• Honjo, Saitama

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Regarding Takamitsu Sawa’s Aug. 20 article “Measuring a society’s value“: I find the article confusing as Sawa seems to be trying to relate the “well fed, well bred” slogan to economic growth.

At first, he says that when people become richer, they have better manners, but later uses the word “manners” to describe the qualitative side of economic growth (environmental stability, income distribution) as opposed to the quantitative side (GDP). With his multiple usages of “manners,” he stretches the analogy too far, and it isn’t clear what purpose the analogy serves in the end.

I also don’t understand why Sawa is so disappointed that the “top brains” could not arrive at a single measure of happiness. The fact is that happiness is based on many factors and is highly subjective. Rather than treating gross domestic product as the primary measure of happiness that needs to be transcended, GDP should be recognized as merely one facet of a society’s health.

The mistake in the past was having GDP represent the only measure that was consulted. Now, thanks partly to the work of “top brains” like Amartya Sen, the concept of “human security” has arisen as the most effective expression among the plethora of factors constituting human happiness. As Sawa says, this multifactor approach has been known for decades. Whether governments have the will to follow it is another matter entirely.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

ryan flynn

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