SOURCE: Vision Media Productions

January 17, 2008 03:00 ET

Can Happiness Be Purchased in Any Society and Culture?

The Worldwatch Institute Has Released Its State of the World 2008 Report -- Which May Hold the Answer

PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - January 17, 2008) - It's a question that has plagued mankind for centuries: Can money buy happiness? There are certainly those who think so. However, Vision.org, a web site that covers social issues, current events and politics, reports on a different view: The Worldwatch Institute's report, State of the World 2008, which suggests that the economic policies that got us where we are today are outdated.

"The world is very different, physically and philosophically, from the one that Adam Smith, David Ricardo and other early economists knew -- different in ways that make key features of conventional economics dysfunctional for the twenty-first century," write State of the World 2008 project co-directors Gary Gardner and Thomas Prugh in the report's keynote article, Seeding the Sustainable Economy.

One would have to be from Mars not to see how the ethics of traditional economic policies have affected the planet. According to the report, more than one third of the earth's population lives on less than $2 per day. The report also cites a United Nations study that found the richest 2% of the population owned more than half of the world's household assets. And interestingly, Gardner and Prugh cite studies and surveys showing that economic prosperity indeed has not delivered happiness to prosperous societies.

Wherein lies the balance? Gardner and Prugh make a case that western-style affluence should not necessarily be the goal of poorer nation development. They observe that there is a difference between "growth" and "development"; that growth is about making an economy bigger while development is about making it better. One question posed is, how much economic growth is needed to actually ensure happiness in a society or community? If a man can feed, clothe, educate and support his family, is happiness then obtained?

These sentiments would seem to be echoed elsewhere. For example, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize went to Muhammed Yunus for his pioneering of a new category of banking known as micro-credit, which grants small loans to poor people who have no collateral and who do not qualify for conventional bank loans. Web sites such as Kiva.org invite individuals to follow a similar pattern: through these organizations, individuals can loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world.

Perhaps happiness can be obtained when individuals and societies are self-sufficient and when others more fortunate are helping them to become so.

To read Bigger is Not Better in its entirety, visit the vision.org web site.

Vision.org is a Web site that challenges readers to examine the historical and philosophical origins of today's issues. Vision.org seeks to evaluate the news of the day in a more in-depth way than most issue-oriented publications, and offers insight into the complex social, moral and philosophical questions that confront society and culture today.

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