Davos Notebook

On wealth versus well-being

February 1, 2009

Back in the Middle Ages, no-one took any notice of Copernicus when he said the Earth was not at the centre of the universe.

Stewart Wallis, executive director of London-based “think-and-do-tank” the New Economics Foundation and one of the thousands attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, can sympathise.

“I don’t mind being called an idealistic idiot,” he told Reuters, with reference to a philosophy he summed up as “the macro-economic text-books are works of fiction”.

Undaunted by the non-believers, he will continue to spread the word and in Davos addressed the assembled money-makers on the importance of “gross domestic happiness”, as opposed to gross domestic product.
His new economics aspire to demonstrate “real economic well-being” through sustainable living, a focus on the local, not the global, and a more equal distribution of wealth.

The foundation’s latest survey of National Accounts of Well-being, based on around 40,000 interviews across Europe, found overworked, tired, bored and lonely Britons were near the bottom of the league.
Increasingly, they might be ready to give new economics a try. To that extent, Wallis’ time has come.

But there is work to be done. Regardless of the world economic crisis, convincing the people of Davos, both visiting and permanent, of the need to jettison old economics remains a challenge. The Swiss in general come very near the top of the well-being league, with their perfectly groomed ski pistes, quantities of chocolate and discreet wealth.

Comments
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Mr. Wallis like so many confuses ‘wealth creation’ with ‘conspicuous consumption’. They are not the same. Wealth creation is necessary for economic growth, job creation, etc., but it is also necessary to pay for social spending and income re-distribution via taxes; to fund programs that make life better, safer, more enjoyable, more fulfilling; and to protect the environment.

You can have any type of social society you want including a cradle to grave welfare state so long as you have the economy to pay for it. It is wrong to believe you can improve ‘gross national happiness’ without improving standards of living as well as producing the wealth necessary to finance the public and private spending on activities that make us richer culturally and spiritually.

Yes, some poorer countries are in general happier than some wealthier countries. That may be a cultural issue. The question is how do wealthier countries spend or invest their extra wealth? Do they engage in conspicuous consumption that does not make them any happier? Or do they invest that economic surplus in ways that improve life for their citizens and safe-guard their environment? This is not an either or trade-off.

Posted by MrBill, Eurasia | Report as abusive
 

The whole world now revolves around a man made product called Money, something that has been created by mankind and not God!

 

I would like to encourage Congress to increase funding for fighting global poverty. The Borgen Project (www.borgenproject.org) has some great facts and ideas to help global poverty.
$30 billion to eliminate global poverty.
$522 billion on the U.S. defense budget.
There are 800 million people that go to sleep hungry every day, 300 million are children.

Posted by Cougar_gal06 | Report as abusive
 

I figure President Obama’s requirement that executive pay be limited to $500,000 annually, for companies receiving government assistance, is a great first step toward improving the social and economic development of human civilization.

The human race is coming together. The United Nations is the greatest civilization that has ever existed on earth. The whole world economy is booming.

Greenbank of Bangla Desh is one of my favorite companies. Microsoft, IBM, GM and GE are some others. China is doing a great job but they need to improve quality and clean up the mess they are making. India is our big supplier for healing and software!

The home office based, network marketers are another major factor in the economy today. Let all get to work and keep this 200 years long boom going.

 

Money is tool for transaction of the material world which in essence IS SCARCE

The concept of ECONOMY is based on the concept of SCARCE RESOURCE

This fuels fear , insecurity and thus the price !

Can this tool ( money ) born from such a emotion of security evoke feeling of ABUNDANCE or only a mirage of it ? I guess some of us have experienced the insecurity with rich , fearing loss of it . After all they know that there are more HAVE NOTS ,eyeing his rich !

This doesn’t happen with items of ABUNDANCE . One example is Air, we breathe!

Excessive monetization has already lead to convert the ABUNDANT water into scarce and , priced product.

Thanks to our pollution Air is not far away.

However it would be foolish to rubbish MONEY completely . Thanks to it we have developed materially from stone age to the current Digital age.

I guess all it means is we have reached the limit of Money’s material benefit .

Money is a wrong tool to apply for products of ABUNDANCE .

We need another Currency for it . Where earning this amounts to being ethical in our jobs ( or life in general )

Thus it adds a second dimension to world of transaction. First one being Money which helps us to be efficient with scarce resource , while this new currency promotes more softer qualities of life to help society sustain at large

raj

Posted by Raj | Report as abusive
 

every problem has a built in solution … if you cut the guilt – blame – denial and look for it … as with our own persona with all it’s insecurities … Wall Street’s external image , like in the past with all the bulletproof bravado and arrogance based on media propaganda … but hiding the reality behind a mask … now put a little makeup on a confidence boost of false illusion .. all is well again , yeh baby .. markets up !!!! avoiding the core of the problems … it’s a joke to watch .

change a little to late .

the reality now , with all the hand out groveling and bickering , is sad and pathetic … and they say give us the $$$ or it’s doomsday , but then governments should keep out of their free markets.

I think that was said because corruption must be so widespread , it may be a case of just plug the holes and hope for the best … when bullies come undone it’s sickening to watch them carry on with blame games.

all that secret attraction of wealth and the power games of the elitists clubs creating a steroid cheaters economy , has run it’s race now … no escape .

co-operate !!!!

so what is needed now is transparency of what is going on inside the markets so the fix can be applied quickly and accurately placed , or there will be a hell of a mess before the end of the year .

a scale of priority and amnesty must be used as well , to get a return of the lost capital back into the system … tax dodging and evasion is an art form … a little diplomatic Shiatsu of pressure points may help convince those holding out on billions of hidden capital … a clearing of conscience …. and will save their empires from crumbling any further .

squeezing struggling consumers to fund bailouts is asking for a domino effect disaster .

corporate stability and equilibrium will only happen if you let the guilty be punished by their mistakes … fill the vacuum with stable co-ops or freeze and shelve the bloated corporations till things move again … like with auto companies … they should move into subsidized eco tech business , then keep the car stockpile till the fuel tech is sorted … a refit then on the market again .

easy bail outs will just pay execs to sit on their lazy ass for years while laying off millions of workers.

massive re-eduaction from the top to bottom , team effort … are we up for the challenge ?

Posted by Harry | Report as abusive
 

When we were young we were told, “If wealth is lost, nothing is lost;If health is lost, something is lost;but, if charaacter is lost everything is lost.”

Our wisdom remains intact.That is what this dialogue- initiative ‘wealth Vs wellbeing’means to me.

It lets us think and whether we can undo money being the measure.Let money not be the measure of our well being.That appears the calling.

Let us also use little resources.Let us use little space but be close to each other.

In the final analysis naturally our well being must thrive, not the wealth.

Sam Anbazhagan

Posted by S.V.Anbazhagan | Report as abusive
 

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