Hasta la victoria siempre

Monday, June 30, 2008

O nenorocire nu vine niciodata singura

In studiul "Desire to Acquire: Powerlessness and Compensatory Consumption", publicat in Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 35, 18 aprilie 2008, cercetatorii Derek D. Rucker si Adam D. Galinsky de la Northwestern University demonstreaza ca inegalitatile socio-economice duc in practica la consumerism. Ele creaza false nevoi, nascand in cei de pozitie inferioara complexe de inferioritate pe care respectivii se straduiesc sa le depaseasca achizitionandu-si obiecte valoroase, oricat de precara ar fi situatia lor financiara. Astfel, inegalitatile amintite se leaga direct de maladia numita "consumerism", cele doua fiind precum tusea si junghiul.

Cateva pasaje relevante din articol:

Prezentare generala
"Three experiments examine how power affects consumers’ spending propensities. By integrating literatures suggesting that (a) powerlessness is aversive, (b) status is one basis of power, and (c) products can signal status, the authors argue that low power fosters a desire to acquire products associated with status to compensate for lacking power. Supporting this compensatory hypothesis, results showthat low power increased consumers’ willingness to pay for auction items and consumers’ reservation prices in negotiations but only when products were status related."

Luxul complexatilor
"consumer products. Although not examined with respect to power, there is evidence that consumers who perceive themselves to have resources are more likely to indicate stronger preferences for expensive (i.e., luxury) brands. For example, Mandel and colleagues (2006) found that participants who could easily imagine having future success indicated a greater preference for luxury brands compared to when they could not easily imagine being successful. The authors also found that this effect was mediated by participants’ perception that they would have greater resources (e.g., higher levels of income) in the future. Thus, in some cases, the perception of resources has been linked with a potential willingness to spend more on consumer goods (i.e., luxury brands)."

Nu doar bogatasii sunt bolnavi de consumerism
"Consumer health and well-being. We believe the present work also holds important implications for consumers’ welfare and well-being. Our findings suggest that consumers exposed routinely to states of low power might be more prone to overspending and sinking deeply into debt due to their increased willingness to pay for status-related products.
This problem might be exacerbated when feelings of powerlessness are derived from an actual lack of resources, especially given power’s link with socioeconomic status (French and Raven 1959; Keltner et al. 2003). Although effects on actual behavior remain speculative, our findings suggest that it is those low in socioeconomic status that might be most inclined to pay price premiums, which might lead to a downward spiral of constantly spending beyond one’s means in order to compensate for low power."

Ce trebuie sa retinem din acest studiu?
1. consumerismul trebuie combatut impreuna cu inegalitatile sociale, caci acestea il cauzeaza in buna masura.
2. nu doar bogatasii sunt inclinati spre cheltuieli mari si inutile, ci si restul, chiar daca in cazul lor riscurile de a falimenta sau degrada serios situatia financiara proprie este mai mare.
3. consumerismul este in buna parte un produs al complexelor de inferioritate si neputinta.

Articolul in sine poate fi gasit integral la adresa:
http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/rucker/DesiretoAcquire1.pdf

Un sumar al sau poate fi citit la:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080625193859.htm

Si sportul profesionist a cazut prada capitalismului

Reputatul jurnalist si comentator sportiv Cristian Topescu publica azi, 30 iunie, in ziarul Adevarul, un articol intitulat sugestiv "Zeul ban striveste aproape tot: Sanatatea si frumusetea sportului sunt grav afectate".
Ce afecteaza buna si normala desfasurare a sportului profesionist? Goana dupa profit, goana dupa glorie si faima. Sa-l urmarim, pe scurt:

"Victoria înseamnă glorie şi lauri. Aşa se spunea pe vremea lui Pierre de Coubertin. Acum, sportul-industrie afişează cifrele de afaceri, investiţiile publicitare, câştigurile sportivilor în afară de glorie şi de medalii. Din ce în ce mai conştienţi de această realitate, performerii vor să „stoarcă" maximum din anii lor de glorie, comparându-se cu artiştii.
Antrenorii sunt şi ei grăbiţi, încercând să valorifice potenţialul elevilor lor încă de la o vârstă foarte tânără. Din păcate, această grabă are, de multe ori, efecte negative asupra sănătăţii sportivilor, dopingul şi tratamentele cu substanţe capabile să favorizeze dezvoltarea masei musculare fiind cauzele cele mai frecvente. Chiar dacă mai sunt specialişti care cred că poţi obţine rezultate fără ajutorul chimiei, produsele stimulatoare continuă să fie căutate în lumea sportului.

În altă ordine de idei, camerele TV, microfoanele, popularitatea creată de ele, succesele şi „umilinţele" care alternează în ritmuri schizofrenice, mass-media care exagerează faptele, polemicile, toate acestea creează sportivilor un stres continuu. Mulţi sunt striviţi sub greutatea notorietăţii lor. Sportul este suma eforturilor permanente ale omului pentru a-şi depăşi propriile limite. Interesele economice, însă, duc la forţarea limitelor şi uneori la dezastrul sportivului."

