Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Measuring the happiness of a nation

A few days ago I got this link from a friend who found a great calculation method in wikipedia. The method relates to my happymaking theory as imagine one could measure the happiness of a country: then we could say if you plan to be happy go to country X, people in Z are not that happy so be increasing the variable V then you could increase their happiness by 77.7%. Now you could say that you agree with that, but we still can't define generally valid criterion for making one happy.

You could say a poor country is a sad country....or that a huge GDP involves plenty of happy people running around and singing in the streets. Well not exactly. Take Germans for example (coming from Eastern Europe we always show sort of an admiration for this country and most of our people would still emigrate here): Germans complain all day long - about prices, low salaries, bad food, traffic jams and so on. Now despite the fact that most of them know that it is indeed worse in other countries maybe just a few hundred miles away, they don't seem to appreciate what they have. So definitely not a happy nation. Take Greeks on the other hand, not a high GDP but lovely people dancing, singing and having fun even they don't know what they will eat next week (maybe too extreme but still true in some cases).

So back to the methods in wiki. They admit the HDI (Human Development Index) is not the correct formula as it is like HDI = 1/3 (life expectancy index) + 1/3 (education index) + 1/3 (GDP index). So a rich lawyer in UK should never commit suicide :-) Totally wrong. Just dive in the mortuary page of a local newspaper.

Then the HLE (Happy Life Expectancy) is presented, by Veenhoven. Now he talks about more societal factors added to those influencing HDI and a longer period for measurement. But still....how can we predict one country's happiness? He exemplifies that Iceland has a happier population then Bulgaria. Unless the people have been asked I don't buy this. You can measure whatever you want but not happiness. It's like agreeing that each individual in one country could be made happy in the same way....and that's not even possible in the same family, where members have more than location, cultural background or eating habits in common(would be interesting if they measured how religion interferes with happiness...I bet they missed that).

So of course I don't have a great end of this story. No magic formula will pop up now to tell you "that's the good one for measuring happiness. So just measure it, pack your bags and go to Brazil. And you'll be 30% happier after finding a house, 50% after getting hired and having some money and 80% after the first 2 years"

Again, just build your own happiness and make it survive no matter where you are!

1 comment:

Rowen Canlas said...

Great article! Stimmt, was Du geschrieben hast! I am reminded of what Abraham Lincoln said "People are only as happy as they make up their mind to be happy" or that of Henry David Thoreau "People are the riches whose pleasures are the cheapest." Wealth does not bring happiness, it can only make life less uncomfortable...or to take the extreme example of Victor Frankl, the Jewish psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust in World War II; he said that the last or ultimate freedom which no one can take away from us is our freedom to choose our attitude in whatever situation we find ourselves in. I believe that Roberto Benigni was inspired by this when he made the film 'La Vita e' Bella!". Well as you said in the article, this should explain why citizens of first world countries are not necessarily the happiest persons in the world, and poor countries are paradoxically happier!