In the last couple of months I've been hearing a lot of seemingly serious talk about Happiness.
The BBC aired a program called "The Happiness Formula", in which Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at Warwick University, argued that advanced western economies should concentrate less on growth and more on the wellbeing of their citizens. A book, "El viaje a la felicidad", was written by Eduard Punset, a renowned Spanish economist, with a happiness formula based on scientific data. A bunch of articles have appeared on a bunch of papers discussing happiness from a "scientific" point of view.
Are we entering a new era in economics or are we just witnessing a serious case of schizophrenia?
I agree with Oswald when he says, "If you're poor, and can't feed your children, theories about the economics of happiness don't matter. But in America and western Europe, a lot of us don't need a TV wider than the one we have, or a third car."
However, as I see it, he is missing the point: the wider TV and the last model car or mobile phone have been wired into modern society's notion of happiness (even if it's ephemeral and leaves a bitter aftertaste).
Well then, is happiness now not what it used to be? What is happiness? Can it be scientifically defined and analysed in Economics? Oswald claims it can. I have my doubts.
I don't think it's enough to say "You don't need that to be happy". I also think that no one (especially not an economist) is entitled to say "You need that to be happy".After all isn't happiness a most private and individual thing ?