Practicarea sportului nu poate insa reveni la normal si la menirea sa de asigurare a sanatatii, a tonusului si de canalizare a pornirilor competitive intr-un domeniu inofensiv decat atunci cand intreaga societate va renunta la a considera averea si statutul social ca fiind prioritare. Articolul poate fi citit integral la adresa: http://www.adevarul.ro/articole/zeul-ban-striveste-aproape-tot/357822

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Anomalii capitaliste

Aruncand o privire pe numarul din 24 iunie al ziarului Evenimentul Zilei, vad doua informatii ce confirma o buna parte a celor scrise pe blog: faptul ca sistemul capitalist duce la o saracire generala a populatiei, dublata de imbogatirea excesiva si continua a unei minoritati deja putred de avuta. Astfel, se observa ca acest sistem economic este croit exact invers fata de cum ar trebui pentru a spori fericiea generala: in loc sa imbunatateasca situatia financara a celor aflati sub pragul saraciei, el mai mult ii saraceste ori mentine la acelasi nivel, in schimb este benefic unui numar mic de oameni care oricum nu mai aveau nevoie de bani pentru a fi fericit.

Primul articol la care ma refer se numeste „Romanii se imprumuta ca sa scape de datorii” si este semnat de Ana Jitarita. Citez cateva fraze relevante: „O populaţie care trăieşte la limita sărăciei, care face împrumuturi mici la bănci pentru a-şi plăti alte datorii, sau pentru a achita facturi la întreţinere, ori care nu-şi poate permite nici măcar o rată pentru un frigider sau un aragaz nou. Aşa se vede populaţia României din studiul realizat de Grupul pentru Economie Aplicată (GEA), la solicitarea Asociaţiei Societăţilor Financiare (ALB), dat ieri publicităţii. Realizat în luna decembrie a anului trecut, sondajul indică faptul că o mare parte dintre români (în jur de 40%) nu pot suporta povara unui credit. Mai mult de 70% dintre români nu au contractat niciun credit bancar în ultimii şase ani şi numai 20% din populaţie avea un împrumut de nevoi personale. Studiul a fost realizat pe un eşantion de 1.237 de persoane din 100 de localităţi, marja de eroare fiind de ±/- 2,8%.”
http://www.evz.ro/articole/detalii-articol/809357/Romanii-se-imprumuta-ca-sa-scape-de-datorii/
Iata, deci, in ce stadiu a ajuns populatia Romaniei dupa 17 ani de capitalism.

Intr-un alt articol, cu titlul „Donatiile, motorul Americii”, Constantin Vlad scrie: „Preşedintele Federal Reserve (Banca Centrală a SUA), Ben Bernanke, a rostit recent un întreg discurs pe tema inegalităţii veniturilor oamenilor din America, arătându-se îngrijorat de faptul că aceasta ameninţă însuşi „dinamismul“ capitalismului. Prăpastia dintre săraci şi bogaţi s-a accentuat mai dramatic sub administraţia lui George W. Bush. Directorii de corporaţii şi alţi „executivi“ câştigă de 400 de ori mai mult decât „lucrătorul mediu“, raport de 20 de ori mai mare decât în 1965. Pe ansamblu, venitul mediu al minorităţii de 1% a americanilor superbogaţi a crescut cu 650 de procente în raport cu 1975, în timp ce „vasta majoritate“ a oamenilor de rând şi-a văzut micşorate veniturile cu aproximativ 3 la sută.”
http://www.evz.ro/articole/detalii-articol/809311/Donatiile-motorul-Americii/

Saracirea saracilor si imbogatirea bogatilor, acesta este capitalismul, sistemul cladit pe goana dupa profitul financia personal.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Din nou in apararea egalitarismului

Pe acest blog am sustinut repetat egalitarismul, conform caruia fiecare membru al societatii sa fie platit la fel si nicio meserie/ocupatie sa presupuna avantaje socio-economice fata de oricare altele. Motivul principal este reducerea consumerismului si materialismului, odata prin impunerea unei limite maxime de venit si, in al doilea rand, eliminand invidia si tendinta de a-i depasi pe ceilalti din punct de vedere al averii.
Pe langa aceste efecte benefice insa, egalitarismul are multe alte merite, cum ar fi imbunatatirea sanatatii populatiei si coeziunii sociale. Aceasta justifica cu atat mai mult punerea sa in practica.
In articolul lor „Income inequality and health status: a nursing issue”, publicat in Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, Volume 25, Number 2, December 2006 - February 2007 , pp. 84-88(5), cercetatorii Peter Massey si David Durrheim, specialisti in sanatatea populatiei si comunitatilor, trec in revista cateva dintre dovezile recente conform carora egalitarismul imbunatateste sanatatea generala a populatiei, inegalitatile socio-economice avand efectul opus.

Egalitarismul, favorabil sanatatii generale a populatiei
Pentru a sustine acest fapt, cei doi oameni de stiinta scriu:

„The association between socio-economic status and mortality rates has been established for many years and validated in many countries (WHO 2003), including Australia, where McMichael (1985) found that male mortality rates in the 1970’s had an inverse relationship with social class. In New Zealand, males aged 15-64 years in the lowest socio-economic group had a mortality rate 3.5 times higher than those in the highest socio-economic group during the 1970’s and 1980’s (Marshall et al 1993). Scotland had higher mortality rates than England and Wales in 1980-1982, with greater Scottish deprivation identified as the key determinant of this difference (Carstairs and Morris, 1989).

