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The way some people see it, we can’t possibly accelerate U.S. economic growth to 4% annually unless we’re happy. Unhappy folks don’t work very hard, and hard work is essential to the cause. Even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke thinks happiness — or, as he put it in a speech this week, “the enhancement of well-being" — contributes to the sort of economic decision-making necessary for resurgent growth. Efforts have been made for years to construct happiness indexes, but little has come of them because quantifying an emotive state isn’t easy. Neither is defining exactly what happiness is; one person’s joy is the next person’s shrug. Nevertheless, USA Today informs us, some states (Vermont and Maryland) and cities (Seattle and Eau Claire, Wisconsin) have launched happiness-measurement initiatives. And a federally funded panel is examining whether happiness and/or misery ought to figure into gauging prosperity, and if so, how. No matter what comes of all this, it is true that things we can’t see or easily count or accurately assess play a large role in making the United States wealthy. Nick Schulz writes in “The 4% Solution” that “it’s America’s intangible sources of wealth that have enabled it to become the richest nation of all time.” What does he mean? His list of intangibles include “a nation’s laws and rules; social norms and culture; entrepreneurship; attitudes about the future and about change; willingness to take risk; the ability to start new businesses easily; the receptivity of the market to new goods and services; and the overall qualify of formal and informal institutions.” The issue is whether these intangibles send positive or negative vibes through the economy. Entrepreneurs are everywhere, Schulz writes, but do they set up shop in the legitimate economy or in the black market? Laws and regulations, political corruption, taxation policy, and other no-see-ums determine the answer. Happiness may be so personal that it can’t be measured at a societal level. But if we recommit to clearing the way for the pursuit of happiness, we will be doing a lot to reinvigorate both our economy and our well-being.
2012 Economic Growth Fellow
John Prestbo is retired as editor and executive director of Dow Jones Indexes. Previously he was markets editor at The Wall Street Journal. He has co-authored or edited several books over the past 30 years. The most recent is “The Market’s Measure: An Illustrated History of America Told Through the Dow Jones Industrial Average,” published in 1999 by Dow Jones Indexes. His column, Indexed Investor, appears on the highly regarded “MarketWatch” business and finance website. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Northwestern University.Full Bio
TARIFFIED: Trade Talk with Matthew Rooney
This week, trade relations between the U.S. and India are continuing to escalate. Earlier this month, the U.S. stopped granting India special trade privileges by taking away the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, and India has responded by enforcing more tariffs of its own. The George W. Bush-SMU Economic Growth Initiative Director Matthew Rooney breaks down the trade conflict: For more information on trade groups and the global economy, visit www.bushcenter.org/scorecard.
How Trade Spreads Holiday Cheer
It is projected that the average American household will spend more than $1,000 during the holidays this year.
Deporting Salvadorans May Lead to Economic Decline
We should think carefully about a policy whose major impacts are likely to be reductions in employment and economic activity here at home, and increased instability and lawlessness along our borders.
Bush Institute's Laura Collins Talks Immigration on Good Morning Texas
Last week, Deputy Director of Economic Growth at the George. W. Bush Institute Laura Collins spoke with Good Morning Texas about immigration myths. During the interview, Collins had the opportunity to set the record straight and address common misconceptions about legal immigrants living in America today. The segment was inspired from facts released earlier this fall by the Bush Institute in the third edition of America's Advantage: A Handbook on Immigration and Economic Growth. Watch the full Good Morning Texas interview here.