Should We Measure Happiness Instead of GDP?

Posted by Andrew Price

French president Nicolas Sarkozy (seen here enjoying an afternoon on the beach) thinks we should. And he enlisted the help of two world-class economists to help him figure out how:From now on, [France's] economic progress will be measured in terms of happiness-bonheur. And how does one measure bonheur? Well, through things like work-life balance, rates of recycling and traffic congestion. And DIY. The president is taking his lead from a report he commissioned last year from two Nobel Prize-winning economists, the American Joseph Stiglitz and India's Amartya Sen, who concluded that new indexes are needed to measure wellbeing and environmental sustainability.Most economists will tell you that GDP isn't meant to measure wellbeing anyway. But the fact is, many people-especially policymakers and economists-pay a lot of attention to GDP without even considering that there might be important satisfactions in life that aren't best measured by money.UPDATE: GOOD contributor Jaime Wolf writes in: "I know Sarko is claiming to take his cues from the economic report that he commissioned last year, but ‘Gross National Happiness' is an index that actually originated in Bhutan in the 1970s-it was introduced by King Jigme Singye Wanchuck, who is basically known as one of Bhutan's great modernizing forces." Jaime's right that developing new economic metrics that incorporate happiness isn't entirely new, but this is the first time a G8 country has officially adopted one.