- Written by: Kamran Mofid
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UN Resolution 65/309. Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development
I am very happy to note that on Monday 2nd April 2012, the United Nations implemented Resolution 65/309, which had been adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in July 2011, placing “happiness” on the global agenda.
The Resolution notes that:
“Bearing in mind the purposes and principles of the United Nations, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, which include the promotion of the economic advancement and social progress of all peoples,
Conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal,
Cognizant that happiness as a universal goal and aspiration embodies the spirit of the Millennium Development Goals,
Recognizing that the gross domestic product indicator by nature was not designed to and does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people in a country,
Conscious that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption can impede sustainable development, and recognizing the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being for all peoples,”…
Resolution 65/309 then empowered the Kingdom of Bhutan-who has adopted the “The Gross National Happiness” as opposed to “Gross National Product” to measure the success or failure of its economic policies- to convene a high-level meeting on happiness as part of 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
As mentioned above, I was very happy to note this. But you might ask why? The answer is that for the past number of years, I have been campaigning for the teaching of “Happiness, Well-being and Contentment” at our universities world-wide. With this in mind, it is worth recalling a passage from what I had written awhile back:
“Helping to produce happy and contended students, ready to face the real world when they graduate should be the highest priority of any committed academic and university. I have been saying this for the last many years and more , but only in the past couple of years have I begun to realise this isn't just an airy-fairy aspiration, but one can in fact learn happiness in classes…I believe that our education in universities is fundamentally ill-balanced. Of course exams matter greatly - they are the passport to an individual's future work and career. A university which fails to let every student achieve the best grades and results of which their students are capable of is failing to do its job properly. But education is far more than this. It is far more than grades and percentages here and there…As a university lecturer with many years of experience, I have seen far too many tortured and unhappy students who have achieved very high grades. If they can achieve these grades while leading balanced lives, taking part in a wide variety of activities which will develop different facets of their character, and if they blossom as happy and contented human beings, then all is well and good. But as any teacher will know, this isn't always the case with high achievers. Neither is it with high achievers in life. These driven people see their lives flash by in fast living and fast cars, and most fail to realise they are missing the point of life. Is it more important to be highly “successful”, or to be a respected colleague and a valued friend, and a loving parent whose children grow up in a secure environment in which they know they are valued and treasured? I have had to learn the hard way myself, the answers are obvious. Hence the need to teach happiness at schools and universities”…
A plea with all concerned citizens:
We should all seek to identify and bring forward the main Ancient concepts of happiness and their relation to morality, ethics, education, business, economics, politics, finance, management, media and environment, amongst others. The guiding theoretical principle of this undertaking is to clarify and characterize the essential constituents of the concept of happiness as these are reflected in the ancient writings and debates, and to consider their enduring validity within the context of the study of socio-economic well-being and happiness, both at individual and societal levels. At the same time—as politicians, governments and economists and others seek to identify the key components of happiness and how to measure it as an essential dimension of economic policies and planning behaviour— we should examine whether these ancient concepts may facilitate and provide workable platforms for developing a view, or views, on the nature of well-being and happiness that are viable today. We can go a long way towards achieving these goals, if we can begin to seriously consider teaching “Happiness, Well-being and Contentment” at our universities.
Resolution 65/309. Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development
Why Happiness Should be Taught at Our Universities?
The Common Good Happiness Project: A Spiritual Quest for the Good Life
WORLD HAPPINESS REPORT
Edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs
- Written by: Kamran Mofid
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Lest We Forget
Sir, Around 1991 I offered the London School of Economics a grant of £1 million to set up a Chair in Business Ethics. John Ashworth, at that time the Director of the LSE, encouraged the idea but had to write to me to say, regretfully, that the faculty had rejected the offer as it saw no correlation between ethics and economics. Quite. Lord Kalms, House of Lords, letter to the Times (08/03/2011)
I was very pleased to watch the video of a recent lecture by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartyn Sen (see below). The lecture and the follow-up discussions and debate, focused on the “ethos of inclusion”, a timely theme, as the global economy is going through a very serious and consequential crises.
