By Mark Anielski
- The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth (2007)
- An Economy of Well-being; Common-Sense Tools for Building Genuine Wealth and Happiness (2018)
We all know that money can’t buy you love or happiness, but we have been living our lives as though the accumulation of wealth is the key to our dreams. Why, in spite of increasing economic prosperity over the past fifty years, are many conditions of well-being in decline and rates of happiness largely unchanged since the 1950s? Why do our measures of economic progress not reflect the values that make us happy: supportive relationships, meaningful work, a healthy environment, and our spiritual well-being?
Economist Mark Anielski developed a new and practical economic model called Genuine Wealth to measure the real determinants of well-being and help redefine progress. The Economics of Happiness shows:
- How economics, capitalism, accounting, and banking, which dominate our consciousness, can be reoriented toward the pursuit of genuine happiness
- How to rediscover the original meaning of the language of economics
- How to measure the five capitals of Genuine Wealth: human, social, natural, built, and financial
- How nations, governments, communities, and businesses are using the Genuine Wealth model to build a new economy of well-being
- How you and your family can apply the Genuine Wealth model in your lives
Anielski’s road map toward this vision of flourishing economies of well-being will resonate with individuals, communities, and governments interested in issues of sustainability and quality of life.
Jean-Benoit G. Rousseau on Journal of Economic Literature wrote:
" Anielski spent much of his career developing alternatives to GDP, indices that focus on what he calls genuine wealth and genuine progress. Anielski describes his work, for example, with the province of Alberta, in Canada, where he developed the Genuine Progress indicator (GPi) as an alternative to traditional GDP-like measures. [...] Anielski is not promoting a specific index like the GPi but is encouraging individuals, communities, businesses, and nations to define their core values, translate these values into measurable indicators, and use the resulting indices as means of tracking real progress, the extent to which core values are being reflected in community or national practices. [...] nielski’s methodology offers a tool for effecting a successful transition to a postconsumer society by elevating nonmaterial aspects of the good life, like friendship, family life, peaceful neighborhoods, intellectual pleasures, and everything else the GPi measures, to a level now occupied exclusively by GDP. Anielski’s book will appeal to much of the reading public, but it will perhaps have its greatest impact on those in public policy decision-making positions. Both economists and psychologists will benefit from Anielski’s framework and methodology for setting socially valid goals and measuring progress toward them."
Tom Slee on Labour wrote:
"Anielski sees subjective well-being as an important component of Genuine Wealth, a novel method to measure welfare that he describes in the book. [...] Despite its title, The Economics of Happiness; Building Genuine Wealth by Mark Anielski is not a book about the economics of happiness. The goal of the book is to argue for a renewal of the standard measures of collective welfare. The first part of the book explores ancient conceptions of economic well-being. [...] The book moves on to discuss how Genuine Wealth Accounting can be implemented at the individual, national and organizational levels. Finally, Anielski argues that the failure of capitalism to generate genuine wealth is partly attributable to the reserve bank-ing system. Anielski’s objective is to make a case for a revolution of ideologies in economics. The book is well written but readers interested in learning about the economics of happiness might be disappointed. [...] Many turn to the happiness literature for evidence that capitalism is failing. Numerous interpretations of well-being surveys support the idea that economic growth is not a panacea. Anielski’s book argues for a revolution of ideas in Economics and presents an alternative way of measuring collective progress. Although Genuine Wealth Accounting appears somewhat subjective, because it necessitates choosing specific values to judge society by, the author deserves credit for attempting to formalize his model into an implementable approach."
