What should the economy be for?

It was recently announced that the UK came 19th in the World Happiness Report and yet we are allegedly the fifth richest economy in the world.

What is the point? As this image posted on Twitter shows:

And they are – the economy is not achieving what its essential purpose should be and we are at least 14 places too low.

Now if we were number 4 in the World Happiness Report that would be a result.


  1. Sean Danaher -

    I presume you are using GDP as a measure of Economic size which is fine, however I would have thought GDP per capita would be a better indicator (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita). Are you implying large countries should be happier than small ones? Is England for example happier than Scotland – possibly given the stance on Brexit, size indeed might matter.

  2. Peter May -

    Arguably GDP per capita is a better measure, but it was really the large discrepancy in ranking that I thought worth noting.
    The idea that we must expand the economy is prevalent but if we are all getting more miserable in the process then its purpose needs questioning. And of course GDP itself is fairly arbitrary – as I understand it every road traffic accident increases GDP but acts of kindness and property prices don’t!
    Having said that I think an economically active larger country is likely to have more interest both in things and people and so has a greater potential to be happier.

    1. Mark P -

      I don’t think even the most neo-liberalal of neo-liberals wants to increase GDP for its own sake. We all know it’s a proxy measurement for actual wealth.

      The split is between those who think continuing to increase wealth is a good thing — the main purpose of government — and those that do not. Most people don’t struggle with the idea that increasing wealth is a good idea. Hell, Marx was all for continuing to increase wealth.

      No individual is forced to accumulate wealth, and many people in society can’t be bothered to very much. If that’s where your happiness lies then go for it. But it’s a bit much to insist others can’t think differently and insist that they also need to chase happiness your way.

      Even if only a quarter of people wanted to increase wealth our GDP would continue to grow. To hold it still would deny everyone that avenue.

  3. Dave O'Neill -

    Maybe the British are more honest than others and are actually reasonably happy (despite Eastenders and Coronation St which are pretty depressing). It depends on the measurements criteria. People in Ireland are very happy. It’s just that a lot of them commit suicide. Watch Father Ted and skip the laughing and feel the underlying message.

    1. Peter May -

      That could all certainly be the case. But if the population is at all unhappy – it is after all THEIR economy – why doesn’t it change to reflect the needs of its participants? Suicide is not any sort of solution.

      1. Bill Kruse -

        The economy works to make those who create the money used in it richer than most others. The banks sow credit (which costs them nothing, effectively) into the culture/society who trade with it and give it value and then the banks harvest it as we give it back to them in a form which has value rather than as their own credit which is worthless to them. There is your alchemy 🙂 So to make this process work for the participants (us) rather than the bankers, we’d have to become the bankers, the money creators, ourselves. That would mean replacing private banking everywhere with publicly-owned community banks. Now would be the right time too, with the major banks retreating and leaving their custom-built premises available. Sadly these ideas are alien to most folk, and escape many others.

    2. Sean Danaher -

      Hi Dave
      thanks for popping in. I don’t watch soaps – I have too full and a busy life and don’t need to live vicariously, but it has been put to me that they are more influential than newspapers. Of course Fr Ted was an iconic series and it’s extraordinary that even though Dermot Morgan died in 1998 it still seems fresh. I used to love his “Scrap Saturday” radio programme when I lived in Leeds. The suicide rates are depressing (I have a good friend Peter Harrington whose son hanged himself a few years ago; the funeral was very poignant). This link, http://www.newstalk.com/MAP:-Suicide-rates-around-the-world, puts the Irish male rate at 19 per 100,000 and the UK at 11 – and suggest a high correlation with unemployment. Curiously the figure for Switzerland is around 25 and Greece 6 (all per 100,000) suggests cultural factors may be as important as economy; given that Greece has had a dreadful time recently and Switzerland not at all. The link to the World Happiness report 2017 is here: http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2017/

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