'Don't Worry Be Happy' May Be Part of the New Economic Normal

by: J Clinton Hill

Call me paranoid or a conspiracy theorist if you so desire, but the fact that government officials have even considered quantifying happiness to measure economic growth tells me that this may not be the last time that we hear of such.

France took a serious look at this, but has decided to defer its implementation as quantifying happiness is more complex than what meets the eye and somewhat expensive too. Here is an excerpt from YahooFinance AP news with a hyperlink to the full story:

"…The head of France’s statistics office dashed hopes Tuesday that a report commissioned by President Nicolas Sarkozy could lead to a new, less-profit focused measure of economic growth.

Insee chief Jean-Philippe Cotis said he has no plans to stop monitoring GDP, and although his agency plans new quality of life studies, it was too early to say how his statistical toolbox should be adapted to take that into account.

"We will keep GDP as an indicator measuring economic activity," he told a Paris press conference. "In the middle of macroeconomic crisis, we need an indicator that captures in a rather sophisticated way the fluctuations of market activities."

In 2007, Sarkozy commissioned Nobel prize-winning U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz to give new thought to the way GDP is calculated so that happiness and other quality of life measurements can be included in measurements of French economic growth…"

Now, do not misinterpet me for I do support measuring intangible forms of growth and progress that tend to get marginalized in our Western culture and firmly believe that positive thoughts create positive outcomes. Besides, when all is said and done, economics still belongs to the realm of social sciences.

I also do not have a problem per se with Stiglitz’s idea to calculate happiness and other intangible quality of life variables into the economic equation. However, I am somewhat skeptical of the amount of integrity that goes into the government’s application of its economic growth measurement tools (probably due to my inherent core values of self-reliance and witnessing consistent SNAFUs from both sides of the political aisle).

Big brother has this nasty habit of pissing on people’s backs and then telling them that it is raining. To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence that any government economic bureaus are considering the incorporation of this type of data into U.S. economic growth models. Yet, given the current trajectory of America’s long-term economic situation, I would not put it past our government to attempt to include happiness indicators into future GDP equations and think they might even find such a statistical tool quite convenient.

If this were to be the case, then here’s the rub. The government is inclined to being a pathological liar at times, especially when it is politically expedient to do so. It is notorious for massaging and manipulating economic data and when this fails to work, it simply revises the applicable standards for interpreting this data before disseminating it to the public. One needs to look no further than the CPI or Employment data for examples of this.

Anyway, all the above is a reactive opinion and impression of the AP news story I read at Yahoo and it inspired the following lyrics which I penned and now share for entertainment and "what if" considerations. Stretch your imagination and envision Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Geithner singing the following in a cappella harmony:

When the government GDP is all spent,

and the IRS has stole your last cent,

Don’t worry, be happy!

Da da da da da da da da la…

Don’t worry, be happy!

When the value of a dollar gets so low,

That you must transport your cash in a wheel barrow,

Don’t worry, be happy!

Da da da da da da da da la…

Don’t worry, be happy!

If none of this works and you still feel pain,

Uncle Sam will comfort you with yellow rain.

Don’t worry, be happy!

Da da da da da da da da la…

Don’t worry, be happy!

Now get your asses back to work America. Because we’ve got a mountain of debt to pay down. But don’t worry. Just be happy. It’s all part of the new normal.

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