The Economics of Happiness
25 Corporate Crime Reporter 2, January 4, 2011

Imagine a happy society.

With a high standard of living.

Large spacious houses.

No such thing as unemployment.

No hunger.

A remarkable new documentary -- The Economics of Happiness -- opens with a focus on such a society.

In Ladakh -- or Little Tibet.

Before the invasion.

In the mid-1970s, Ladakh was suddenly thrown open to the outside world.

Cheap subsidized food, trucked in on subsidized roads by vehicles running on subsidized fuel, undermined Ladakh’s local economy.

At the same time, the Ladakhis were bombarded with advertising and media images that romanticized western-style consumerism and made their own culture seem pitiful by comparison.

"As the area was increasingly exposed to the consumer culture, I saw how people started to think of themselves as backward, primitive, and poor," says Helena Norberg-Hodge, who lived with the Ladakhis for 35 years and directed the documentary. "In the early years I went to this beautiful village, and just out of curiosity I asked a young man from the village to show me the poorest house. He thought for a bit and then he said -- 'We don’t have any poor houses here.' The same young man I heard ten years later saying to a tourist -- 'Oh, if you could only help us Ladakhis, we’re so poor.'”

"The changes in Ladakh were so clear-cut, and I saw with my own eyes cause and effect."

"One minute you’ve got vital people and a really sustainable culture. The next minute you’ve got pollution, both of air and water, you’ve got unemployment, a widening gap between rich and poor."

"And perhaps most shockingly of all, in a people who had been so spiritually grounded, divisiveness and depression."

Norberg-Hodge says that "these changes weren’t the result of innate human greed or some sort of evolutionary force -- they happened far too suddenly for that."

"They were clearly the direct result of exposure to outside economic pressures. And I witnessed how these pressures created intense competition, breaking down community and the connection to nature that had been the cornerstone of Ladakhi culture for centuries."

This was Ladakh’s introduction to globalization.

The movie is an attack on big corporations, globalization, and debt.

At its heart, it exposes what it calls "eight inconvenient truths" about the global economy.

One: Globalization makes us unhappy.

Two: Globalization breeds insecurity.

Three: Globalization wastes natural resources.

Four: Globalization accelerates climate change.

Five: Globalization destroys livelihoods.

Six: Globalization increases conflicts.

Seven: Globalization is built on hand outs to big business.

Eight: Globalization is built on false accounting.

The movie makers had it right to start with happiness.

In the movie, Bill McKibben puts it this way:

"Every year since the end of World War II one of the big polling firms has asked Americans, “Are you happy with your life?” The number of Americans who say, “Yes, I’m very happy with my life”-- the percentage -- peaks in 1956, and goes slowly but steadily downhill ever since. That’s interesting because in that same fifty years we have gotten immeasurably richer. We have three times as much stuff. Somehow it hasn’t worked, because that same affluence tends to undermine community."

Get a copy of this DVD.

Then get the kids.

Pull them away from their smart phones.

And video games.

Sit them down in front of the big flat screen television.

And show them this movie.

At least plant the seed.


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