The Population Health Forum, a group of academics and other people who work to build a healthier society, argue that the greatest health hazard is the economic gap between the rich and the poor (Population Health Forum 2007). More than a decade ago reports indicated that income inequality rather than absolute income was the most important factor underlying the profound and increasing mortality differentials in Scotland (McLoone and Boddy 1994), the USA and Britain (Davey-Smith and Egger 1993).
The effect of income inequality on population health status continues to be described. Recently, manual workers were found to be at a higher risk of death
than non-manual workers when they live in areas with higher income inequality within Sweden (Henriksson et al 2007). Poverty and income inequality correlated with teenage pregnancy rates (Crosby and Holtgrave 2006). The risk of suicide in young adults has also been associated with income inequality (Miller et al 2005). In an ecological study of 21 developed countries, Pickett et al (2005) found that obesity, calorie consumption and diabetes mortality were
associated with income inequality. The effects of income inequality were also seen at a young age, with 11 year old children in countries with high income inequality reporting more episodes of drunkenness than the same age group in ountries with low income inequality (Elgar et al 2005).
Even in Italy, a country where health care and education are universally available and a strong social safety net exists, income inequality had an independent and more powerful effect on life expectancy at birth than did individual income and educational attainment (De Vogli et al 2005). In an analysis of combined Canadian and USA data, Ross et al (2000) found that income inequality was a significant explanatory variable of mortality, with
a 1% increase in the share of income to the poorer half of working age-group households modelled to reduce mortality by nearly 21 deaths per 100,000
per year.

Exista si studii care contesta legatura dintre inegalitati socio-economice si deprecierea sanatatii populatiei, insa ele sunt minoritare si sufera de defecte
„Although some commentators still question the relationship between income inequality and population health, a recent authoritative review of the evidence (Wilkinson and Pickett 2006), including 168 analyses in published 155 reports, found that a large majority (70 per cent) of these analyses conclude that poorer health was experienced in societies where income differences were bigger.
According to Wilkinson and Pickett (2006) many of the studies that showed no association were measuring inequality in small populations with a limited range
of social class differences and thus were unable to show the association.
In a review of the social determinants of health, the World Health Organisation (2003) concluded that relative poverty, as well as absolute poverty and social exclusion, had major impacts on health. The distribution of income and inequality of its distribution is the main factor defining relative poverty.”

Articolul citat, care cuprinde si explicatii fata de modul in care inegalitatile deterioreaza comunitatile si societatile, poate fi descarcat intergral de la adresa:
http://www.ajan.com.au/Vol25/AJAN_25-2_Massey.pdf

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Adevaratele nevoi psihologice umane

In studiul "What Is Satisfying About Satisfying Events? Testing 10 Candidate Psychological Needs", publicat in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2001. Vol. 80, No. 2, 325-339, patru cercetatori--Kennon M. Sheldon (University of Missouri—Columbia), Andrew J. Elliot si Youngmee Kim (University of Rochester) si Tim Kasser (Knox College) descriu mai multe experimente psihologice efectuate in scopul de a discerne nevoile psihologie reale ale oamenilor.

"Three studies compared 10 candidate psychological needs in an attempt to determine which are truly most fundamental for humans. Participants described "most satisfying events" within their lives and then rated the salience of each of the 10 candidate needs within these events. Supporting self-determination theory postulates (Ryan & Deci, 2000)—autonomy, competence, and relatedness, were consistently among the top 4 needs, in terms of both their salience and their association with event-related affect.
Self-esteem was also important, whereas self-actualization or meaning, physical thriving, popularity or influence, and money-luxury were less important. This basic pattern emerged within three different time frames and within both U.S. and South Korean samples and also within a final study that asked, "What's unsatisfying about unsatisfying events?" Implications for hierarchical theories of needs are discussed."

Asadar, cercetarile lor dezvaluie ca nevoile de autonomie, competenta, relatii sociale si respect de sine sunt cu adevarat fundamentale pentru buna-starea noastra psihica, pe cand popularitatea, puterea, banii si luxul sunt mult mai putin importante.

Robustetea studiului
"What are the fundamental psychological needs? The results of these three studies nicely support our new method for addressing this important question. First, we found relatively consistent results across our two criteria for determining needs. This is important because it lends greater confidence to our conclusions, and it also suggests that participants are aware of "what's satisfying about satisfying events." Second, we found largely consistent results across three different time frames (i.e., the most satisfying event of the last week, of the last month, and of the entire semester). This is important because it indicates that our results are not artifacts of the particular time frame addressed. Third, although our results were generally consistent across two different cultures, there were also meaningful and interpretable differences. This is important because it suggests that our measurement approach is able to detect effects consistent with other findings in the literature. Finally, the method yielded results quite consistent with theory, in particular Deci and Ryan's (1985, in press) self-determination theory but also with the many theories that posit self-esteem as a fundamental human need (Epstein, 1990; Greenberg et al., 1995; Leary, 1999). This consistency is important because it suggests that our new approach may supply a fruitful new means of confirming and perhaps extending existing theories of optimal experience."

