Happiness Is Equality

Average incomes have been going up steadily, but typical incomes have been stagnating or even falling, implying that most of the gains of growth have been captured by a minority – sometimes a very small minority. Nowadays, it seems, it is not more growth that we want, but more equality.

LONDON – The king of Bhutan wants to make us all happier. Governments, he says, should aim to maximize their people’s Gross National Happiness rather than their Gross National Product. Does this new emphasis on happiness represent a shift or just a passing fad?

It is easy to see why governments should de-emphasize economic growth when it is proving so elusive. The eurozone is not expected to grow at all this year. The British economy is contracting. Greece’s economy has been shrinking for years. Even China is expected to slow down. Why not give up growth and enjoy what we have?

No doubt this mood will pass when growth revives, as it is bound to. Nevertheless, a deeper shift in attitude toward growth has occurred, which is likely to make it a less important lodestar in the future – especially in rich countries.

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