CHINA’s new leaders, who will be anointed next month at the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress in Beijing, might want to rethink the Faustian bargain their predecessors embraced some 20 years ago: namely, that social stability could be bought by rapid economic growth.
As the recent riots at a Foxconn factory in northern China demonstrate, growth alone, even at sustained, spectacular rates, has not produced the kind of life satisfaction crucial to a stable society — an experience that shows how critically important good jobs and a strong social safety net are to people’s happiness.
Starting in 1990, as China moved to a free-market economy, real per-capita consumption and gross domestic product doubled, then doubled again. Most households now have at least one color TV. Refrigerators and washing machines — rare before 1990 — are common in cities.
Yet there is no evidence that the Chinese people are, on average, any happier, according to an analysis of survey data that colleagues and I conducted. If anything, they are less satisfied than in 1990, and the burden of decreasing satisfaction has fallen hardest on the bottom third of the population in wealth. Satisfaction among Chinese in even the upper third has risen only moderately.
Phi Beta Iota: The psycho-social aspects of society — the internalized very personal calculations of political-economic standing — are not understood by most governments, even those that are not corrupt, because their emphasis is on the tangible and their analytic models are impovershhed — completely lacking in whose systems feedback loop mapping, and true cost economics. There is more than enough wealth on the planet to assure every person — and particularly the five billion poor — a good life. What is lacking is intelligence, with integrity in the fullest sense, among those who have acquired political and economic power.
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Full List: Economics (271)