Sen, time and again, noted that a key underlying failure in recent decades has been the almost complete decoupling of economics and policy-making from moral and conscientious reflection.
This, in my view, is a hugely important observation, which needs some further reflection.
The framing of economics and economic policy as instruments to achieve broader and more meaningful human and social ends had always been at the heart of the thinking and the subject of intense study by classical economists. What a pity that the modern economists divorced economics from its original roots of ethics, morality, philosophy and theology.
As observed by many, the modern economists tragically forgot that “unless most men and women recognize some sort of moral principles, an economy cannot function except in a small and precarious way. Moral beliefs, sometimes called moral values, make possible production, trading, saving, and the whole economic apparatus. Concepts of right and wrong haunt us in everything we do—whether or not we wish to be concerned with moral questions. All human creations and institutions have some connection with moral ideas and moral habits, for human beings are moral creatures. Concepts of right and wrong haunt us in everything we do—whether or not we wish to be concerned with moral questions.”
In short, the exclusion of the moral quality of economic phenomena in the name of scientific objectivity has produced a reductionist and determinist discipline whose protagonist, the utility maximizing agent, bears little resemblance to the ontological composition of the human being. It eliminates from consideration the apparently ineradicable human need for transcendence together with the virtues with the aid of which humans struggle to respond to this need.
With this in mind, it is worth recalling a passage from what I had written awhile back:
*“Economics, from the time of Plato right through to Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, was as deeply concerned with issues of social justice, ethics and morality as it was with intrinsic economic analysis and questions of price theory. Most economics students today learn that Adam Smith was the ‘father of modern economics’ but not that he was also a moral philosopher. In 1759, sixteen years before his famous Wealth of Nations, Smith published The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which explored the self-interested nature of man and his ability nevertheless to make moral decisions based on factors other than selfishness, such as empathy and the desire for approval from others.
In The Wealth of Nations, Smith laid the early groundwork for economic analysis, but he embedded it in a broader discussion of social justice and the role of government. Students today know only of his analogy of the ‘invisible hand’ and his advocacy of free markets. They ignore his insight that the pursuit of wealth should not take precedence over social and moral obligations, and his belief that a ‘Divine Being’ gives us ‘the greatest quantity of happiness’. They are taught that the free market as a ‘way of life’ appealed to Adam Smith but not that he distrusted the morality of the market as a morality for society at large. He neither envisioned nor prescribed a capitalist society, but rather a ‘capitalist economy within society, a society held together by communities of non-capitalist and non-market morality’.
As it has been noted, morality for Smith included neighbourly love, an obligation to practice justice, a norm of financial support for the government ‘in proportion to [one’s] revenue’, and a tendency in human nature to derive pleasure from the good fortune and happiness of other people.”
*“Living happily is “the desire of us all, but our mind is blinded to a clear vision of just what it is that makes life happy”. The root of happiness is ethical behaviour, and thus the ancient idea of moral education and cultivation, is essential to ideal of joyfulness.”
I rest my case.
Watch the video:
Amartyn Sen: Towards an Ethics of Inclusion
- Written by: Kamran Mofid
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An example of capitalism with no consience and no moral compass: The Case of the former MG Rover workers
A bit of background:
The "Phoenix Four" bought the business for £10 in 2000. They soon bankrupted the company. For this great achievement and personal scarifice, they then awarded themselves and the managing director a total of £42m. They condemned the workers to a life of abject poverty, whilst themselves running laughing all the way to the banks. They privatised all the benefits and socialised all the costs.
Is this what neo-liberal business and capitalism is all about?
Rover workers get £3 redundancy pay compensation after seven-year battle
Owners and MD pocketed £42m after buying Rover and when it collapsed set up a fund telling staff it will have 'millions' for them
“Former MG Rover workers are to be rewarded with compensation of just £3 each following a seven-year battle for redundancy payments in the wake of the collapse of Britain's last major carmaker"