Hasta la victoria siempre

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Neputinta banilor

Rafael M. Di Tella este doctor in economie al Universitatii Oxford, in prezent predand Istoria afacerilor si Economie internationala la Harvard Bussines School.
In articolul sau "Some Uses of Happiness Data in Economics", publicat in Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 20, (2006), scris impreuna cu Dr. Robert MacCulloch, Di Tella subliniaza cateva dintre constatarile pecare le-am facut in mod repetat pe acest blog:
1. la nivel de tari, bogatia nu sporeste decat nesemnificativ fericirea;
2. venitul relativ este mai important decat cel absolul, insemnand ca nu ne intereseaza atat sa avem cat mai mult, ci sa avem mai mult decat ceilalti;
3. ne adaptam rapid la cresterea venitului, astfel ca dupa relativ scurt timp ne obisnuim cu noua avere si aceasta nu ne face mai fericiti.

Sa-l urmarim punct cu punct:

Crestere economica fara fericire
"Most utility functions assume that higher levels of current personal income lead to higher utility. In 1974, Richard Easterlin introduced happiness data into economics and observed that their basic pattern was at odds with this assumption.
Specifically, Easterlin (1974) observed that happiness responses are positively correlated with individual income at any point in time: the rich report greater happiness than the poor within the United States in a given year. Yet since World War II in the United States, happiness responses are flat in the face of considerable increases in average income. [...]
A similar pattern has been observed in a large number of countries, including France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, and for different periods of time (Easterlin, 1995; Blanchflower and Oswald, 2004). In Japan, income rose by a multiple of five between 1958 and 1987, and happiness remained stationary. It’s true that small upward trends in happiness can be detected in Italy and the Netherlands. Also, sometimes differences in happiness arise depending on which cohort or which ethnic group is followed over time (Blanchflower and Oswald, 2000, 2004).
Still, the general finding of growth without significantly greater happiness certainly raises questions about how a person’s current income should enter a utility function."

Asadar, atat in SUA cat si in Franta, germania, UK si Japonia veniturile populatiei au crescut de pana la cinci ori, fara ca fericirea acesteia sa sporeasca semnificativ.

Fericirea relativa "Is Happiness Based on Relative Income?
Easterlin (1974) discussed the hypothesis that people care about their income relative to that of others as an explanation for the growth without happiness phenomenon. This argument is also made in models of interdependent preferences, which trace back at least to Duesenberry (1949) and Parducci (1968) but have also seen a recent resurgence in the work of Frank (1997), Clark and Oswald (1998), Blanchflower and Oswald (2004) and others. Frey and Stutzer (2002)
present a good review.
As a recent example, Luttmer (2004) studies a panel of almost 9,000 individuals in the United States. He matches individual data on happiness and income with the average earning in the locality in which individuals live (which contains 150,000 inhabitants on average). He observes that approximately similar decreases in individual happiness are produced when individual income falls as when the locality’s income increases and concludes that there are sizeable relative income effects.
In addition, the estimated effects appear to be larger amongst individuals who socialize more in the locality, possibly since this makes income differences with others more salient to the individual. (Of course,people may still wish to move to high-income localities to the extent that they offer other amenities that increase happiness.) Similarly, Clark (2003) presents panel evidence on the happiness drop associated with becoming unemployed and finds that the drop in happiness is smaller the higher is the unemployment rate in this
person’s reference group."

Pe scurt, fericirea personala scade atat cand pierde individul, intr-o proportie similara cu situatia in care venitul personal ramane constant dar cel mediu al localitatii creste; aceasta nefericire din al doilea caz e sporita daca indivudl socializeaza mai mutl si deci are de-a face mai mult cu cei care castiga mai mult; somerii sunt mai putin nefericiti cu cat rata somajului e mai mare in zona lor.

Adaptarea hedonica
"Does People’s Happiness Adapt to Changed Circumstances?
The pattern of economic growth without increases in happiness would result also if people become accustomed over time to increases in income, as in the model of Pollak (1970).
A classic paper in psychology, Brickman, Coates and Janoff-Bullman (1978) showed that a very small sample of individuals who had won between $50,000 and $1,000,000 at the lottery the previous year reported comparable” life satisfaction levels as those who did not. They also argued that individuals who had become paraplegic or quadriplegic within the previous year reported only slightly lower levels of life satisfaction than healthy individuals. More recently, Easterlin (2004a) has shown that the evidence suggests there is complete adaptation to income but incomplete adaptation to life’s events (like marriage or disability). [...]
Consider again the German data from 1985 to 2000 as presented in Figure 3. Although the income time trend is overall positive and the happiness one is overall negative, the year-to-year fluctuations in happiness and incomes show signs of moving together—that is, changes in happiness and changes in real income are positively correlated over the period. Consequently, there appear to be transitory income effects that do not, however, translate into permanently different levels of happiness.
Di Tella, MacCulloch and Oswald (2003) present results consistent with adaptation to income over time using country panels. A natural explanation behind adaptation is that people adjust their desires—a phenomenon sometimes called “preference drift” (van Praag and Kapteyn, 1973). In this spirit, van de Stadt, Kapteyn and van de Geer (1985) cannot reject the hypothesis of one-for-one changes in income aspirations and income (see also van Praag and Ferrer-i-Carbonell, 2004), whereas Stutzer (2003) directly measures a negative relationship between happiness and income aspirations."

Altfel spus, adaptarea fata de un nivel mai ridicat de venit este aproape completa, ceea ce inseamna ca dupa o perioada scurta de timp, revenim la nivelul precedent de fericire dinaintea imbogatirii, ceea ce s-a intamplat si cu castigatorii loteriilor, cu atat mai mult cu cat aceastia nici nu au trebuit sa-si petreaca timp muncind in plus. Cresterea pretentiilor, odata cu cresterea veniturilor, ne mentine din nou la acelasi nivel de fericire anterior.

In concluzie
"In brief, the overall evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that an individual’s happiness or utility is not just a function of income at a point in time, as in the standard model most often used by economists, but that happiness adapts to changes in income over time, and that at a point in time, happiness also comes from relative levels of income. Note that for both adaptation and relative income
effects to be relevant explanations of the Easterlin (1974) paradox we would need a very specific pattern: it would have to be the case that individuals adapt to income, but do not adapt to their relative position. This pattern is consistent with Easterlin (2004a), who argues that family aspirations do not change as marital status and
family size change, but that material aspirations increase commensurately with household wealth."

Asadar, ne obisnuim cu orice nivel, oricat de ridicat de avere, intervenind apoi si interesul pentru nivelul averii celorlalti. Evident, atata timp cat inegalitatile socio-economice se mentin, oricat de mult ar creste veniturile tuturor, fericirea nu va spori. Important de retinut este si ca hedonic ne adaptam mai greu fata de bucuriile aduse de familie si casnicie, de pildfa, ceea ce inseamna ca acestea au putinta de a ne face mai fericiti pentru o perioada mult mai lunga de timp.

