Thursday, July 13, 2006

Happiness Is Not A Fish That You Can Catch

I hate to be too hard on the eco-socialist hippies, since I used to be, you know, one of 'em, (and still hold some crunchy granola sensibilities) but this new "study" reporting that Vanuatu (yes, from Survivor!) is the happiest nation on earth is more than a little suspect in its methodology. I would argue that trying to measure this statistic is essentially impossible, but let's look at their methodology and see how much sense it makes. The Happy Planet Index (good grief!) ranks 178 countries by "multiplying life expectancy by life satisfaction, and dividing it by environmental impact in each country, including carbon emissions." Ahhh! So if you're a country with high happiness scores and long lives but produce lots of carbon dioxide (i.e. western Europe, Australia, and North America) you're going to score poorly - I guess because you can't be really happy, with all those carbon emissions sucking the joy right out of you. The whole set-up is rigged to penalize wealthy, energy intensive economies. And I agree, there are certainly things to criticize about these economies. But that they somehow "produce" unhappiness isn't one of them, and this study certainly doesn't establish that link. For an interesting contrast, check out this graph showing a positive correlation between CO2 emissions per capita and reported life satisfaction.

Will Wilkinson has a more detailed criticism here.

Tragically, some major news outfits are picking this story up and trumpeting that Vanuatu is the happiest place on Earth, and nobody in the MSM seems to be looking critically into the study at all.


Post a Comment

<< Home