Rezultatele studiului
"Our results suggest that autonomy, relatedness, competence, and self-esteem should be placed at the "top" of the hierarchy (although, again, the relative ordering of these four needs may vary from culture to culture). Security, self-actualization-meaning, and physical thriving occupy a position of lower importance within the hierarchy. [...]
Finally, popularity-influence and money-luxury are of little or no importance, and money-luxury experiences may even be detrimental to satisfaction, at least considered relative to the other needs. In other words, what experiential contents and characteristics make people happiest, and thus qualify as psychological needs? According to the current research, the answer is autonomy, competence, relatedness, and self-esteem. Security may also be a need, which becomes salient in times of privation. Pleasure-stimulation, self-actualization meaning, popularity-influence, and physical thriving are less important, and we would tend to deny them "need" status. Least deserving of need status is money-luxury. Although further work is required, we suggest that these findings may have strong relevance for society's goal of providing optimal social and developmental environments for its citizens (Kahneman, Diener & Schwarz, 1999)."

Concluziile studiului sunt asadar clare. Autonomia, independenta, competenta si apropierea de altii sunt cu adevarat nevoi psihologice, in plan secund vine nevoia de securitate, prezenta in special in conditii extreme, pe cand placerile, popularitatea si influenta sociala sunt atat de lipsite de importanta, incat nici macar nu merita statutul de nevoi. Pe ultimul loc, ca si importanta pentru psihicul uman, se afla averea si luxul. Intelegem astfel din nou ca o societatea in care statutul, averea si influenta sunt impinse pe primul plan (asa cum se intampla acum, in capitalism) este una aberanta, in neconcordanta cu nevoile psihicului uman. Avem nevoie de o societatea care sa la asigure tuturor un venit garantat, locuinta si hrana, posibilitatea de a se specializa in meseria dorita si sporirea coeziunii sociale. Egalitarismul socialist, prin accentul pus pe cooperare in loc de competitie, egalitate materiala in loc de inegalitati aducatoare de invidie si pe eraducarea somajului este aceasta solutie.

Studiul integral, impreuna cu o descriere a sa realizata de Asociatia Psihologilor Americani, poate fi citit de la adresa:
http://www.apa.org/releases/needs.html

Friday, June 13, 2008

Deci si Ryan sumarizeaza cercetarile despre relatia bani-statut-fericire

Intr-un articol intitulat „ON HAPPINESS AND HUMAN POTENTIALS: A Review of Research on Hedonic and EudaimonicWell-Being” (Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2001. 52:141–66), Richard M. Ryan si Edward L. Deci, de la Departamentul de Psihologie al Universitatii din Rochester, au realizat o trecere in revista a concluziilor studiilor efectuate asupra relatiei dintre bani, statut si fericire.
Din recenzia lor reiese ca a trai intr-o tara stabila din punct de vedere economic, capabila sa le asigure cetatenilor iesirea din saracie, este preferabil fata de traiul intr-un tinut sarac, insa acumularea de bani peste aceasta ambitie modesta (depasirea saraciei) este in cel mai bun caz inutila, in cel mai rau daunatoare.

Depasirea saraciei, nu imbogatirea
"In a recent review, E Diener & R Biswas-Diener (unpublished) summarized
research on wealth and SWB as follows: (a) people in richer nations are happier than people in poorer nations; (b) increases in national wealth within developed nations have not, over recent decades, been associated with increases in SWB; (c) within-nation differences in wealth show only small positive correlations with happiness; (d) increases in personal wealth do not typically result in increased happiness; and (e) people who strongly desire wealth and money are more unhappy than those who do not. Although they reviewed different theoretical accounts of these findings, they concluded that there remain too many unknowns to supply an integratedmodel. However, they stated that avoiding poverty, living in a rich country, and focusing on goals other than material wealth are associated with attaining happiness."

Asadar, populatia din tarile bogate este mai fericita decat cea din tarile sarace, sporirea bogatiei tarilor deja avute nu sporeste fericirea, bogatii nu sunt mai fericiti decat restul cetatenilor din tarile stabile economic, sporirea averii personale nu sporeste fericirea si oamenii preocupati de sporirea averii personale sunt mai nefericiti decat restul.

De ce, insa, locuitorii din tarile sarace sunt mai nefericiti? Autorii explica:
"Why might wealth be more important for increasing life satisfaction among people in poorer nations? Although there is not yet a clear answer, one key issue concerns the functional freedoms that accompany national wealth for all cultural members. A poor infrastructure within a nation constrains opportunities for stable relationships, personal expressiveness, and productivity. Thus, not only can national poverty interfere with satisfaction of physical needs, such as food and shelter, but it can also block access to exercising competencies, pursuing interests, and maintaining relationships, which would provide psychological need satisfaction. Thus, within poorer nations, the value of money for satisfying needs may be more critical than it is within a nation where most citizens have access to some basic resources for pursuing their goals."

Ceea ce se intelege din explicatia lui Deci&Ryan este ca o tara ar trebui sa le asigure cetatenilor un minim ("basic") de bunastare, cu care sa-si poata satisface nevoile materiale de baza (hrana, adapost, imbracaminte etc.) si unele preocupari intelectuale. Orice e mai mult de acest prag modest, devine inutil.