Di Tella rezuma perfect situatia, intr-un interviu acordat revistei Adbusters la 18 iulie 2008:

"I talked to Rafael Di Tella, an Argentinean economist at the Harvard Business School who is deeply involved in happiness research. Speaking from Buenos Aires, he explained, “Some of the very basic things we assumed in economics are not consistent with the evidence. This idea that income is so important to happiness is not correct. All the evidence seems to be pointing in the direction that we are working too much. In fact, we’re happy if we work less. We are spending too much time on work and too little time with friends and family. So there’s a mistake in the economic models that suggest happiness will come from more income.”

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Studiul FWI despre supra-munca

Families and Work Institute este un institut alcatuit din specialisti in resurse umane precum Dr. Eugene Andrews, Dr. Francille M. Firebaugh sau specialisti in management precum Dr. Lotte Bailyn. Scopul acestei organizatii non-profit este de a monitoriza evolutia si schimbarile legate de chestiunea muncii in SUA, analizand totodata influenta acestor modificari asupra vietii muncitorilor, familiilor si comunitatilor.
Aici ne va interesa un studiu efectuat de FWI in 2005 intitulat "Overwork in America: When the Way We Work Becomes Too Much".
Cateva date ce exprima concludent problema supra-muncii in poate cea mai reprezentativa tara capitalista, SUA:

"There is little question that the way Americans work and live has changed in recent years. The fast-paced, global 24/7 economy, the pressures of competition, and technology have blurred the traditional boundaries between work life and home life. Furthermore, this new economy calls for new skills—skills like responding quickly to competing demands and jumping from task to task. In response, the topic of being overworked has become a hot subject of discussion in workplaces, in the media, in medical journals, and in homes.

• Studies by Daniel J. Conti from Bank One and Wayne Burton from Northwestern Medical School first published in the 1990s found that depressive disorders within the workplace were much higher than anticipated and were associated with the highest medical plan costs of all behavioral health disorders.
• In 1999, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) stepped forward to report that because the nature of work is changing at whirlwind speed, perhaps now, more than ever, job stress poses a threat to the health of workers, and in turn, to the health of organizations.
• In 2000, the World Health Organization reported that by 2020, clinical depression was expected to outrank cancer and follow only heart disease to become the second greatest cause of death and
disability worldwide.
• In Ellen Galinsky’s 1999 nationally representative study called Ask the Children, when asked their one wish to improve how their mother’s and father’s work affected their lives, most children wished
their mothers and fathers would be less stressed and less tired. [...]

There is no question that work demands are continuing to escalate and many Americans have too much work to do (although it must also be said that some Americans would say they have too little work to do).
For those with too much to do, the Overwork in America study found that the very skills that are fundamental to succeeding in this global economy—specifically, moving quickly from task to task with little time for recovery in between, facing many interruptions, and working outside normal work hours, including vacations—can be useful but also can become detrimental. For a significant group of Americans, the way we work today appears to be negatively affecting their health and effectiveness at work.

• 26% of employees were overworked often or very often in the last month;
• 27% were overwhelmed by how much work they had to do often or very often in the last month; and
• 29% often or very often didn’t have the time to step back and process or reflect on the work they were doing during the last month.

We also found that 44 percent of U.S. employees were overworked often or very often according to at least one of these measures, while only 29 percent rarely or never experienced any of these three indices. [...]

What Happens When Employees Are Overworked?
We found that the more overworked employees are:
• The more likely they are to make mistakes at work. Twenty percent of employees reporting high overwork levels say they make a lot of mistakes at work versus none (0%) of those who experience low overwork levels.
• The more likely they are to feel angry at their employers for expecting them to do so much. Thirtynine percent of employees experiencing high overwork levels say they feel very angry toward their employers versus only 1% who experience low overwork levels.
• The more likely they are to resent coworkers who don’t work as hard as they do. Thirty-four percent of employees who experience high overwork levels versus only 12% of those experiencing low overwork levels say they often or very often resent their coworkers.

Personal Outcomes
We found that the more overworked employees feel:
• The more likely they are to have higher levels of stress, using a standardized measure of stress that has been correlated in other research with physical health problems. Only 6% who experience low overwork levels are highly stressed compared with 36% of those who are highly overworked.
• The more symptoms of clinical depression they experience, using a standardized measure that is used to screen people for treatment. Only 8% of those with low overwork levels have high levels of depressive symptoms compared with 21% of those who are highly overworked.
• The more likely they are to report that their health is poorer. Fifty-two percent of employees experiencing high overwork levels report that their health is good versus 65% of those experiencing low
overwork levels.
• The more likely they are to neglect caring for themselves. Only 41% of employees who experience high overwork levels say they are very successful in taking good care of themselves versus 68% of those experiencing low overwork levels."

Concluzia e clara si nu ar trebui sa surprinda pe nimeni: competitia salbatica din capitalism ii obliga pe patroni sa scoata profituri din ce in ce mai mari pentru a se patra pe piata si a nu fi intrecuti, acestia incep sa caute angajati capabili sa munceasca cat se poate de mult, in practic orice conditii, angajatii se straduiesc sa implineasca aceste norma draconice pentru a nu fi concediati, iar rezultatele se vad: procentul supra-muncii creste necontenit, iar supra-munca are efecte daunatoare atat la locul de munca (apar greseli, creste ura fata de angajator si dispretul pentru colegii ce muncesc mai putin), cat si pe plan personal (creste incidenta bolilor profesionale, stresul, depresia, dezinteresul fata de propria sanatate).

Sa nu ne mai miram, deci, cand vedem in ziare titluri precum "Romanii, loviti in plin de impotenta", cu explicatii precum: "25% dintre bărbaţii români de peste 35 de ani suferă de disfuncţie erectilă. Stresul, stilul de viaţă „modern“ şi suprasolicitarea profesională duc la dispariţia erotismului." In definitiv, "Romanii si bulgarii muncesc cel mai mult dintre cetatenii UE".

Consumerismul si munca in exces

Daca la 27 aprilie 2008 aratam in postarea „Flagelul muncii in exes, cauzat de mania consumerista”, prin intermediul articolului „Why Do People Overwok: Oversupply of Hours of Labor, Labor Market Forces and Adaptive Preferences”, semnat de Lonnie Golden si Morris Altman ca pornirile consumeriste sunt principala cauza a muncii in exces, azi vom vedea ca si alti cercetatori au ajuns la aceeasi concluzie.
Astfel, in lucrarea lor „The Existence and Persistence of Long Work Hours”, Robert Drago de la Pennsylvania State University, David Black de la Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research si Mark Wooden Melbourne Institute si IZA Bonn, demonstreaza ca intentiile consumeriste explica in cea mai mare parte orele lungi de munca din societatea australiana.

