Παρασκευή, 7 Σεπτεμβρίου 2012

Happiness Crisis



Last week the World Economic Forum in Davos (which consists of a variety of topical forums) introduced its yearly insights into issues related to economic and human progress. Not surprisingly, one of the central topics of discussion focused on the world financial crisis.

The panellists in one of the forums thus discussed what will likely cause the next financial crisis. Another forum ventured into the relation between the economy and human happiness. After careful analysis a number of similarities between the two issues can be noted (See Figure 1).
The key message of the crisis forum was that crises are inevitable for the future and constitute an integral part of economic development. Similarly, when discussing happiness the panellists determined that lasting happiness is nearly impossible to achieve and crises are equally an integral part of human nature. This seemingly evident connection between the administrative system and the individual has interesting implications.

A number of administrative systems around the world such as those in Iran or North Korea are built on the idea of individual perfection. These systems place the individual as a mechanical part in the machine of society- a machine expected to never falter. Experience shared at the World Economic Forum, however, exposed this logic as false. The phenomenon is not only limited to authoritative regimes. It is a common perception in the west as well that the more we develop the capitalist system the happier individuals will be and the fewer crises will arise. The recent financial meltdown proved this approach to be equally untrue, respectful treatment of the individual considered apart.  

The other central message of the economic crisis panel stated that despite the inevitability of crises, the more we learn about them, the less frequently they will occur. In that respect, the human happiness module determined that even though it is never a constant, happiness tends to increase as one learns and gets older. These conclusions go against a common perception that systems and humans are efficient and bring satisfaction in their youth and become corrupt and miserable in old age.

The inevitability of crises and learning from experience directly relate to the fact that the system is still very much created and run by humans. This is at odds with the motto of the last decade that with the advance of technology, progress will be a sky-driven arrow on a graph. Thus, we must accept that human life and economic activity are bound to pass through difficult periods. This was and will remain the natural order of things.