Economy, Ethics and Happiness in the Post-Growth Era
Yoshinori Hiroi, Professor, Uehiro Research Division; Kyoto University Institute for the Future of Human Society
Since the last half of the 90s, Japanese society has entered an era of practically zero growth. Considering the population decline and advancement of aging, it is time to plan new social models for the post-growth era and to reconsider the meaning of “affluence.” Furthermore, there must also be a change in values, ethics, and consciousness.
Under these circumstances, considerations on policies involving an index of development to replace GDP and a “happiness index” have been discussed. For example, commissioned by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, prominent economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, both Nobel Prize winners in economics, published a report in 2010 on alternative indicators to GDP.
It has been well known in recent years that Bhutan, a small Asian nation, has advocated for the concept of “Gross National Happiness (GNH)” and specific indicators for its measurement. Since the United Nations and others took this up, the international impact of GNH continues to spread, and this matter also relates to Uehiro Project 2.
Inspired by these domestic and international trends, local governments in Japan (both at the prefectural and municipal levels) have recently been working on the formulation of happiness indices. The most pioneering and full-scale development of a happiness index and happiness policy is the development of “Gross Arakawa Happiness (GAH)” in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo.
Arakawa Ward formulated a happiness index consisting of 46 happiness indicators. Along with this, related surveys and studies were conducted to examine policy themes, such as “child poverty,” “community strength,” and “children’s experience of nature.” They are also working to provide feedback on the well-being index to policy makers.
Based on the aforementioned trends and interests, this project aims to examine the significance and problems of happiness indices or happiness policies, their relationship with regional revitalization or local development, and their response to individual policy issues from multiple perspectives. In addition, this project will explore and contribute to the realization of “affluence,” values and ethics in the post-growth era, the total social concept, and an ideology and philosophy that will serve as the principles for such a society.
“Happiness Policy” and Regional Revitalization
“Happiness League” (Prof. Hiroi is one of its advisors) is a network of basic local governments that develop policies incorporating the concept of happiness indices, in which Arakawa Ward (Tokyo), as mentioned in the previous section, is included. As a research project, “Happiness League” will be examined as a major case study or field from multiple perspectives: the significance and problems of happiness policies, its relationship to regional revitalization and local development, responses to individual policy issues, as well as the reconstruction of community economies and urban-rural relationships. Considering these issues, we will explore the transformation and prospects of the economy, ethics, and happiness in the post-growth era in accordance with the subjects and value principles, and connect them to a new social concept.