Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mo' Money Less Happy

The CS Monitor continues to cover more interesting topics than the NYT and their December 5th article on what constitute's happiness in this money-driven world struck a chord with my innner spendthrift. For instance, according to research done by a Warwick University economist and Dartmouth economist David Blanchflower, marriage equates to about $100,000 in happiness value...not that I think we should be putting a price on marriage (prenup would take on a whole new significance). However, it is interesting that we have to translate non-monetary value in our lives (family, marriage, health, friends) into monetary figures in order to fully understand the value of them.

Here are some additional "happpiness related" findings of Blanchflower's research:

• Nations (at least those in the West) do not grow happier as they grow richer.
• Women report higher levels of well-being than do men.
• Two of the biggest negatives in life are unemployment and divorce.
• Better-educated people report higher levels of happiness, even after taking income into account.

Here's another kicker: research shows overwhelmingly that married, monogamous couples are the happier than others.

That's because it finds, for instance, that those in a monogamous, faithful marriage are the happiest. In the dry language of the paper, "The happiness- maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is one."

Those who cheat on their spouses are less happy. Those who have ever paid for sex are much less happy than others. So are those who divorce.

Maybe this will change the way we look at our GDP in the future. Happiness isn't equated into GDP and judging by the first bullet point above it's time we start rethinking how we define what success is in life. Wealth is nice, but it's only a basic piece of a larger pie that includes such things as love, spirituality, health, longevity and a true understanding of our world. How can we start creating a culture of happiness?

A consumption tax that raises the income tax would help to deflate the purchase of items like yachts, vacation homes, 8,000 square foot homes and other un-needed extravagances. That money could then be used to increase public works, education, government programs to make more people happy. How about a 4 day work week so we can all spend more time with our families and more importantly, with ourselves. The best part of this idea is that this type of tax would actually stimulate savings in American families and promote investment.

Whats the definition of happiness anyways? Gosh, can you buy happiness?

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