„Previous research hypothesizes that long working hours are related to consumerism, the ideal worker norm, high levels of human capital, and a high cost-of-job-loss. The authors test these hypotheses using panel data on working hours for an Australian sample of full-time employed workers. Analyses include a static cross-sectional model and a persistence model for long hours over time. The results suggest that long hours (50 or more hours in a usual week) are often persistent, and provide strongest support for the consumerism hypothesis, with some support for the ideal worker norm and human capital hypotheses, and no support for the cost-of-job-loss hypothesis. Other results are consistent with a backward-bending supply of long hours, and with multiple job holders and the self-employed working long hours.”

SUA, UK, Australia si munca in exces
„A debate concerning overwork, sparked by Juliet Schor’s Overworked American (1991), ultimately concluded that working time in the U.S. had become more divided in recent decades, with larger proportions of individuals working either very long or very short hours (see Jacobs and Gerson 2004). Similar trends have been reported in some other countries, especially the U.K. (Harkness 1999) and Australia (Wooden 2001). Indeed, Jacobs and Gerson (2000) identified Australia, despite its much higher incidence of part-time employment,1 as one country where the proportion of the workforce reporting working 50 hours or more per week exceeded that in the U.S.

Analyses of the effects of long hours sometimes find linkages between long hours and, for example, stress and fatigue (Sparks et al. 1997). Other studies report mixed results (Barnett 1998). What we know with more certainty is that individuals who occupy multiple life roles tend to experience better mental health outcomes (Barnett 1998; Barnett and Rivers 2004) and, of course, regularly working very long hours, by reducing the time available for other activities, limits the ability of an individual to fill multiple roles.”

Explicatia muncii in exces in aceste societati
Consumerism. Schor (1991, 1999) argued that corporations generate increased revenues by expanding the range or goods and services considered part of a usual or at least desirable standard of living. Larger houses, cable television, home entertainment systems, cellular phones, designer clothes, and expensive cars have, for example, all become more common in the U.S. As a result, many Americans, mainly in the top half of the income distribution, may be caught in a “work-and-spend” cycle. In order to purchase new commodities, individuals and families seek higher incomes, and for most that implies longer work hours. These longer hours must then be sustained over time to maintain expenditure patterns. In addition, families may take on substantial amounts of debt in order to fund consumer purchases, further driving the persistence of long hours to cover debt payments. We therefore hypothesize that increasing levels of debt, and particularly consumer debt, will be associated with long and particularly persistently long hours.”
Consumerismul dovedit experimental ca fiind principala cauza a muncii in exces din societatile capitaliste „dezvoltate”
„Although very long hours of work among some workers have been documented previously for the U.S. and Australia, the analysis here is the first to demonstrate that such hours are often reported persistently over a period of years. For a sample of Australian employees, we estimate that more than half reporting over 50 hours per week in a crosssection will also report working similarly long hours when re-interviewed one and two years later. Somewhat less persistence was found among employees reporting over 60 hours per week, where a little more than 40 percent of those claiming such long hours in a cross-section also reported those hours over the entire period.
Four explanations for long hours were tested. The consumerism hypothesis received the strongest support. The “work-and-spend” logic for long hours, wherein some individuals and families become caught in a web of consumer debt, and work long hours to sustain high levels of consumption, fits the results well. This logic is particularly supported by the stronger and more stable pattern of results associating debt with persistently long hours of work.”

Ziua in care consumul a depasit posibilitatile planetei

In Adevarul Verde din 25 septembrie 2008 putem citi un articol intitulat „Pământul şi-a mâncat resursele pe 2008”, semnat de Francisca M. Catana. Textul, bazat pe un raport recent emis de Global Footprint Network,

„trage un semnal de alarmă în ceea ce priveşte ritmul foarte alert de consum la nivel global. Astfel, Global Footprint Network, organism de cercetare care evaluează cantitatea resurselor naturale disponibile, avertizează că ritmul de consumare a resurselor naturale la nivel global depăşeşte capacitatea de regenerare a Pământului.
În acest sens, datele publicate de organizaţia americană arată că cererea actuală este în acest an cu 40 de procente mai mare decât capacitatea Pământului de a produce resursele necesare. (...)

Ritmul de consumare a resurselor naturale depăşeşte capacitatea Pământului de regenerare
La 23 septembrie, resursele naturale pe care Pământul le-a produs în acest an s-au epuizat în totalitate. Cererea actuală este cu 40% mai mare decât oferta anuală.
Resursele naturale globale produse într-un an nu mai reuşesc să ţină pasul cu ritmul foarte alert de consum, avertizează ONG-ul american Global Footprint Network. Această situaţie critică are loc pe fondul sporului demografic pozitiv la nivel mondial, dar şi al creşterii nivelului de trai în ţările emergente.
Până la sfârşitul anului se va apela la rezervele ecologice. Conform Global Footprint Network, organism de cercetare care măsoară cantitatea resurselor naturale disponibile, cererea actuală depăşeşte cu 40 la sută capacitatea Pământului de a produce resursele necesare.
Anul acesta, toate resursele produse în 2008 s-au epuizat la 23 septembrie. Ceea ce înseamnă că, în momentul de faţă, planeta are nevoie de un an şi trei luni pentru a genera ceea ce lumea consumă în 12 luni. Pădurile sunt defrişate într-un ritm ameţitor, peştii sunt pescuiţi mult mai repede decât capacitatea lor de reproducere, culturile sunt consumate imediat.
Data la care se epuizează resursele naturale, denumită „Earth Overshoot Day", pică tot mai devreme cu fiecare an care trece, pentru că cererea este în continuă creştere, după cum subliniază reprezentanţii organismului american de cercetare.”

Cine este Global Footprint Network? Este o organizatie ecologista alcatuita din cercetatori renumiti pe plan mondial precum David T. Suzuki, E.O. Wilson, Daniel Pauly, Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Lester Brown si altii al carei scop este de a atrage atentia asupra ratelor excesive de consum din prezent si a nevoii de a recurge la moderatie si surse alternative de productie.

Pe saitul organizatiei gasim o trecere in revista utila privind ritmul consumului omenirii din ultimul deceniu, precum si care sunt tarile cu cele mai ridicate rate de consum:

„• According to current calculations, humanity’s first Earth Overshoot Day was December 31, 1986. By 1995 it was more than a month earlier, arriving on November 21. Ten years later it was six weeks earlier than in 1995, occurring on October 2, 2005.
• Humanity’s use of nature (in terms of natural resources and services) went from using slightly more than half of planet Earth’s biocapacity in 1961 to the equivalent of 1.4 planet Earths in 2008.
• United Nations business-as-usual projections show humanity requiring the equivalent of two planets by 2050. (for details see Global Footprint Network and WWF’s Living Planet Report 2006). This would put Ecological Debt Day on July 1, and means it would take two years for the planet to regenerate what we use in one year. Humanity would be living as if we had 2 planets to sustain us. Reaching this level of ecological deficit spending may be physically impossible.
• Currently, humanity consumes 40% more resources per year than Earth can regenerate. In other words, between January 1 and September 23, humanity has used as many resources and ecological services as Earth can regenerate in the entire year. Or inversely, it takes almost one year and four months to regenerate what humanity uses within one year.
• As of 2003, the most recent year for which data are available, the biologically productive area available on this planet was slightly less than 1.8 hectares/person (4.4 acres), with no area set aside for wild species. Meanwhile, the average per capita Ecological Footprint was 2.2 global hectares/person (5.5 acres).
• The average per person Ecological Footprint for the United States (as of 2003 data) is 9.6 global hectares (24 acres). If everyone in the world lived like an American, it would take more than five planets to support humanity.
• The carbon Footprint, which accounts for the use of fossil fuels, is almost half of humanity’s total Ecological Footprint, and is its fastest growing component, increasing more than seven fold from 1961 to today.”

