THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: Beyond Economic Growth
Keywords:Food Systems, Community Development, Sustainable Agriculture
We need a new vision of the future of agriculture, food systems, and communities. Most Americans seem preoccupied with a vision of economic growth — restoring it, promoting it, and sustaining it. They are unwilling to accept the fact that not only is economic growth not sustainable; it also is no longer either necessary or desirable. We need a new vision that will not compel people to "sell themselves for the means of life" but instead use their time, talents, and energy to "cultivate into fuller perfection, the art of life itself" (Keynes, 1931/1962, p. 368).
The consensus of research into psychological well-being or happiness indicates that beyond some modest level of economic well-being, happiness is related far more closely to the quality of social relationships and a sense of purpose in life than with additional income or wealth (Jackson, 2011; James, 2003). For example, a 2003 article in the Guardianreferences a recent British Cabinet report and concluded that "despite huge increases in affluence compared with 1950, people throughout the developed world report no greater feelings of happiness" (James, 2003, para. 4). Certainly, people in some areas of the world still need economic growth. However, the so-called developing nations need not aspire to the economies needed to support American lifestyles. A 2004 review of more than 150 scholarly studies concluded that beyond per-capita incomes of around US$10,000 to US$15,000 in developing nations, there is little if any correlation between increasing wealth and overall happiness or well-being (Diener & Seligman, 2004). There is no reason to believe this relationship has change in the past decade....
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