Morality in economics sounds like an oxymoron. I can just hear it: leave morality to your religion, if you have one, and stay out of my pocketbook. But consider the boycott: it is a tool to regulate economics along the lines of moral values: we will not buy your products if you exploit labor, or use poisons or GMOs to produce it. Getting morality into economics is a challenge, but it’s not such a far fetched idea: we should all be intrigued by the question, what economics would look if like moral values were not an afterthought, a reason for protest, but a guideline and a point of departure. Where better to begin than with happiness? Not pleasure, mind you, but the abiding happiness that comes from having done something that helps another, that fulfills our purpose.
The Kingdom of Bhutan was the first to experiment with this new model of “business as usual” when they introduced the Gross National Happiness Index as an alternative to the supposedly value-neutral Gross National Product. Launched in 1972 as an effort to integrate primarily Buddhist spiritual values into their national vision, it spearheaded what is known as the “happiness movement,” with results such as the United Nations including “happiness” as a key value in their global development agenda in 2011 and ripples across other nations, including areas within the United States, Egypt, India, the United Kingdom and South Korea.
Gandhi was on to this idea early (as usual). Wouldn’t nonviolence be a key indicator of how happy we are? And with advertisement after advertisement trying to sell us an idea of happiness through consumption and even violence, would not a real indicator system tell us whether all of that “stuff” and all of that money, and all of that violence is really making us happy? It’s time we measured wealth where it really resides.
What indicators would you include in your own version of measuring happiness? Where do you place your life on that scale?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org