Care sunt natiunile cele mai consumeriste? Evident, cele mai reprezentative state capitaliste.
„Globally, we are using 1.4 Earths’ worth of biocapacity every year. Some nations, however, use a lot less than this, and some use a lot more. Here is how many Earths we would need if everyone lived like a resident of the following countries, according to Global Footprint Network data analysis – National Footprint Accounts 2006 Edition.

• United States 5.4 Earths
• Canada 4.2 Earths
• United Kingdom 3.1 Earths
• Germany 2.5 Earths
• Italy 2.2 Earths
• South Africa 1.4 Earths
• Argentina 1.2 Earths
• Costa Rica 1.1 Earths
• India 0.4 Earths.”

Iata ca desi cresterea globala a populatiei si recentul ritmul sustinut de dezvoltare al unor tari precum China si India, tot tarile capitaliste precum SUA, Canada ori UK sunt cele mai mari devoratoare de resurse.

Consumul exacerbat si Incalzirea Globala:
„Carbon is the primary culprit of our ecological overspending. Humanity is emitting carbon faster than the planet can reabsorb it. Our carbon Footprint (the amount of land and sea it would take to absorb all the carbon we emit) has increased 700% since 1961. Now over 50% of our Ecological Footprint comes from carbon emissions. We are now emitting so much carbon, the planet can’t absorb it all, so it is building up in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
While climate change may represent the most alarming symptom of overshoot, it also offers the greatest opportunity for change; virtually every action we take to reduce climate change also reduces overshoot, and vice versa. If we conquer climate change without depleting other natural assets, we can rebalance our Earth budget. However, some strategies for addressing climate change, like certain biofuels, simply shift the pressure to agricultural land and therefore don’t contribute to ending overshoot overall.”

Iata de ce avem nevoie de egalitarism, moderatie si rationalizare, in paralel cu rasturnarea capitalismului consumerist, daca vrem sa evitam un previzibil razboi mondial pentru resursele ramase si un dezastru ecologic la scara mare.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Un nou studiu confirma cele spuse: banii au un impact neglijabil asupra fericirii

Un articol aparut in iulie 2008 in Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons 18(7):445-50, semnat de patru cercetatori--Ventegodt S, Flensborg-Madsen T, Andersen NJ, Merrick J.--demonstreaza o data in plus ce s-a repetat aici.
Obiectivul studiului "Which factors determine our quality of life, health and ability? Results from a Danish population sample and the Copenhagen perinatal cohort" este:

"To examine the statistical associations between Global Quality of Life (QOL) and a series of indicators representing health, ability, philosophy of life, sexuality, quality of working life and other medically relevant aspects of life. DESIGN: Cross-sectional comparative study using the self-administered SEQOL questionnaire."

Rezultatele sale?

"RESULTS: Strongest was the association between QOL, overall view of life (41.5% / 59.1%), relationship to self (39.3% / 56.8%), partner (32.2% / 31.7%) and friends (33.3% / 42.7%). Different aspects of physical as well as psychological health were also strongly correlated with QOL: self-perceived physical health (33.2% /29.4%), satisfaction with own health (27.3% / 29.0%), self-perceived mental health (38.4/51.0), number of severe health problems (29.8% / 35.3%). Objective factors such as income, age, sex, weight and social group did not have any noteworthy relationship to QOL, and neither did lifestyle factors such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, drug use, exercise, and diet.

CONCLUSION: It seems that the factors important for present QOL and health is derived from good relations, with the close as well as the distant world, and overall view of life. What one possesses in objective terms--money, status, work--does not seem to be important to global quality of life and of little importance to self-assessed health. Our results indicate that what is really important is not what one has, but how he sees, evaluates and experiences what he has. The person's level of consciousness and responsible attitude towards life and others seem far more important for the global quality of life and health."

Banii statutul si munca individului au deci prea putine de-a face cu fericirea, cat mai ales au sanatatea si relatiile sociale reusite.

Amenintari globale

In iunie 2006 Oxford Research Group a publicat un raport intitulat "GLOBAL RESPONSES TO GLOBAL THREATS: SUSTAINABLE SECURITY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY ".
Printre altele, cercetarea indica faptul ca omenirea intampina patru mari probleme globale: schimbarile climaterice, competitia pentru resurse, marginalizarea majoritatii locuitorilor planetei si cursa inarmarii.

Le voi lua aici in discutie pe primele trei.
Schimbarile climaterice
"The Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA) identifies climate change as a threat which vastly eclipses that of terrorism. A report commissioned by the head of the ONA, Pentagon insider Andrew
Marshall, and published in late-2003, concluded that climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters. The report’s authors argue that the risk of abrupt climate change should be “elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern”.
Anyone doubting the serious security implications of environmental disasters, even for rich and powerful countries such as the United States, should simply look at the large-scale loss of life and
breakdown of society that occurred in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities (as well as rising petrol prices across the world) in a matter of days following Hurricane Katrina in August and September
2005. This is especially worrying because there has been a near doubling in the number of category 4 and 5 storms such as Katrina in the last 35 years, most likely as a result of rises in the temperature
of the surface levels of the sea."

Care este cauza acestor fenomene dezlantuite ale naturii? Consumul in exces de dioxid de carbon, laolalta cu cel al altor gaze cu efect de sera precum metanul.

"That is, unless carbon dioxide levels can be stabilised and the threat of global warming and climate change taken seriously. Time is of the essence. The average temperature of the earth’s surface has risen by 0.6 degrees Centigrade since reliable records began in the late 1800s. The European Union believes that the eventual rise in the global average temperature must be kept to within two degrees Centigrade of pre-industrial levels to ensure the continued safety of the human population.
However, some leading climate scientists suggest that if the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere exceeds 400 parts per million (ppm), then there will be little hope of achieving this goal.
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is currently 378 ppm, and increasing by about 1.5 ppm per year. If the scientists are correct, that leaves just 14 years before the 400 ppm point is reached and, in fact, some of the early effects of global warming are already apparent. In 2004, for example, the World Health Organisation estimated that current mortality attributable to man-made climate change was at least 150,000 people per year – with the highest proportion of these deaths occurring in Southern Africa (see map opposite)."

