Jeffrey Sachs on the Pursuit of Happiness
30 Aug 2011 | Huffington Post
America is a country of vast wealth and vast anxiety. America's
high Gross National Product per person, around $50,000, and its
vast net worth, around $500,000 per household, are among the
highest in the world. Yet growing numbers of Americans are unhappy,
unhealthy, and increasingly pessimistic. America fought for
independence to secure the inalienable right to the pursuit of
happiness, but today happiness seems out of reach to tens of
millions of Americans.
One reason is obvious. The income and wealth measures refer to
averages, while inequality of income and wealth has reached
all-time highs in our country. Wealth may be soaring, but since the
top 1% of wealthy households have more net worth than the bottom
90% its not surprising that not everybody is thrilled. As the top
0.01% of households (about 14,000) receives more income than the
poorest 25 million households, can we be surprised that the mood
today is not over the top?
Yet there is something even deeper underway. In America today,
the quest for profits has crowded out almost every other value.
Corporations own our politicians, sports stadiums, charter schools,
mass media, and even much of our military. The logic of the
corporation has become the logic of America, to the point that the
Supreme Court can no longer tell the difference between free speech
and untrammeled corporate power.
America is threatened with something even greater than the loss
of democracy as corporate power and corporate-owned mass media come
to dominate our lives. We are at risk of losing our values as well,
and even the birthright to the pursuit of happiness. GNP may be way
up over the past thirty years, but social trust, honesty, and
compassion are down.
The time has come to reconsider the basic sources of happiness in
economic life, not just for a better distribution of income and
wealth, though we need that, but also for a better distribution of
values, ethics, and goals. Economic progress is important and can
greatly improve the quality of life, but only if it is pursued
sensibly in line with other goals in the society.
Read article here
Politics of Happiness