Why do people need wealth

Prosperity: when is a society doing well?

Prosperity and increasing economic output, measured as "gross domestic product", say nothing about the quality of life of the citizens of a state. They do not provide information about whether the people there are satisfied, whether they feel comfortable or safe.

Even if the income, and thus the income in a country, is high on average, the questions remain: Are goods also distributed fairly? Does everyone have the same opportunities for education, work and health care? Prosperity and quality of life also depend on the state of the environment. New indicators of wealth are being considered in more and more countries.


Prosperity without growth

As early as 1972 there was initial criticism of defining gross domestic product as the sole indicator of prosperity. At that time, the Club of Rome, an international association of personalities from science, culture, business and politics, pointed to the limits of growth: If the economy continues to grow like this, everyone will end up worse off. The quality of life declines because environmental degradation, social injustice and the exploitation of resources are the consequences of unchecked growth. These concerns are still topical today.

Governments - for example in France, Canada, Great Britain, Sweden and Germany - therefore set up commissions that are looking for more comprehensive and better indicators to measure prosperity and quality of life. France made a start in 2008. The commission set up by President Nicolas Sarkozy was chaired by Nobel Prize winners in Economics, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Amartya Sen. They recommended: In order to better determine well-being, one should pay more attention to how income, consumption and wealth are distributed in a society. Political participation also plays a role in one's own quality of life.

Measure wealth differently

“The search for happiness is also important for social progress,” says evolutionary economist Martin Binder from the Max Planck Institute for Economics in Jena. In his award-winning doctoral thesis, he introduced a new method for measuring wealth and quality of life. For this he used empirical findings from happiness research, psychology, biology and neuroscience. "We now know that an income above a certain level is no longer so crucial for the happiness of the individual," says Martin Binder. In contrast, social contacts, family, self-determination at work or voluntary work are important. "All of this makes people happy."


On the trail of real prosperity

The search for the better measure of wealth and quality of life continues. Currently around 200,000 people in Great Britain have been asked about their well-being and worries. The survey aims to help policymakers improve satisfaction in British society. In Germany, different proposals from research are currently being discussed in a political commission under the topic: "Growth, prosperity, quality of life - ways to sustainable business and social progress in the social market economy".

The next exciting question will be to what extent new indicators for satisfaction differ in individual societies.

What do you think defines prosperity and quality of life? What criteria should these be measured by? What does happiness mean in your home country? Write us your suggestions and discuss them with other alumni.