Competitia pentru resurse
"Summary of main points:
• Industrialised and industrialising states are increasingly dependent on imported resources, especially oil and gas.
• Oil is currently the main marketed fossil fuel and the Persian Gulf is the dominant region, with two-thirds of world reserves. It is a deeply unstable region with continuing potential for conflict as the United States seeks to maintain control against opposition from regional state and sub-state paramilitary groups.
• There is also a longer-term concern over trends in oil supplies and markets, in which China is rapidly becoming significant. This is partly because China, like the United States, can no longer produce enough oil from domestic fields and increasingly needs to import oil from
the Persian Gulf.
• Oil consumption is a primary cause of climate change and should be rapidly reduced for this reason alone. In a very real sense, the short-term nature of conflict in the Persian Gulf means that this liability of the oil-based economy should also be used to seek a rapid move to renewables."

Dezvoltarea, cresterea scelerata a economiei anumitor tari este factorul principal pentru acest dezastru ecologic.

Limitele dezvoltarii
"The ‘limits to growth’ debate of the 1970s was prompted by an early systems analysis study of the increasing human impact on the global ecosystem. It also did much to stimulate the early development
of the environmental movement. The original study of the same name, published in 1971 a few months before the UN Stockholm Environment Conference, was relatively crude and was much derided by market economists. While it was not predicting major problems for several decades, it did argue the case that there were limits to the capability of the global ecosystem to survive the effects of human
activity, not least in terms of pollution, resource depletion and food shortages.
In spite of the early criticisms, the experience of the past 30 years has done much to support elements of the Limits to Growth thesis. This includes depletion of maritime resources, erosion of biodiversity,
global pollution problems such as ozone depletion, and problems of deforestation. These, together with shortages of water resources and long-term issues of human malnutrition and famine are likely
to remain major factors in the coming decades, but there are also issues of resource depletion and potential conflict that are becoming particularly pertinent. Of greatest significance are the problems
now being caused by an excessive reliance on fossil fuels, especially oil and natural gas. Both as a source of conflict and as a major factor in climate change, the location and exploitation of oil, in particular, is of massive if largely unrecognised importance."

Marginalizarea majoritatii populatiilor de pe Terra
"Socio-economic Divisions
Globally, more than one billion people must try to survive on less than $1 a day and almost half of the world’s 2.2 billion children live in poverty.
Across the world, some 115 million children who should be in school are not – three-fifths of them girls. Indigenous peoples face persecution and the destruction of their lands for profit. Almost two billion people live in countries where regimes do not fully accommodate civil and political freedoms. About 900 million people worldwide belong to ethnic, religious or linguistic groups that face discrimination.
As a result of natural disasters, war and poverty, 815 million people in developing countries are suffering from acute hunger and each year ten million people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases, despite the fact that there is enough food available to feed the entire global population of 6.4 billion people. [...]

There is a clear and present danger in the world today: a complex interplay of discrimination, global poverty, majority world debt, infectious disease – the haves and the have nots – global inequality and deepening socio-economic divisions, that are key elements of current global insecurity. While overall global wealth has increased, the benefits of this economic growth have not been equally shared, with a very heavy concentration of growth in relatively few parts of the world.
The ‘majority world’ of Asia, Africa and Latin America is being marginalised as North America and Europe try to maintain their political, cultural, economic and military global dominance.
Unfair international trade rules, such as the high tariffs imposed by the EU, the USA and other Western countries on imported food, clothing and other goods, prevent poorer countries from developing their economies. Aid is often in the form of loans and is tied to products coming from the donor countries, or is directly tied to the privatisation of public services. Many of the least developed nations are crippled by the huge burden of debt that has been forced on them by economic circumstance and by other governments and international financial institutions. Multinational corporations exploit the natural resources of many countries with little or no benefit to the local population and little concern for the social and environmental impacts of their actions."

Iata deci in ce stituatie ne-a adus capitalismul actual, prevalent practic in toata lumea, in goana lui neimblanzita dupa profituri si mai mari, consum sporit spre infinit: mai mult de un miliard de oameni traieste cu mai putin de 1$ dolar pe zi, peste un miliard din copiii lumii traiesc in saracie, 815 milioane de oameni sufera de foame desi exista in prezent suficienta hrana incat sa acopere nevoile tuturor. Imperialismul si competitia pentru suprematie au creat imense inegalitati socio-economice, grave dezechilibre interne si internationale precum si epuizarea a cantitati insemnate de resurse naturale.

Exemplu concret de imperialism capitalist: SUA si razboiul contra terorii
"Despite the clear evidence of the security risks posed by climate change and related environmental issues, the US government, in particular, remains focused on projecting its influence and securing
access to resources. This is increasingly undertaken through the ‘war on terror’, which relies on an exaggerated perceived risk of the threat of international terrorism, without addressing the underlying
causes of that terrorism.
However, the US State Department’s own figures show that the number of US citizens killed each year by international terrorism is rarely more than a couple of dozen (see graph below).
Even in 2001, which saw the highest death toll from international terrorism on record, the number of Americans killed was around 2,500.
That number of innocent people killed is horrific, but in the same year in the United States 3,500 people died from malnutrition, 14,000 people died from HIV/AIDS, and 62,000 people died from pneumonia. The biggest killer in the USA that year was heart disease, which killed over 700,000 people. Over 30,000 Americans committed suicide that year and over 42,000 were killed in traffic accidents. In addition, there were nearly 30,000 firearm related deaths and over 20,000 homicides. [...]
Instead, the current US government and its allies have chosen a geopolitical ‘war on terror’ as it pursues its New American Century. Since 9/11 this has cost the US government an estimated $357
billion in military operations, reconstruction, embassy costs and various aid programmes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for enhanced security at military bases around the world.
However, the human cost has been infinitely higher. In Iraq, now on the brink of civil war, at least 40,000 civilians and thousands of Iraqi military and police have been killed as a result of the invasion. To date the US has suffered nearly 2,500 military fatalities in Iraq, with nearly 18,000 thousand troops wounded in action and a similar number evacuated because of non-combat injuries and severe physical or
mental health problems.
In Afghanistan, while the Taliban may have been ousted from power,
more innocent civilians were killed as a direct result of military action there than died in the 9/11 attacks that prompted the US-led invasion.
In the two conflicts, the number of civilians seriously injured is likely to be in the region of one hundred thousand, and tens of thousands have been internally displaced.[...]
It was hoped by the planners in Washington and London that the removal of Saddam Hussein and the spreading of democracy to Iraq would eventually vindicate their policy of pre-emption. However, it has become clear that ‘democracy’ in this instance actually means the privatisation of state-run industries, plus elections."