Materialistii, mai nefericiti decat restul
"Although the hedonic viewpoint would have little reason to view money as a problematic goal, a long tradition of eudaimonic and organismic theorists have questioned wealth and materialism as life goals. Drawing from the eudaimonic view and from SDT, Kasser&Ryan (1993, 1996) related money and materialism to well-being. They predicted that people who place a strong value on wealth relative to goals such as close relationships, personal growth, and community generativity, which are more closely related to basic psychological need fulfillment, should show lower well-being.
From a eudaimonic view, placing too much priority on material goods (as well as goals such as fame and image), which in themselves do not satisfy basic psychological needs, can at best only partially satisfy the needs, and at worst can distract from foci that would yield need fulfillment.
Further, because achieving money, fame, and image is often contingent on engaging in nonautonomous activities, emphasizing such goals may detract from a sense of authenticity and result in lower well-being. Beyond the relations of relative values to well-being, this view further suggests that once a person is beyond poverty level (and thus has sustenance and security) the attainment of more wealth should add little to well-being, whereas attaining fulfillment of goals more deeply connected with the basic psychological needs should directly enhance well-being.
Several studies have supported this overallmodel, showing that the more people focus on financial andmaterialistic goals, the lower theirwell-being. This result has been confirmed both in developed countries such as theUnited States and Germany (Kasser & Ryan 1996, Schmuck et al 2000) and in less economically developed nations such as Russia and India (e.g. Ryan et al 1999). Furthermore, both cross sectional (Ryan et al 1999) and longitudinal (Sheldon & Kasser 1998) studies suggest that, whereas progress toward intrinsic goals enhances well-being, progress toward extrinsic goals such as money either does not enhance well-being or does so to a lesser extent. Finally, as Carver & Baird (1998) found, the relation between money and well-being is in part a function of the loss of autonomy associated with this life goal."

Pe scurt, cei doi cercetatori au sumarizat din literatura de specialitate ceea ce am tot spus pe blog: preocuparea fata de comunitate, relatii interpersonale, propria dezvoltarea intelectuala sunt surse garantate de fericire, pe cand interesul fata de imbogatire nu, din contra.

Concluzia
"In sum, work in both the hedonic and eudaimonic traditions converges on the point that money does not appear to be a reliable route to either happiness or well-being. The relation of wealth to well-being is at best a low positive one, although it is clear that material supports can enhance access to resources that are important for happiness and self-realization. There appear to bemany risks to poverty but few benefits to wealth when it comes to well-being. Furthermore, studies show specifiable eudaimonic hazards for those who overly value wealth and material goods."

Pe scurt, preocuparile noastre financiare trebuie sa fie doar de evitare a saraciei, orice altceva in plus fiind inutil, daca nu de-a dreptul daunator. Odata depasit pragul saraciei, interesul fata de activitati non-financiare trebuie sa primeze daca vrem sa ne sporim fericirea.
Articolul din care am citat poate fi descarcat complet de la adresa:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Butan: o noua dovada ca sistemul capitalist aduce nefericirea

In Butan, odata unul dintre cele mai fericite state din lume, fericirea scade vertiginos. Familiile se dezintegreaza, coeziunea sociala scade, criminalitatea creste, asmenea violentei in scoli. Care este insa cauza acestei decaderi? Nu ar trebui sa mire pe nimeni cand va afla ca motivul acestor nenorociri este chiar capitalismul consumerist, care infecteaza de cativa ani Butanul.
Intr-un articol recent, datand din 14 noiembrie 2007, intitulat "Bhutan's falling happiness index" si publicat in revista americana Marketplace, sunt descrise efectele pe care "cultura" vestica, orientata spre consumerism, le-a avut asupra tarii in cauza. Afirmatiile sunt sustinute de intelectuali de seama, atat localnici cat si specialisti de talie mondiala, ca Layard sau Easterlin.

In deschidere are cuvantul Lisa Napoli, jurnalista autoare a articolului: "Since satellite TV exposed its people to a foreign consumer culture, change has come rapidly -- and not for the better, say some. Once upon a time, the devout Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan was as simple as its ancient music. Few tourists were permitted, television wasn't allowed, and the king decreed that Gross National Happiness, rather than economic growth, would be the guiding principle of his nation. [...] And then, seven years ago, Bhutan's king allowed in television and then the Internet, and that introduced a fever among the people for a different way of life, and for new products. At night now, young people in Bhutan's capital take off their traditional dress and put on imported blue jeans to go dancing."

Scriitoarea Kuenzang Roder vorbeste despre declinul fericirii si cauzele acestei stari de fapt in Butan: "We just came from this very agrarian society, where we valued everything, you know? Fifty years ago, we were not even a monetized economy -- everything was barter. Recent years, you know we just bombarded with consumer goods. And now, you get all these clothes, these cheap clothes. The culture of fast clothes is coming in, and it's a very confusing kind of experience. Now, shades of dissatisfaction with the traditional way of life are creeping in everywhere."

Doi psihologi celebrii, Richard Layard si Richard Easterlin confirma: "There's a recorded increase in family breakup, and recorded increase in crime -- especially violent crime. And there's a lot of worry in schools about violence in the playground". In opinia lui Layard, "Bhutan's growing commercialization has put a significant dent in the country's renowned happiness, for good reason. Layard: There's a lot of evidence that a rather cohesive societies often experience falls in psychological well-being when they go into economic take-off."

La randul sau, Easterlin spune: "Another happiness economist is professor Richard Easterlin. He says the pattern has repeated itself generation after generation, in country after country, including Bhutan's enormous neighbor to the north. Richard Easterlin: In China, income has tripled over the last 15 or 20 years -- and life satisfaction seems to have declined. It happens in developed countries, too. Measures of U.S. happiness stopped increasing back in the 1950s, whereas per-capita income has risen nearly 300 percent since then. Easterlin says the answer is in human psychology. Easterlin: Increases in income are matched by increases in aspirations for income. And the net effect is no change in happiness. So, in this view, Bhutan's new anxiety disorders may be a byproduct of the country's growing consumer culture -- the desire to achieve more, and to have more."