"There is now a twenty-year tradition of activists, academics, and policymakers proposing alternative ways to measure well-being. [...] Mark Anielski is a part of this tradition. He worked on refinements to the gpi and applied the resulting index to Alberta in a widely-publicized 2001 report. He has worked in communities from Leduc, Alberta to Nunavut to Santa Monica as well as with corporations and with China's Academy of the Social Sciences to carry out audits of well-being. The Economics of Happiness is a personal account that draws on this experience to promote his Genuine Wealth Model. [...] Anielski's obvious energy and enthusiasm in adding to these alternatives deserve applause, but the Genuine Wealth model that this book sets out is not one I can support. Measurement is valuable only if it is demonstrably objective, and the Genuine Wealth Model fails this test. The book is personal and Anielski's beliefs are clear throughout. Perhaps it is because many of his beliefs left me cold that I found myself arguing against much of the book as I read. If you agree with statements such as 'In nature there is no scarcity, only abundance, harmony and equilibrium' (60) or 'true wealth ultimately comes as a gift from God' (66) - one of the 'fundamental tenets' at the 'philosophical heart of Genuine Wealth' - you may like this book more than I did. [...] The Genuine Wealth Model goes beyond providing aggregate measures for countries and provinces, and the most interesting chapters of the book are those that document Anielski's efforts to apply his methodology to individual communities, organizations, and companies. In these chapters there is no attempt to condense the observations into a single number and the outcome is more of an audit than a ranking. If the community itself gets input into the kinds of variables to be studied, then an audit of the kind he carries out would be a great focal point for discussion and policy debate. [...] Even here Anielski skirts some of the difficult problems. The obvious danger in such engagements (especially when one is hired by corporations to evaluate their conduct) is that there is a conflict of interest between the roles of auditor and client; yet this conflict is not mentioned. Anielski too often believes what people say of themselves. He accepts the claim that China is adopting 'a society of moderation'(132] and following a socially and environmentally harmonious development agenda (xiaokang) because President Hu Jintao says so. The section on the Bhutan monarchy's promotion of Gross National Happiness does not mention the expulsion of ethnic Nepalese from that country or the undemocratic rule of the king who introduced the measure. His take on the European Middle Ages (5th to 16th centuries) is that it was 'an age of moderation.' (54-5) [...] The outlook of the book is one of progress-by-enlightenment. If only we could recognize the shallowness of our current society and refocus on more spiritual goals, we would move society in that direction. In this Anielski has a lot in common with ideas of social entrepreneurship - business is fine, as long as well-meaning people are in charge. This ignores key institutional issues such as collective action problems, asymmetric information problems, and power inequalities that too often prevent groups of well-meaning individuals from acting in a constructive fashion. In summary, the book is unfortunately a missed opportunity."
- Additional resources provided by the author
- Interview with Mark Anielski about the book, Worldchanging Canada, 12 May 2008
Table of Contents of The Economics of Happiness
- My Journey to Genuine Wealth (Learning about natural capital and sustainability / Encouraged by pioneering reports / Beginning the work in Canada
- The Language of Wealth and Economics (What is wealth? / What is value?/ What does it mean to be genuine and have Genuine Wealth? / What is an economy? / Chrematistics (money) or oikonomia (life) / What does it mean to be competitive? / What is capital?/ Life capital
- What’s Wrong with the Picture of Progress? (The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) / Making money, growing poorer / The Alberta GPI)
- A Renaissance in Economics and Capitalism (Economic ethics of ancient Israel/ China’s xiaokang philosophy of moderation / The European Middle Ages: An age of moderation / The birth of accounting: Luca Pacioli / Awakening the true soul of capitalism?/ Capitalism as a religion and spirit? / A way forward)
- The Genuine Wealth Model (Philosophical foundations / A practical tool for measuring well-being / Examining our values, principles and virtues / What is the good life? / A taxonomy of needs, wants, wealth and poverty / Distinguishing between means and ends / The Šve capitals of Genuine Wealth / Accounting for the Šve capitals of Genuine Wealth / The Genuine Wealth Assessment life-cycle)
- Personal Genuine Wealth (Conducting a Personal Genuine Wealth Assessment / Taking the Personal Genuine Wealth Survey / What the Inuit taught me about genuine wealth / Why not ask the children? / Kate Kaemerle’s story / My own story of Genuine Wealth / Your story
- The Genuine Wealth of Communities and Nations (Finding genuine wealth in Leduc, Alberta / Leduc Genuine Well-being indicators and indices / What I learned from Leduc / The wisdom and genuine wealth of the Inuit of Nunavut / Santa Monica: A sustainable city in the making / China’s xiaokangsociety: An economy of moderation/ Emilia Romagna: An economy of cooperation/ Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness / A vision of an economy of Genuine Wealth for Canada/ Canadian Index of Well-being: Measuring what matters / Conclusion)
- Genuine Wealth for Business and Organizations (What is the purpose of an enterprise or business? / Applying the Genuine Wealth model to business / The future of business that builds Genuine Wealth / The cooperative business enterprise / BALLE: Business Alliance for Local Living Economies / Ways forward)
- Money and Genuine Wealth (The lights go on / Our relationship with money / What is money? / Why do we want money so badly? / How is money created? / The role of the central bank in money creation / The origins of usury: Charging interest on money / Towards genuine money and banking / Genuine Wealth banking and money)
- The Economics of Happiness (The monetary value of happiness / Does money buy happiness? / Does consuming more of nature buy more happiness? / Does more income buy more happiness? / Can we ever have enough money? / Why the sudden interest in the economics of happiness?)
About Mark Anielski
Mark Anielski is President and Chief Well-being Officer at Anielski Management Inc. He consults and speaks internationally on merging and measuring happiness, well-being and economics, including at Harvard, the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, the University of Texas in El Paso, the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, Shanghai Normal University, University of Alberta, and the School of Business in Innsbruck, Austria. He has served as an economic advisor to China and Bhutan in their efforts to adopt new measures of well-being and happiness. He lives in Alberta, Canada with his family.