Desi solutiile pentru aceste probleme globale sunt diverse si unele daca nu utopice, in orice caz ambitioase, precum descoperirea si implementarea pe scara larga a surselor de energie alternativa, nu se poate nega ca renuntarea la traiul excesiv de comod, daca nu chiar luxos al unora dintre tarile capitaliste "dezvoltate", e o solutie reala si imediata pentru prevenirea crizei. Rationalizarea hranei (mai putina dar mai sanatoasa) si energiei electrice, micsorarea dimensiunilor caselor si proprietatilor private, renuntarea la a circula cu automobile, sunt posibilitati la indemana care, departe de a fi costisitoare, presupun tocmai reducerea costurilor si consumului, laolalta cu evitarea unor noi catastrofe naturale, la randul lor din ce in ce mai costisitoare.
Politicile de redistribuire a veniturilor pot insemna scoaterea a milioane de oameni din saracie lucie si o egalizare, echilibrare a nivelelor de trai pe mapamond. Renuntarea la capitalismul devorator, consumerist, poate impiedica noi razboaie, acutizate in timp, asupra resurselor, si pierderi de sute de mii de vieti omenesti.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bogatii ne strica aerul

Pe saitul Canadian Center for Policy Alternative, la data de 24 iunie 2008, a aparut un studiu din care rezulta ca bogatasii au cel mai mare impact negativ asupra mediului inconjurator.

"Richest 10% create bigger ecological footprint

The richest 10 percent of Canadians create a bigger ecological footprint – a whopping 66 percent higher – than the average Canadian household, says a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The study, Size Matters: Canada’s Ecological Footprint, By Income, is the first Canadian study to link national income and consumption patterns with global warming. “When we look at where the environmental impact of human activity comes from, we see that size really does matter,” says Hugh Mackenzie, CCPA research associate. “Higher-income Canadians create a much bigger footprint than poorer Canadians.” Among the study’s findings: The richest 10% of Canadian households create an ecological footprint of 12.4 hectares per capita – nearly two-and-a-half times that of the poorest 10%.
While the size of an individual’s ecological footprint increases as household income increases, the real jump is at that top 10% level. When it comes to environmental impact, it really is a case of the rich and the rest of us.
The bottom 60% of Canadian households’ ecological footprint is below the national average but even the lowest-income Canadians create an ecological footprint that is several times the average for those in poorer nations. “All Canadians share responsibility for global warming,” says co-author Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence. “But wealthier Canadians are leaving behind a disproportionately larger footprint – and should be expected to make a disproportionate contribution to its reduction.” Mackenzie says the study contains lessons for policy makers: “Clearly ecological impact is stongly related to income. Greenhouse gas emissions policies should reflect that reality or risk being less effective and unfair to low- and middle-class Canadians.”

Studiul poate fi descarcat integral de aici.

[Cum in studiu se vorbeste si despre influenta negativa a burjuilor asupra Incalzirii Globale, aici, aici, si aici se pot gasi respingeri ale "argumentelor" ultra-minoritatii care neaga, in ciuda largului consens al comunitatii stiintifice, influenta oamenilor asupra Incalzirii Globale.]

Iata deci cum obsesia imbogatirii si consumerismului nu are efecte negative doar de natura personala, ci se repercuteaza nociv asupra restului societatii. Nationalizarea marilor averi, impunerea egalitarismului si limitelor modeste de consum au astfel meritul de a proteja atat societatea si fericirea individuala, cat si chiar mediul inconjurator.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Amitava Dutt despre consumerism

Amitava Dutt este profesor de economie la Universitatea din Notre Dame. In articolul sau "CONSUMPTION AND HAPPINESS: ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES", realizat in octombrie 2007, Dutt explica unele din motivele pentru care, in ciuda cresterii consumului in societatile occidentale, fericirea nu a sporit proportional.

Mai intai, autorul realizeaza o trecere in revista a acestui fapt:

Fericirea nu a sporit odata cu consumul crescut
"A relatively small but growing number of economists and other social scientists have produced empirical studies that question the fact that increases in consumption and income – at least significantly – affect happiness as evaluated by the consumers themselves.
The pioneering contributions of Easterlin (1973, 1995, 2001), and subsequent work by Oswald (1997), Deiner and Shigehiro (2000), and Frey and Stutzer (2002) among others, suggest a number of empirical regularities. Time series data for individual countries do not reflect significant (and in some cases any) increases in the average level of self-reported happiness over time, despite significant increases in income and consumption. Panel data on specific individuals over their lives suggest that despite large increases in income, these individuals usually do not show significant increases in self-reported happiness. Cross-sectional studies across countries suggest that countries with higher levels of per capita income and consumption do not have higher average levels of self-reported happiness beyond a certain level of income which is far below the income of the rich countries of the world. Even individuals who win lotteries have been
found to report no greater happiness after a few years. To be sure, there is some support for the consumption-happiness connection. Cross-sectional studies within countries seems consistent with it: people in higher income groups with higher levels of consumption report higher levels of self-reported happiness than people in lower income groups; it seems that it is better to be rich than poor in a particular society at a particular point in time. Cross-country studies do suggest a positive income-happiness link at low levels of income. Some studies suggest that people are happier – even if temporarily – if their consumption and income increases. However, the bulk of the evidence seems to contradict the consumption-happiness relationship."

Al doilea pas facut de Dutt este sa argumenteze de ce criticile facute vizavi de corectitudinea concluziilor de mai sus (ca peste un prag, banii si consumul in exces nu sporesc fericirea) sunt eronate.

Raspunzand criticilor:
"We first examine some arguments which appear to undermine the consumption-happiness relationship (more accurately, the absence of a relationship).
The first is to suggest that the dissenters have been much too hasty in dismissing the consumption-happiness link because they have not examined all of the relevant evidence. This is a difficult line to pursue, however. As noted earlier, there is by now a large body of evidence that confirms the link.
But there are a few contributions which provide contrary results of which we briefly discuss two. Frijters, Haisken-DeNew and Shields (2004) apply a conditional fixed-effect ordinal estimate to data on East Germans using panel data from the German Socio-Economic Panel for the period 1991-2001 to find that both real income and employment status are important predictors of life satisfaction. However, there are a number of reasons for doubting the generality of these results.
One suspects that there were changes in economic and political conditions of life in the region which are not captured adequately by the annual dummies. It is possible also that the former East Germans could have increased their life-satisfaction if their conditions were improving relative to that of the former West Germans.
Finally, the results show that life-satisfaction gains were mostly concentrated in the immediate post-unification period, suggesting that the happiness gains are not necessarily long-lasting.
Heady, Muffels and Wooden (2004) uses panel data from Australia, Britain, Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands to find that income and wealth as well as non-durable consumption (where data is available for it) have significantly positive effects on life satisfaction overall. The effects are found to be stronger than just the effects of income. However, the overall effect of these variables is still relatively small, and much weaker than the effects of say employment status. Thus, while somewhat strengthening the impact of money on happiness, and suggesting that consumption has a stronger effect on happiness than income, these findings do not contradict the result that consumption and income have small effects on happiness."

