Economic growth makes people happier

Does economic growth make you happy?

Economic belief and the image of people

On January 17th, the Bundestag set up a commission of inquiry entitled "Growth, Prosperity, Quality of Life" (Bundestag wants to sound out the limits of growth). It is examining a new measure of economic well-being. Obviously, increasing gross domestic product does not make people happy, and it also solves them the climate problem does not. How do business and happiness fit together?

It is undisputed that everyone strives for happiness and success. Both sizes are closely related, especially in the industrialized countries. The German Advisory Council recently presented its 2010/11 annual report to assess macroeconomic developments. In this, Germany is given the role of the “economic locomotive.” With a GDP development forecast of 3.7%, Germany has recovered from the financial crisis at an above-average rate.

Germany is booming economically. Are the Germans happy now?

Happiness is individual, satisfaction is socially measurable

Martin Binder, economic expert at the Max Planck Institute for Economics, doubts this. In his doctoral thesis Innovations, Economic Crises and Social Progress - A Welfare Theoretical Study, which was awarded the German Study Prize of the Körber Foundation in 2010, Binder examined the connection between growth and happiness.

His criticism: behind the belief in growth hides a stunted image of the human being. People are reduced to their income. Governments strive for economic growth and an increase in gross domestic product. "But the actual needs of people are neglected: social contacts, love, friendship, diverse activities.

While happiness can only be experienced individually, satisfaction is a socially measurable quantity. Personal happiness depends on one's own mood and feelings. Happiness is not a permanent condition. It is linked to your own abilities. But there are attributes that promote happiness, such as family, friends, health and work. Little money and unemployment make people unhappy because basic needs cannot be met.

Liu Zhengrong is considered an outstanding talent and is the only Chinese who has made it into the top management of a German company. The manager from Shanghai, now over 40 years old, came to Germany with little money. With iron discipline and the ability to resolve conflicts, he worked his way up to the top and now heads 14,000 employees. Liu is Chief Human Resources Officer at Lanxess AG, a specialty chemicals company based in Leverkusen.

His philosophy: A positive image of people makes employees in the company satisfied and motivates them to perform at their best. Since Liu lived in China until he was 22 years old, he does not represent a Western concept of happiness. As a child he had already learned that too many feelings of happiness can turn into unhappiness, that is, happiness is the sum of rare moments. Therefore, he separates between happiness and contentment in life. For Liu, contentment means knowing what is enough and when, realizing the right balance.

Positive causal chain in companies with satisfied workforce

His idea of ​​satisfaction is also the benchmark for the employees at Lanxess. "A satisfied workforce is in the interests of customers and shareholders," says HR Director Zhengrong Liu. It is a philosophy of responsible cooperation and mutual trust and not of distrust of employees, as is otherwise found in American-run companies that rely on corporate concepts such as Taylorism and Fordism Instead of creating monetary incentives to increase the work motivation of employees, Lanxess relies on its own figures and competitiveness, and employees share in the company's profits.

But what role does politics have in the game? Since everyone is the maker of their own fortune, as the American Constitution also stipulates, politics is actually left out of the picture. It can only take corrective action in the market through laws and thus help avoid suffering and pain for the German citizen. In the 1950s, the federal government recognized a certain connection between growth and the general well-being of the post-war population. But surveys meanwhile show that currently increasing growth no longer has any effect on the individual satisfaction of German citizens.

The commission set up by Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris in 2009 shows that politics has to think ahead. The result of the work of the commission was that in modern societies the pure orientation towards economic growth and income as parameters of happiness fall short. The "Behavioral Economics Task Force" (BETF), which was specially set up in Great Britain and advises the Prime Minister, has come to similar conclusions.

Money is not everything - politicians have to think ahead

Hermann Ott, spokesman for international climate policy of the Greens and member of the study commission "Growth, Prosperity, Quality of Life", sees a need for political action to counteract the economization of areas of life. Money is not everything Politics create framework conditions "so that we can live better in the future without having more".

The task of the study commission is to further develop GDP as the sole measure of social well-being and to supplement it with social, ecological and cultural criteria, says Daniela Kolbe, chairwoman of the new study commission. Because the purely economic calculation does not include environmental damage.

So far, GDP has risen when, for example, state subsidies have flowed in or a road has been built after the contamination of the Gulf of Mexico. But the loss of nature was not a calculated quantity. The commission of 17 MPs and 17 scientists now wants to change that. The new measure of economic growth is called quality of life and includes the distribution of prosperity, quality of work, the location of nature and the environment, life expectancy, educational opportunities and subjective satisfaction in the growth calculations. (Claudia Hangen)

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