Damber Nirola, un medic psihiatru bastinas, conclude scurt si la obiect: "Where does that leave the Bhutanese? For those who feel as if Gross National Happiness is slipping away, psychiatrist Dr. Nerola offers some distinctly traditional words of wisdom: To be satisfied with what you are is happiness."

Articolul originar poate fi citit la adresa: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/11/14/consumed5_mmr_1/

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bogatasii, dependenti, bolnavi psihic si periculosi

Philip Slater este, printre altele, doctor in sociologie al Universitatii din Harvard, unde a si predat o perioada.
In doua excelente articole, Slater se refera la marii bogatasi, pe care ii descrie corect ca suferind de complexe si neimpliniri psihice, dependenti de bani intr-o masura similara cu dependentii de droguri.

Cu bogatasii la psihiatru
"Pathology is a matter of degree. If a man enjoys violent sports we don't consider him neurotic. If he has violent impulses that cannot be discharged in a healthy way, however -- impulses that are contained, but disturb him -- we send him to a therapist. And if he cannot contain those impulses, so he is a danger to others -- if he feels compelled to get into barroom brawls, for example, or abuse his wife -- we expect him to put in some jail time if he doesn't get psychotherapy.
Similarly, if someone lives in the expensive house he buys, makes use of all the rooms in it, wears the expensive clothes he buys, sails around the world in his yacht, no one would consider him neurotic. It may take more money to make him happy than it does the average person, but there's no more reason to call this pathology than there is to apply the term to someone who's happy living in a tent in the woods. Using money to buy pleasure, while often unsuccessful, is a legitimate strategy.

[...] What's unique about wealth addiction is that it's the only pursuit in our society for which excess is not only tolerated but encouraged. In all others we make a distinction between indulgence and over-indulgence--between enjoyment and abuse, between free choice and inner compulsion. The test of whether or not a person is addicted is his or her ability to decide how much is enough. We say people who can't stop drinking when they've had enough are alcoholics. We say people who can't stop eating when they've had enough are gluttons. We say people who can't stop checking to see if the door is locked are obsessive-compulsives. But people with a billion dollars who can't stop trying to make more we call successful."

Foamea de bani, semn de boala mentala
"Like those addicted to tobacco or heroin, the money addict has a hole in his ego. No matter how hard he tries to pump it up, his ego keeps leaking, and he has to have more money, more status, more power, more fame. [...]
We view becoming a billionaire, for example, as the pinnacle of success. But let's face it, anyone who needs a billion dollars to maintain his self-esteem is one sick puppy. [...]
Hoarding money, like hoarding power, or hoarding bottles of liquor in hiding places around the house, is a sign of dysphoria -- an inability to achieve contentment or satisfaction. Nothing is enough. Even too much isn't enough. Like those addicted to tobacco or heroin, the money addict has a hole in his ego. No matter how hard he tries to pump it up, his ego keeps leaking, and he has to have more money, more status, more power, more fame."[...]
Where this veers into pathology is when the money and the possessions are not consumed, but exist only to bolster the ego, to assert one's self-worth, or to attempt to compensate for some deep sense of deprivation. When H. L. Hunt was the richest man in the world, for example, a friend said of him that "he always felt poor in his own mind," and similar sentiments have been expressed by other famous billionaires. To own houses that are rarely occupied, yachts that never leave harbor, luxury cars that are never driven -- these are signs of deep pathology and should be recognized as such. When money is spent only to acquire status symbols, or to achieve power over others, we're in a situation similar to the man who cannot contain his violent impulses: the pathology is having a deleterious effect on others."

Bogatasii, o povara pentru societate
"All addicts cause suffering to those around them, but no addiction causes as much suffering as wealth addiction. During the Civil War thousands of men died because of defective goods sold to the Union Army--sales that created some of America's greatest early fortunes. For when a disaster occurs, while normal people are looking for ways to help out, wealth addicts are looking for money-making opportunities. Wars, plagues, depressions, floods--all have served as the foundation of some of the world's great fortunes (see my Wealth Addiction or Kenneth Lamott's The Moneymakers). And as the most severe addicts find novel ways to feed their habits, the non-addicted members of society have to work harder at socially useful jobs, for less and less pay, just to satisfy their own realistic material needs. [...]
For pathological greed is not a private matter. When billionaires avoid taxes, the burden falls on high school teachers and steelworkers, while our children's schools are underfunded and health care is out of reach for millions of Americans. When Wal-Mart pays its employees so little that they qualify for public assistance, American taxpayers pick up the tab. While the pathologically greedy have been getting their fixes, non-neurotic Americans are working harder than ever and making less money than they did 30 years ago. People who are addicted to money typically feel no satisfaction in it unless they know they're forcing someone else to feel as deprived as they themselves feel."

