to maximise one dimension only like "the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people" (Jeremy Bentham), or maximise increases in GDP per person. The belief of many people in prosperous countries is that Increasing GDP per person will lead to increases in happiness. Prof Lane refers to this belief as the "Economistic Fallacy" which he considers a major threat to the future of the USA. He proves conclusively that in the USA and other prosperous countries, increases in GDP per person do not lead to increases in happiness. He points out that governments focus too exclusively on increasing GDP. Governments should in all their policies ask themselves if their policies contribute to the three goals of happiness, justice and personal development.
The title of the book can create the mistaken impression that Professor Lane is against a free market and democracy. His main point is that the market and democracy on their own do not lead automatically to increased happiness and that the three goals should also be considered by governments when attempting to make the free market and democracy function satisfactorily. He points out that happiness is dependent on what he refers to a "companionship" (that is friends) and a good family life. At no point does he suggest that the free market and democracy can be replaced by better systems.Read more ›
Conventional economic wisdom is that increased GDP will solve all problems and make everyone's life better. Lane shows this isn't so. For the very poor, increased per capita GDP does indeed make people happier. Once the necessities of life are satisfied, higher GDP has little or no effect on how content people are with their lives. When you consider the lengths to which governments go to increase their GDP by a few percentage points, you begin to understand how important this finding is.
In the developed countries, Lane shows that people's overall satisfaction with their lives has been declining steadily in recent years. Lane finds that a decline in companionship and family life and an increase in television viewing are important factors in this. People are often not very good judges of what life choices will really make their lives better and happier. It is easy to fall into a trap of trying to get more money, while sacrificing the time it takes to maintain relationships with friends and family.
Some great quotes from the book:
". . . relieving poverty without creating dependency has proved difficult where it has been seriously tried."
"Consequently, it is possible to want to spend more than one earns--a sure prescription for misery, as Micawber once explained to David Copperfield."
". . .Read more ›