Slower by Design, Not Disaster
Chapter 8: Economic Growth and Happiness
There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Most people want more income and strive for it. Yet as Western societies have got richer, their people have become no happier . . . It is a fact proven by many pieces of scientiﬁc research. (Layard 2005b) In Chapters 4, 5 and 6 we considered several biophysical limits to long term economic growth. In Chapter 7, we questioned the extent to which changes in the composition of what we produce and consume and in technology can be relied upon to overcome these limits. The outlook is anything but rosy. What if the rich countries of the world have to make room for the poor countries by deliberately slowing their rate of economic growth? If the whole purpose of economic growth is to make people happy then does this mean that those who live in the rich countries are doomed to a life of boredom and unhappiness? In this chapter, we consider the relationship between economic growth and human well being and in particular, the relationship between economic growth and happiness. We will discover that higher incomes do make people happier but only up to a point. After that, more money does not help very much. We will look at the growing body of evidence on which this ﬁnding is based. We will also employ a simple, two person, two product model to show how the pursuit of status through consumption can be selfdefeating and is best avoided. All this is good...
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