Banii cu greu pot cumpara fericirea
"Money can, of course, buy freedom from some kinds of unhappiness, but that's as far as it goes, by definition. Happiness, after all, is feeling things are great just as they are at this moment. Happiness, in other words, is not wanting. Yet our entire economic and social system is founded on people wanting things -- on our population being discontented, envious, unhappy. If Americans were happy and contented, our entire economy would collapse.
Our economy depends on finding ourselves wanting. Joy can't be purchased. It can't be acquired. It can't be achieved. You either experience it or you don't. Most Americans don't even know what it is. They think the kind of elation you feel when you win a game, or a contest, or come into some money, is joy. But joy isn't something that's caused. Joy is something you wake up with. And not just in the morning. Americans need to wake up and recognize a disease for what it is."

Trei lucruri trebuie sa intelegem: goana infinita spre tot mai multa avere este un semn de anormalitate si denota o personalitate roasa de complexe, un ego intr-o stare perpetua de inferioritate si care nu-si poate reveni oricat de mult ar acumula; bogatasii, prin lacomia lor patologica, sunt in stare sa puna interesele lor inguste si inutile mai presus de cele ale societatii (oamenilor normali) iar din cauza puterii lor financiare, chiar o poat face deseori; a cauta fericirea in conturi mari este o imbecilitate caci ea este o stare de spirit ce depinde prea putin de factori exteriori precum bancnote si obiecte.
Cele doua articole din care am citat, intitulate "It's the Pathology, Stupid", respectiv "It's Not Human Nature, It's a Disease?", pot fi citite integral la adresele: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-slater/its-the-pathology-stupi_b_84079.html
si http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-slater/its-not-human-nature-it_b_20295.html

Monday, June 9, 2008

Reducerea consumului bogatilor, imperativa

In 2004, WWF, adica World Wildlife Fund, a emis un raport, Living Planet Report, din care reiese ca omrnirea consuma, in medie, mai mult decat poate oferi planeta, afectand grav sanatatea ecosistemului si primejduind generatiile viitoare. Conform Global Footprint Network,

Prezentarea generala a Raportului
"On October 21, 2004, WWF International released its fifth Living Planet Report. The report uses new scientific analysis, provided by Global Footprint Network, to compare the Ecological Footprints of 150 nations.
The Living Planet Report 2004 includes more sophisticated data and analysis, more detailed time trends, and more robust results than years past. It confirms that ecological overshoot has become a reality: humanity is now consuming over 20 percent more natural resources than the Earth can produce, causing rapid declines in wild animal populations.
Designed to track humanity's demand on the Earth, the 2004 report illustrates how human consumption and production pressures continue to strain ecosystem health. It also uses Ecological Footprint analysis to highlight ways to reverse these trends and become less dependent on liquidating the planet's resources."

Principalele concluzii:

  • The global Ecological Footprint - humanity's consumption of natural resources expressed in land and sea surfaces necessary to renew them - is an average of 2.2 global hectares (5.4 global acres) per person, while the area available to support the global population (6.3 billion) is an average of 1.8 global hectares (4.4 global acres) per person.
  • These 2.2 global hectares are 20 percent more than the global 1.8 hectares per person that exist - the latter area also needs to accommodate all non-human species. As a consequence, humanity's ecological overshoot exceeds Earth's regenerative capacity by at least 20 percent.
  • Furthermore, the global Ecological Footprint grew by 150 percent between 1961 and 2000.
  • From 1991 to 2001, essentially the ten years after the United Nations Rio conference in 1992, the Footprint in the 27 wealthiest countries increased on average by 8 per cent per person, while in the rest of the world, it shrank by 8 per cent per person. In the same time period, the biocapacity available worldwide decreased 12 per cent per person.
  • As humanity's Footprint grows, the world's wild vertebrate populations shrink. The report's Living Planet Index shows a 40 percent decline in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species populations during 1970 to 2000. While freshwater species have experienced the most dramatic decline since 1970, 50 percent, terrestrial and marine species have suffered a 30 percent population decline since the '70s. Data is based on population trends from 555 terrestrial vertebrate species, 323 freshwater vertebrate species, and 267 marine vertebrate species."
Ce ne spune asadar Living Planet Report 2004? Ca in lumea de azi, tarile bogate consuma la un nivel nepermis de mare si ca tarile sarace consuma din ce in ce mai putin. Adica bogatii tot mai bogati, dincolo de orice limita a bunul-simt si responsabilitatii, iar saracii tot mai saraci, tot dincolo de orice limita a bunului simt. Redistribuirea averilor, laolalta cu egalitarismul pus scrupulos in practica, pana la ultimele consecinte, par a fi solutiile capabile de a ne salva din aceasta situatie aberanta.
Care sunt solutiile propuse de realizatorii Raportului?

" Ecological overshoot can be eliminated by reducing humanity's Ecological Footprint or increasing global biocapacity. The Footprint can be reduced in three ways:
  • Lowering world population;
  • Reducing per capita consumption; and
  • Implementing more resource efficient technologies for providing goods and services.
Biocapacity can be increased by expanding global bioproductive area, improving resource management, and strengthening the health of ecosystems.
Choices for reducing Footprints vary with socio-economic conditions. People consuming at a level barely adequate for survival have little margin for reducing their Footprints. Other groups, such as more wealthy urban dwellers with higher levels of consumption have more options for reducing their Footprint, even while maintaining or even increasing their quality of life.
WWF recognizes that conservation is not possible without sustainable development. Lasting conservation depends on reducing human demand on the biosphere, and this reduction is impossible if it is not done in fair ways. Reduction efforts without fairness only create more conflicts. To succeed with conservation, WWF has become a leading advocate for sustainable development."
http://www.footprintnetwork.org/gfn_sub.php?content=lpr2004

