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The major objectives of the UN are, in fact, part of a process that has gained strength in recent years, which tends to provide policymakers with new tools for assessing the progress of those societies that are called upon to lead. The economic crisis has increased awareness that the measurement of the GDP is no longer sufficient, that parameters are needed to detect the distribution of wealth among families, the actual well-being of citizens or even their happiness, and to assess whether this prosperity is sustainable over time or whether it comes at the expense of future generations. The best-known work in this field is the report developed in 2009 by the Stiglitz Commission, commissioned by the French President at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy, and led by Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, and the French economist, Jean Paul Fitoussi. Equally important is the process initiated by the OECD through the Measuring Progress initiative, promoted by Enrico Giovannini, the current president of Istat, when he was chief statistician in the Paris organization. The last Global Forum on this subject was held in New Delhi in October and “photographed” a situation where many countries are developing measures of well-being. There is no longer only the legendary Bhutan with its index of gross domestic happiness: from China to Thailand, from Canada to Britain, work is being done to define new parameters that could also become the objectives of different political action. Including Italy, which in 2013 will present the parameters of equitable and sustainable well-being (BES), developed by Istat and CNEL. There is also an OECD website, wikiprogress.org, which collects all the work in progress on this issue; the OECD also proposes an indicator, the Better Life Index, which compares the well-being in the major countries of the world according to subjective parameters. The user can change the weight given to each component, because the quality of life obviously depends on different cultural and individual propensities:

for example, there are those who attach more importance to social relations and those who favor trust in the institutions. Originally, it was hoped that the new indicators of progress could replace the GDP. In these years of intense work, especially after the release of the results of the Stiglitz Commission, we have realized that the GDP should not be deleted but complemented by other indicators. First of all, it is difficult to construct an indicator that has a value of global comparability similar to the current “national accounts” of which the GDP is a part, and whose methodology is elaborated with shared international standards. It is even more difficult to gather the set of all the factors that contribute to well-being into a single index. The only way to reach a parameter of universal well-being would be to focus on the measure of happiness, a goal common to all mankind. The Gallup poll already does so, periodically asking a sample of people from over 160 countries: “On a scale of zero to ten, how satisfied are you with your life?” According to the economist Richard Layard, who has inspired many studies on happiness at the London School of Economics, only an indication of this kind could have enough political and media strength to be a substitute

for the GDP within a generation. But there are many problems, because the subjective responses vary from one country to another (for example, Asians rarely give a vote of more than seven, the Anglo-Saxons use the entire scale) and they may also be influenced by situational factors, such as the day on which they respond, or if the weather is good or it is raining. Furthermore, some studies in the United States have shown that when the questions about their well-being follow questions on the political situation, the happiness index tends to decrease. In short, the subjective perception of happiness is not very reliable. In conclusion, there is now general agreement that it is necessary to establish new national and international policy objectives that go beyond the production of wealth. For now, however, it is best to measure these objectives with a “dashboard,” a set of several welfare indicators to be monitored, rather than dream of a “new GDP” that marks progress in the twentyfirst century just as the gross domestic product marked that of the twentieth century. Moreover, the health of the human body itself is assessed with hundreds of analyses, without there being any presumption of measuring it with a single super-index.

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GROSS DOMESTIC HAPPINESS

Human happiness is very subjective and therefore, difficult to follow in a way that is universal. But learning to measure it could facilitate the task and even help in preferring its achievement to that of increasing the GDP. With this in mind, since 1972 the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan has asked its population to orient their policies toward the promotion of Gross National Happiness (GNH), to make the people grow together with their country. A special commission measures the GNH through nine aspects: psychological wellbeing, use of time, community life, culture, health, education, biodiversity, quality of life, and government operations. And Bhutan’s latest results are very significant: 52% of the people said they were happy, 45% very happy and only 3% is not very happy. Happiness that cultural differences do not affect: “Someone asked us how these values act ​with respect to cultural and religious diversity. But we are talking about universal values ​​that everyone shares,” said Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley at the Science Festival in Rome.

There is now general agreement that it is necessary to establish new national and international policy objectives that go beyond the production of wealth

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Oxygen n. 19 - Governance, futuro plurale  

La crisi economico-finanziaria e la rivoluzione nel modello sociale contemporaneo hanno imposto l’avvento di una nuova era che vede avanzare...

Oxygen n. 19 - Governance, futuro plurale  

La crisi economico-finanziaria e la rivoluzione nel modello sociale contemporaneo hanno imposto l’avvento di una nuova era che vede avanzare...

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