Globe trotting economist Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University always has an opinion about developmental economics. He wrote an op-ed for the New York Times this morning that discusses how we must rebuild our society as a whole to tackle these individual problems. I will post the piece here and critique it later. It reads:
The best idea of 2010 came from the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan. Standing before world leaders in the United Nations General Assembly in September, Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley asked the decisive economic question of our time: “As all our people rise above the threats of basic survival, what will our collective endeavor be as a progressive society?”
He proposed an answer. Let us, he said, make “the conscious pursuit of happiness” a new pillar of global cooperation, the “ninth Millennium Development Goal.” Watching from the side of the hall, I was delighted as spontaneous cheers and applause rippled across the assembly for the first time in a long day of speeches.
The world, indeed, is long on worries and short on happiness. The problem, as Prime Minister Thinley incisively explained, is not really a shortage of material goods, even in a year of economic recession. The world is richer than ever before in history; that is certainly the case in the richest countries, even those in a cyclical downturn. Happiness, according to Bhutan’s great tradition of Himalayan Buddhism, comes not from the raw pursuit of income but, in Thinley’s words, from a “a judicious equilibrium between gains in material comfort and growth of the mind and spirit in a just and sustainable environment.”
On that score, the world is far from equilibrium. As much as economists try to restore equilibrium to aggregate supply and demand, or to the relative values of national currencies, the imbalances in our societies are much deeper than the quirks of macroeconomic aggregates. There is little that is judicious in our present balancing of material gain and the growth of mind and spirit. Still less has humanity yet demonstrated the capacity to balance production and environmental sustainability. The great challenge for 2011 and beyond is to find that new judicious equilibrium.
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