Archive for the ‘ France ’ Category

Measuring development and subjective well-being: Human Development Index vs. World Happiness Report

Can measuring “happiness” be a science? Doesn’t the meaning vary too much from person to person and culture to culture? The squishiness of happiness has not prevented researchers from trying to measure it and make it relevant for public policy.

With studies tracing in the paths of what the Human Development Report started over two decades ago, the OECD’s Better Life Index, the OECD’s Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-Being, the Happy Planet Index, and the U.S.-focused Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (with an international report from 2010) have aimed to perfect the science of quantifying subjective well-being and demonstrate the relatively fresh attention the subject has elicited. Most recently, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network has released its first World Happiness Report last year.

Subjective Well-Being Indices Rankings-page-001

According to the above table, rankings for well-being become pretty varied. Different indices use and weigh different indicators in different ways. The most exceptional example in this case is the Happy Planet Index which places an immense amount of weight on its indicator, “Ecological footprint” in order to emphasize the importance of environmental sustainability.

But let’s direct our attention to the first two: the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index (HDI) 2013 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s World Happiness Report (WHR) 2013. The HDI has been a pioneer, and Internationalcomparisons.org has long considered the index to be one of if not the authoritative voice on quality of life, achieving results profoundly more telling than the traditional GDP/capita. The WHR has developed under the influence of the HDI, yet it has come up with different results contrasting most significantly as it relates to Internationalcomparisons.org and the countries studied. Fortunately, the WHR dedicated an entire chapter (Chapter 8) to compare its system to the HDI.

Are more developed countries happier?

Human development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it.
-Economist Amartya Sen on the capabilities approach and what it means to defining subjective well-being

The objective of Chapter 8 in the WHR is to observe the relationship between human development and life satisfaction, that is to say in certain terms the HDI and the WHR. The chapter discusses at great length the different approaches (human development vs. capabilities) to define and measure development, satisfaction, happiness, and subjective well-being. Chapter 8 asks how positive is the relation between the HDI and life evaluation of well-being? For the intents and purposes of the HDI and WHR reports in the scope of the 150+ countries surveyed, very positive. Chapter 8 dissects individual indicators of the HDI like life expectancy, years of expected education, actual years of schooling, and GNI/capita with positive life satisfaction and concludes with correlative coefficients of 0.70, 0.69, 0.63, 0.73, and 0.78. Finally, HDI (overall score) shares a correlative coefficient of 0.77 with life satisfaction.

While this is good news in determining that the gap between measurements of human development and subjective well-being is closing thanks to an increased focus and research on the subject, our more narrow scope concerning the gap among the 12 countries studied at Internationalcomparisons.org disappointingly still lacks explanation.There are 33 places between the systems’ rank for Japan, 20 places for Germany and Italy, and 14 places for the U.S. and Denmark (which the WHR has at 1st). The correlative coefficient is either not strong enough at 0.77 or not relevant enough with the 12 countries on which we focus.

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Italian and French policy values heritage over Monsanto

Yesterday, Italy (from where itnernationalcomparisons.com will conduct its research and reporting starting in October) set a valuable precedent in the world’s fight for an autonomous food system, the EU’s battle against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and a country’s fight to maintain original taste and quality in its produce.

The protection of Italian distinctiveness must be a policy priority since it determines the existence of ‘Made in Italy’, which is our engine, our future, our leverage to return to growth in the food industry.           -Statement from Italian agriculture ministry

Based on this quote, an 80% public backing, and the decision by three separate governmental ministries to ban Monsanto’s MON810 maize,  the Italians resoundingly favor their own original food over Monsanto’s GM, uniform product. So the Italians are not only setting precedent in standing up against the health risks from GMOs and the corporate irresponsibility from Monsanto, but also by adding another element to the argument: pride in country*. And without the latter, the Italians see their hopes of recovery as significantly diminished. According to Italy, Monsanto’s monopoly and bland, uniform product represents such a threat.

In 2012 the French, the most prolific crop growers in all of Europe,  also banned the same product, the only GM product allowed in the EU. France also claims national heritage to be a factor in its decision in spite of the temporary hardship the French face as they transition agriculturally and economically away from MON810. From France and Italy’s perspectives, having little to do with GMOs is still too much.

Perhaps Italy and France have gleaned from the India-Monsanto relationship, which is too much to take on in the same blog. As we prepare research to be released on our new Health Regulation page coming soon, look forward to more blogs on chemical policy, the precautionary principle, and its commercial antithesis: Monsanto.

*Regardless to what extent Italy made its decision as a matter of national pride in its produce, they will need to provide a scientific basis, a “health or environmental risk,” if their position on MON810 is going to stand. France implemented its own custom ban on GMOs last year by going through the same process.