Profound Unhappiness in the International Recession
The Case of Suicide in Industrialized Countries
Among economists, a “new” literature has been developing emphasizing the role of human happiness in connection with economic well-being. Since the days of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and the utilitarians, writing in the Scottish and French enlightenments, and their emphasis on science and technology as the basis for human welfare, economic growth has been viewed by economists as the foundation of material well-being and therefore of human happiness. As a consequence, the fundamental assumption of economic policy worldwide is to promote economic growth as the objective of human endeavors, thus theoretically leading to increased human happiness. In recent times, the assumption of implicit linkage between economic growth and human happiness has been questioned by some economists, psychologists, and sociologists.
A central problem in the empirical testing of whether economic growth increases happiness lies in the measurement of happiness itself. A second problem exists in the meaning of happiness. Does happiness imply a simple pleasure orientation (i.e., relative to pain in the utilitarian framework), as summarized in the philosophy of hedonism? Or does it really pertain to well-being? In the latter case, life satisfaction or capacity—derived from the Greek concept of eudaemonia and the quality of life literature—is ultimately to be preferred. This paper ...