22 January 2018   Leave a comment

We usually associate the “good life” with having “things” that make our lives more comfortable.  But there are many people in the world who lack many of these “things”.  The Pew Research Center has conducted interviews with tens of thousands of people and usually starts out their interviews with a simple question:  “How would you describe your day today – has it been a typical day, a particularly good day or a particularly bad day?”  Over the years they have asked this question to over forty thousand people in 38 countries and their responses have revealed an interesting correlation:

“Perhaps surprisingly, responses to this question were negatively correlated with one measure of national well-being, the United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI).  Countries with higher HDI scores have, on average, higher gross national income per capita, longer expected lifespans and higher educational expectations and attainment. Yet people in countries with higher HDI scores are less likely to say their day has been particularly good. In 2014, we similarly found that a country’s GDP per capita was negatively correlated with the percentage of people who said their day was good.”

It appears as if “things” do not necessarily make us happier.

 

On the other hand, poverty is a miserable condition and while one should not believe that wealth makes one happy, it does not follow that the lack of wealth is the key to happiness.  Accumulating waelth, however, does appear to be an objective for a large number of people on the planet.  And that number seems to be getting smaller relative to the number of people alive.  Oxfam is an advocacy group that works to ameliorate global poverty and is publishes an annual report on efforts to reduce poverty in the world.  This year’s report focuses on growing wealth inequality in the world, and its conclusions are depressing:

“Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with one more billionaire every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide. Nine out of 10 are men. Billionaires also saw a huge increase in their wealth. This increase was enough to end extreme poverty seven times over. 82% of all of the growth in global wealth in the last year went to the top 1%, whereas the bottom 50% saw no increase at all.”

While one should be cautious about reports from advocacy groups, the Oxfam report is consistent with other studies on the problem of wealth inequality in the world.

 

US President Trump has approved an increase of tariffs on imported large residential washing machines and imported solar cells and modules.  The move targets imports from China and will likely trigger a harsh response from China.  The move also reflects Mr. Trump’s belief that trade deals have worked against US interests.  The tariffs will help the manufacturers of solar panels in the US but will raise the cost of installing those panels and perhaps reduce incentives toward renewable energy.  We should watch carefully to assess the Chinese reaction–a trade war would not be in the interest of either country.

 

Posted January 22, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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