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   The ongoing media campaign to make the economy the monofocus of our societies continues on unabated.  Do almost any news search and you will see economic principles overlaid and tied to the idea that somehow they are related to how healthy and how “good” a society actually is.  Economic health is but one part of a successful society as a strength of a society not only lies in its economy but in its culture and even more importantly, its people.  Jeffry Sachs opines on a better way of analyzing and structuring a society:

“We live in a time of high anxiety. Despite the world’s unprecedented total wealth, there is vast insecurity, unrest, and dissatisfaction. In the United States, a large majority of Americans believe that the country is “on the wrong track”. Pessimism has soared. The same is true in many other places.

Against this backdrop, the time has come to reconsider the basic sources of happiness in our economic life. The relentless pursuit of higher income is leading to unprecedented inequality and anxiety, rather than to greater happiness and life satisfaction. Economic progress is important and can greatly improve the quality of life, but only if it is pursued in line with other goals.”

Let me reassure you skeptical reader, a more egalitarian society is not only better for its people, it is better for productivity as well.  What its bad for, capital accumulation and socialism for the rich.

First, we should not denigrate the value of economic progress. When people are hungry, deprived of basic needs such as clean water, health care, and education, and without meaningful employment, they suffer. Economic development that alleviates poverty is a vital step in boosting happiness.

Second, relentless pursuit of GNP to the exclusion of other goals is also no path to happiness. In the US, GNP has risen sharply in the past 40 years, but happiness has not. Instead, single-minded pursuit of GNP has led to great inequalities of wealth and power, fueled the growth of a vast underclass, trapped millions of children in poverty, and caused serious environmental degradation.”

I would add here, the growth of the courtier corporate media whose job it is to reframe the massive inequality and unjust conditions prevalent in the US as “normal” and manage to get the poor people to actually fight against reforms that would benefit them (see the dismal failure instituting universal healthcare in the US).

“Third, happiness is achieved through a balanced approach to life by both individuals and societies. As individuals, we are unhappy if we are denied our basic material needs, but we are also unhappy if the pursuit of higher incomes replaces our focus on family, friends, community, compassion, and maintaining internal balance. As a society, it is one thing to organise economic policies to keep living standards on the rise, but quite another to subordinate all of society’s values to the pursuit of profit.

Yet politics in the US has increasingly allowed corporate profits to dominate all other aspirations: fairness, justice, trust, physical and mental health, and environmental sustainability. Corporate campaign contributions increasingly undermine the democratic process, with the blessing of the US Supreme Court”

Profits before people, who rather than rightly blame the corporate oligarchy for their misery funnel their discontent toward their government.  Of course, the government corrupted by corporate interests, should be a focus of scrutiny but at the moment, the focus of the rage and anger of the American people is mostly displaced.

“Fourth, global capitalism presents many direct threats to happiness. It is destroying the natural environment through climate change and other kinds of pollution, while a relentless stream of oil-industry propaganda keeps many people ignorant of this. It is weakening social trust and mental stability, with the prevalence of clinical depression apparently on the rise. The mass media have become outlets for corporate “messaging”, much of it overtly anti-scientific, and Americans suffer from an increasing range of consumer addictions.”

Consumption is not a way to happiness, it is but a mere false paradise of shallow contrivances, moral turpitude and ethical decay.

“Fifth, to promote happiness, we must identify the many factors other than GNP that can raise or lower society’s well-being. Most countries invest to measure GNP, but spend little to identify the sources of poor health (like fast foods and excessive TV watching), declining social trust, and environmental degradation. Once we understand these factors, we can act. 

The mad pursuit of corporate profits is threatening us all. To be sure, we should support economic growth and development, but only in a broader context: one that promotes environmental sustainability and the values of compassion and honesty that are required for social trust.”

What?  A balance between rapacious capitalism and social, ethical and environmental concerns?  Is it possible?  Of course it is possible, but needs to come from outside the current political superstructure of Canada and the United States.  The people of the Western countries need to organize (labour unions are a great place to start, as the represent people as opposed to business interests) and campaign for a balanced society, as opposed to the GNP fixated, world destroying paradigm we currently inhabit.

Easy values to follow for a better society.

 

 

 

 

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