Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Poverty and Gross National Happiness

US poverty rate continues to rise:
"An extra 1.1 million Americans dropped below the poverty line last year, according to the US Census Bureau. There were 37 million people living in poverty in 2004, up 12.7% from the previous year."
Are those numbers not completely disturbing? Do we need any clearer indication that something is very, very wrong with the way things are going? This little piece of analyis makes it even more bizarre:
"The rise in poverty comes despite solid economic growth in 2004, which helped to create 2.2 million jobs in the US."
It looks to me like the measures of economic growth we're depending on aren't reflecting the reality on the ground. Perhaps it's time to take a closer look at Bhutan's attempt to measure and foster gross national happiness instead of assuming that all economic growth and activity is a positive thing.

Update: In case we felt like criticizing our neighbours to the south, the news on poverty is the same in Canada: "Poverty is rising among children and new immigrants, the middle class is finding it increasingly difficult to afford education and housing, and there are 250,000 Canadians living on the streets...", all apparently while the economy booms.


shamash said...

Wouldn't it be great if all countries followed Bhutan's lead and found ways to foster "gross national happiness?

Jeremy said...

I think so. When you first look at the term, you think it's a parody, but then the meaning kicks in and you realize they've absolutely got it right. It's a fascinating country, by all accounts -- perhaps just the place for a more utopian experiment.