Aren’t We Suppose to Feel Happier With a Booming Economy?

Siyam Melke-HB                                      Aparicio-PM

[1] Author of Naked Economics, Charles Wheelan, describes the gross domestic product “represents the value of all the good and services produced in an economy”. Technically speaking, if the GDP is rising, the economy is good and the nation is moving forward; if the GDP is falling, then the economy is in trouble and the nation is losing ground. From a strictly numerical perspective, the GDP provides a basic indicator of economic health; however, from the perspective of a citizen living with the daily realities of life here in the United States, the GDP can be rather misleading.

The United States is commonly known for its large economy with a GDP of $19 trillion. [2] The U.S. is an economic superpower that is highly advanced in terms of technology and infrastructure and possesses an abundant supply of natural resources. Although the United States contains a mass amount of economic prosperity according to its GDP, it does not necessarily mean that our economic approach is positive. The GDP is frequently criticized for its narrow approach towards measuring success within an economy because it does not account for how economic triumph is achieved. [3-4] When analyzing the impairments not included in the GDP, such as environmental degradation, Robert Kennedy once said, “Our GDP counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances…It counts the destruction of our redwoods…Yet it does not allow for the health of our children the quality of their education or the strength of our marriages; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country which makes life worthwhile.” So that leads me to ponder, does a higher GDP essentially mean a happier and better off people?

When we think GDP our first instinct may be to look at the positive factors of the measurement at face value; however, when we examine this at face value, we are dismissing an incredible amount of human misery. [5] Wheelan briefly shares that those who are on the wealthier side also share the same sadness as those who are not as wealthy. Now, their sadness derives from different issues, but it only comes to show that Americans all across the spectrum are in some way emotionally unsatisfied, regardless of what our booming GDP says. [6] World experts on the issue of happiness, Dr. Ed Diener and Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and Dr. Martin Seligman, have concluded that beyond the basic level of necessities to support life, such as adequate, food, water, housing, the following things can increase happiness levels: meaningful close relationships; a positive, optimistic frame of mind; accepting responsibility for your life; being engaged in meaningful work; and living in the present. That is the underlying issue of the GDP measurement; it is misrepresenting the people’s actual happiness in exchange for a say in economic success. Ultimately, rather than striving to be the biggest, the U.S. shall instead aspire to be constantly better. Which, in the end, offers an important remedy to both the decline and mindless boosting of the economy and status of this country; the recognition that whether we are falling behind or achieving new heights is immensely determined by both what goals we set and how we measure our performance, but most importantly, it is conveyed by the word of the people.

[1,3, 5] Wheelan, Charles. Naked economics: undressing the dismal science. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.

[2] “Does High GDP Mean Economic Prosperity?” Forbes. June 11, 2013. Accessed June 20, 2017.

[4] “How the GDP Measures Everything ‘Except That Which Makes Life Worthwhile'” EcoWatch. Accessed June 20, 2017.

[6] Williams, Ray. “Why the GDP Is Not An Good Measure of A Nation’s Well Being.” Psychology Today. September 12, 2013. Accessed June 20, 2017.


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