Astfel, desi majoritatea studiilor indica neputinta imbogatirii de a spori fericirea, exista studii, precum cel realizat de Frijters, Haisken-DeNew si Shields in 2004 asupra populatiei din Germania de Est, care ar arata ca acolo, odata cu sporirea veniturilor populatiei, ar fi crescut si fericirea. Acest rezultat are doua mari probleme: mai intai, nu atat consumul in sine poate sa fie explicatia, ci mai ales apropierea de nivelul economic al celor din Germania de Vest. Totodata, sporirea fericirii s-a petrecut in special in perioada imediat urmatoare unificarii, ceea ce sugereaza ca efectele ei nu sunt neaparat de durata.
In privinta celui de-al doilea studiu, (Heady, Muffels si Wooden, 2004) desi s-ar parea ca sporirea comnsumului si veniturilor sporeste fericirea, aceasta crestere e extrem de mica si practic nesemnificativa.

"The second [criticism] is to argue that even if consumption does not appear to increase happiness as measured by self-reported subjective well-being, that does not have any bearing on the connection between happiness and consumption because subjective well-being does not really measure happiness.
Doubts about the identification of happiness and subjective well-being can be raised at least three levels.
One, it may be asked if happiness or satisfaction indicators based on such surveys what is called subjective well-being, measures anything at all. This kind of criticism seems unwarranted (see di Tella and McCulloch, 2006) because of the reasonable degree of correlation these indicators have with other indicators such as left-frontal brain activity and with measures of depression and suicide, and with the similar implications they have in various studies using different kinds of questions and in different contexts."

Altfel spus, o alta critica fata de valabilitatea studiilor ce demonstreaza slaba legatura intre venit si fericire este ca ele folosesc conceptul de "well-being", care nu ar avea, in opinia criticilor, vreo relevanta reala. Raspunsul lui Dutt este ca, din contra, masuratoarea well-being-ului este corelata cu masuratori cat se poate de obiective, precum activitatea lobului frontal stang si statisticile referitoare la depresie si sinucidere, laolalta cu alte masuratori diferite.

"Third, it can be argued that the absence of any tendency of happiness to rise despite significant increases in consumption and income can be explained by the fact that happiness does not depend on consumption and income alone, but on many other things.
It is therefore quite possible that increases in consumption have led to increases in happiness, but that these gains have been nullified by adverse movements in the other determinants. Di Tella and McCulloch (2006) argue against this view stating that in fact many of the things that happiness depends on have actually moved in a positive direction, so that they cannot be blamed for negligible changes in happiness. However, this argument may not be very convincing without a more thorough investigation of the other causes of happiness and in their direction of change. For instance, although some measures of the environment may have improved, others, such as those indicating global warming have arguably worsened. Other determinants of happiness, for instance, interactions with friends and community bonds, have arguably moved in a direction which reduces happiness (Lane, 2000, Putnam, 2000)
There are, however, more weighty arguments to be made against this approach. First, one should examine whether these other determinants are truly independent of increases in consumption and income; if they have worsened by increases in consumption or by the same reasons which have increased consumption.
Second, one can examine more careful analyses of the determinants of happiness to control for other determinants. Most exercises in doing so have in fact found that income and consumption have relatively small effects on subjective wellbeing. These findings, however, leave open the question whether the other determinants of happiness which have a strong impact are indirectly affected by consumption and its determinants."

Asadar, o a treia critica sustine ca desi consumerismul sporeste fericirea, exista alti factori care contracareaza acest efect. Raspunsul lui Dutt e simplu: acesti factori perturbatori ai fericirii sunt cauzati de consumul in exces (de pilda cresterea poluarii), si deci din moment ce insasi consumul sporit le accentueaza, se poate spune ca pert total, consumerismul nu e o cale de urmat in cautarea fericirii. In al doilea rand, s-au realizat studii care izoleaza efectele consumului, eliminand astfel influenta unor factori terti. Rezultatele au arata ca si asa, consumerismul in sine e incapabil sa conduca la rezultatele dorite.

Consumul relativ nu ne face mai fericiti
O parte fundamentala a discursului lui Dutt il reprezinta analiza consumului relativ. Acesta se refera la faptul ca noi consumam nu pentru ca am avea nevoie in sine de un produs, ci pentru ca ceilalti il consuma. Dutt identifica mai multe modalitati (cel putin sase) in care acest consum mimetic apare, dar niciuna dintre ele nu ridica per total gradul de fericire al societatii, pentru ca acesta e atins doar atunci cand consumam mai mult decat ceilalti: intotdeauna se va gasi insa cineva care are mai mult decat noi.

"Having argued against possible ways of discrediting the absence of the consumption-happiness relation, this section discusses a popular explanation of it. This explanation has been referred to in the literature in a various ways, including: consumption because others consume, the relative consumption hypothesis, positional onsumption, and interdependent consumption and preferences. Although it is not clear that these expressions are precisely equivalent, they appear to involve two main features: first, that the consumption level of individuals depends positively on what (at least some) others consume, and second that the level of utility, satisfaction or happiness that people obtain from consumption is affected by what other people consume. There are a number of
variants of this explanation, which may be classified into at least six categories."

In aceasta prezentare vom lua in considerare doua astfel de modalitati in care apare consumul relativ.
"One is that individuals derive – or perceive they derive – benefits in terms of higher income by having higher levels of consumption (of certain things) in relation to the level of consumption of others. Examples include spending more on clothing than others to make a better impression on others for the purpose getting jobs and clients,
spending more on education to become more attractive to potential employers (see Frank, 1999) and spending more on consumption goods in general may signal higher wealth, making it possible to possible to attract wealthier mates in an effort to increase the
absolute level of income and (joint) consumption (Cole, et. al. 1992). In these examples, it is not the absolute amount of consumption that increases income, but consumption spending relative to that of others. Since income determines consumption, which increases utility, it is relative consumption which determines utility. Moreover, more consumption by others will lead consumers to want to consume more. Since relative consumption is not valued for its own sake, but for its effect on absolute consumption, we may refer to this as the instrumental motive."

Deci prima modalitate in care apare consumul relativ este dorinta de a-i intrece pe ceilalti. Cheltuim mai mult pe propria educatie pentru a castiga mai mult decat altii, cheltuim mai mult pe haine pentru a face o impresie mai bune la locul de munca ori/si pentru a atrage persoane la fel de bine imbracate si bogate, sporindu-ne astfel bogatia si mai mult.

"A fifth relates to consumption norms. If most people consume something, a consumption norm is created which makes individuals “need” to consume it. Smith (1776. p. 351-2)) wrote about this more than two centuries ago: By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but what ever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even the lowest order to be without ... Custom ...
has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them."
The need being fulfilled here, according to Sen (1983), is the need of not being ashamed; Smith is clearly arguing that the commodity capable of satisfying this need depends on what many others do, and is therefore changeable as customs change. In our times, if most people have straight teeth, it is likely to make the rest be ashamed to have crooked teeth, so that parents obtain braces for their children to avoid shame. Although consumption norms are likely strongest for goods visible to others, they may apply to other goods as well, because not consuming them can damage one’s self respect."

