The public antipathy towards bankers and the bonus culture is indicative of a broader shift in attitudes: the developed world has suddenly realised that money doesn’t make you happy.
GDP might show off how well the economy is performing but it is not – after a certain point – a useful measure of social progress. Living standards have rocketed within the US and the UK but research hi-lighted in this Guardian piece has revealed that happiness has stagnated.
Wealth and the individual amassing of it have taken precedence over almost everything. This is not just the fault of Sir Fred Goodwin – tempting as it is to blame him for everything – but of society in a broader sense. Labour’s 1997 talk of happiness as a defining measurement of Britain’s success was eclipsed by boasts of unbroken economic growth. The culture of celebrity continues to glamourise money. Children are taught to aspire to being ‘rich and famous’ in spite of the endless examples of people who have been damaged by the media glare and the burden of wealth.
When did wealth become synonomous with happiness? And why is it only in the face of economic disaster that anyone has stopped to question the validity of this equation?
The financial crisis seems to have acted as a reality check on the world’s value system.
Human relationships and with them the quality of human experience suffered during the glory years. The individualistic drive of a capitalist ideology has damaged mutual respect. Personal relationships have suffered and so has social responsibility. In the wake of the crash there has been much written about the future of capitalism (this FT series is useful) and it has been widely noted that there is a real opportunity for the instigation of progressive agendas around the world, led of course by our favourite, Barack.
Let’s hope that as the G20 grapple with the intricacies of our financial system’s failures, they take a moment to recognise that pots and pots of money have not made us happy; and, that they take more than a moment to ponder just what it is that will.