A doua modalitate in care apare consumul relativ este ca odata ce multi membri ai societatii acumuleaza anumite bunuri, si ceilalti au tendinta de a o face, nu pentru ca ar avea neaparat nevoie de ele, ci pentru a nu ramane "pe dinafara". In acest fel, consumul creste dar nu sporeste fericirea, ci doar ne fereste de rusinea de a nu fi "in pas cu lumea".

Consumerismul ne obliga sa ne complicam viata
Cresterea generala a consumului insa trage dupa sine si exacerbeaza consumul relativ fara a spori fericirea generala si in alte moduri, nu doar in cele motivate psihologic.

"Sometimes consumption needs may not just reflect psychological processes, but may translate into the non-availability or inferiority of less expensive substitutes and therefore create the necessity of spending more to meet virtually the same needs.
As more people use private cars as means of transportation the support for public transportation may diminish, public transportation services may decline or even diminish, requiring other people to buy cars as well. As more people consume expensive goods cheaper substitutes may not be produced if the market for them is not large enough to make them profitable to cover costs in the presence of fixed costs or increasing returns to scale. As more people use refrigeration, small nearby groceries for daily shopping may vanish, requiring others to shop less frequently at distant supermarkets and buy refrigerators. As more people buy home alarm systems and live in expenses gated communities others may become more vulnerable to crime, requiring them to spend more as well. As people buy bigger cars, it can become less safe to drive in smaller cars, requiring small-car owners to buy bigger and more expensive cars. In all these cases, increases in consumption by others induce people to consume more. Yet, as everyone consumes more, the same needs of safe transportation, food, and safe housing are fulfilled with more consumer goods.
Consumption levels of others determines what level of consumption satisfies our needs and hence, our level of satisfaction."

Iata cum consumerismul are efecte nocive pentru intreaga societate, obliga oamenii sa adopte stiluri de viata mai complicate, necesitand mai mult efort pentru a-si satisface niste nevoi altfel relativ usor de satisfacut. Un nou motiv pentru care consumerismul e incapabil sa ne faca mai fericiti.

Competitivitatea naturala a omului
Totusi, nu se poate spune ca, in ciuda inutilitatii si chiar nocivitatii consumului relativ, natura umana ne determina sa ne comportam competitiv? Chiar daca rezultate nu sunt dezirabile, putem cumva sa oprim sau sa influentam tendinta fireasca de a ne lua la intrecere cu ceilalti? Dutt raspunde afirmativ, sustinand ca ne putem intrece in domenii ce nu duc la consumerism, precum cel literar si cu sine insusi. Am putea adauga noi, domeniul sportiv.

"Even if competitiveness is a given characteristic of human beings, we can choose, to compete in things other than consumption by narrowing the sphere of competition to become the best writer, the best poet, the best writer of couplets. There are societal forces that work against such narrowing. How to compare a writer of science fiction to a writer of crime fiction, and how exactly to decide who is a better crime writer? It is tempting to fall back to the measuring rod of money, and hence consumption. An antidote to these broadening forces could be narrowing forces, those which remind us that the most satisfying form of competition is to compete with oneself – to be the best person one can be. Most of the world’s religions have in one way or another recommended this type of quest (see Dutt, 2001). A narrowing in the sphere of competition, aided by such religious and ethical crutches, can arguably make consumption less dependent on the consumption of others. Consumption can be reduced and also be allocated to goods and services which yield more lasting happiness."

IN CONCLUZIE, articolul lui Amitava Dutt ne arata ca:
1. cercetarile socio-psihologice demonstreaza slaba relatie dintre cresterea venitului si fericire.
2. criticile facute fata de aceste cercetari nu sunt convingatoare.
3. consumerismul este mai degraba si in buna masura de factura relativa (consumam nu pentru a consuma in sine, ci pentru ca altii consuma) si de aceea nu e capabil sa sporeasca fericirea chiar daca per total consumul creste in societate.
4. consumerismul unora ne complica inutil de mult viata tuturor.
5. competitivitatea specific umana poate fi canalizata in domenii ce nu duc la sporirea consumului material.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Egalitarism si moderatie pentru un viitor indelungat si pasnic al omenirii

Richard H. Robbins este SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor la departamentul de antropologie al Universitatii din Plattsburgh, SUA.
In lucrarea sa Global Problem and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), pp. 209-210, Robbins scrie:

"William Rees, an urban planner at the University of British Columbia, estimated that it requires four to six hectares of land to maintain the consumption level of the average person from a high-consumption country. The problem is that in 1990, worldwide there were only 1.7 hectares of ecologically productive land for each person. He concluded that the deficit is made up in core countries by drawing down the natural resources of their own countries and expropriating the resources, through trade, of peripheral countries. In other words, someone has to pay for our consumption levels.

… Our consumption of goods obviously is a function of our culture. Only by producing and selling things and services does capitalism in its present form work, and the more that is produced and the more that is purchased the more we have progress and prosperity. The single most important measure of economic growth is, after all, the gross national product (GNP), the sum total of goods and services produced by a given society in a given year. It is a measure of the success of a consumer society, obviously, to consume.

However, the production, processing, and consumption, of commodities requires the extraction and use of natural resources (wood, ore, fossil fuels, and water); it requires the creation of factories and factory complexes whose operation creates toxic byproducts, while the use of commodities themselves (e.g. automobiles) creates pollutants and waste. Yet of the three factors environmentalists often point to as responsible for environmental pollution — population, technology, and consumption — consumption seems to get the least attention. One reason, no doubt, is that it may be the most difficult to change; our consumption patterns are so much a part of our lives that to change them would require a massive cultural overhaul, not to mention severe economic dislocation. A drop in demand for products, as economists note, brings on economic recession or even depression, along with massive unemployment."

Ce concluzii tragem de aici?

1. bogatia mondiala nu este infinita, din contra limitata si pe masura ce timpul trece, ea se reduce drastic. Astfel, daca intr-un loc avem supra-consum, automat in alte parti vom avea sub-consum, saracie si foamete.

2. consumerismul inseamna accelerarea degradarii si saracirii resurselor naturale, iar sistemul capitalist nu face, prin natura lui, decat sa exacerbeze consumul.

Astfel, reducerea drastica a consumului in anumite parti ale lumii, in paralele cu sporirea, cat se poate de moderata, a consumului in zonele sarace pare o solutie egalitarista de iesire din impas. Intr-adevar, dupa cum putem citi pe saitul Global Issues,

"As hinted above, within the current economic system of “perpetual growth”, we risk being locked into a mode of development that is:

  • destructive, in the long run, to the environment
  • a contributing factor to poverty around the world
  • a contributing factor to hunger amongst such immense wealth
  • and numerous other social and ecological problems"
Daramarea capitalismului consumerist si inlocuirea lui cu un egalitarism rational este unica sansa de a pastra speranta umanitatii intr-un viitor indelungat si normal.