Asadar, reducerea consumului categoriilor avute apare inclusiv in concluziile Raportului o solutie ce se impune. Autorii au dreptate si cand afirma ca aceasta scadere a consumului nu are implicatii negatice asupra calitatii vietii, din contra.
Raportul poate fi descarcat integral de la adresa:
http://www.panda.org/news_facts/publications/living_planet_report/lpr04/index.cfm

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Progresul economic, aproape irelevant pentru fericirea unei tari

Ideea ca bunastarea economica echivaleaza cu fericirea populatiei este o prejudecata larg raspandita. Capitalismul, cu accentul sau scelerat pus pe competitie, profit si statut social, nu face decat sa o intareasca.
Iata insa ca in 2006, New Economics Foundation, cu sediul in UK, alcatuita dintr-o numeroasa echipa de specialisti in economie, psihologie, sociologie, au alcatuit un top al celor mai fericite tari. Cei trei factori in functie de care a fost judecata clasificarea au fost: impactul asupra mediului, buna-starea cetatenilor si durata de viata. Care au fost cela mai fericite tari?

1 Vanuatu; 2 Colombia; 3 Costa Rica; 4 Republica Dominicana; 5 Panama; 6 Cuba; 7 Honduras; 8 Guatemala; 9 El Salvador; 10 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; 11 Saint Lucia; 12 Vietnam.

Pe de alta parte, Marea Britanie ocupa locul 108; Germania-81; Spania-87; Canada-111; Australia-139; SUA-150.

Lista completa, impreuna cu detalii in dreptul fiecarei tari, poate fi gasita pe saitul fundatiei, la: http://www.happyplanetindex.org/list.htm

Ce demonstreaza insa acest studiu? Conform unei relatari oferite de The Independent, "By contrast the Group of Eight (G8) rich nations, whose leaders gather for their annual summit in St Petersburg this weekend, languish near the bottom of the list. The host, Russia, comes in at No 172 out of 178, followed by the United States at 150 and France and 128. The UK comes in at 108 - just above Laos, but below Libya. [...] countries that have historically been beset with poverty and disease languish at the bottom. Zimbabwe, where the population is currently coping with inflation above 1,200 per cent, has a life expectancy of 37 years and one of the lowest readings for satisfaction, is the unhappiest country. Its near neighbours Swaziland, Burundi and Congo are not far ahead.
But for the rich countries, it is the ecological harm they inflict that offsets any material happiness. The oil-rich United Arab Emirates (154) has the heaviest ecological footprint, followed by the US. At the other extreme, Vanuatu, an archipelago of 80 islands in the western Pacific inhabited by fewer than 250,000 people, has a tiny ecological footprint, reasonable longevity and high life satisfaction - perhaps linked to its unspoilt coastlines and unique rainforests."
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/happiness-is-a-tiny-island-in-the-pacific-407607.html

Conform unei relatari BBC: " Happiness doesn't cost the Earth. People can live long, happy lives without consuming large amounts of the Earth's resources, a survey suggests. The 178-nation "Happy Planet Index" lists the south Pacific island of Vanuatu as the happiest nation on the planet, while the UK is ranked 108th.
One of the authors, Nef's Nic Marks, said the aim of the index was to show that well-being did not have to be linked to high levels of consumption. is clear that no single nation listed in the index has got everything right, but it does reveal patterns that show how we might better achieve long and happy lives for all while living within our environmental means," Mr Marks said. The small island state of Vanuatu is situated in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, and has a population of 209,000. Its economy is built around small-scale agriculture and tourism. Latin American nations dominate the top 10 places in the index, while African and Eastern European nations fill most of the bottom 10. Among the world's largest economies, Germany is ranked 81st, Japan 95th, while the US comes in at 150th."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5169448.stm

Pe scurt, dupa cum a zis Simon Bullock, coordonatorul Friends of the Earth: "The current crude focus on GDP is outdated, destructive and doesn't deliver a better quality of life."

Intr-adevar, faptul ca tari sarace precum Vanuatu, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba sau Vietnam sunt printre cele mai echilibrate si realizate in privinta ecologiei, satisfactiei de viata si duratei de viata, pe cand giganti economici precum SUA, Germania, Marea Britanie etc. ocupa locuri codase, dovedeste cu prisosinta ca accentul pus pe munca, dezvoltare economica si consum este o imbecilitate de proportii.

PIB-ul nu este masura corecta a fericirii unei natiuni
Dupa cum scriu chiar autorii studiului:
"GDP was never intended to function as an indicator of well-being. Even the economist Simon Küznets, a central figure in the development of GDP, in 1934 urged the US Congress to remember “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income.” Yet, until quite recently, it has routinely been assumed to be a reliable proxy for standard of living.

The logic underlying this was that- growth in GDP implies economic activity, which in turn implies that people are spending money and improving their quality of life. But GDP turns out to be a poor indicator of welfare in several key respects. For a start, interpreting it as a standard-of-living measure means assuming that income is strongly correlated with national well-being, such that -all else being equal general well-being will increase as the economy grows. It has been repeatedly proven in recent years that this is simply not true. Undoubtedly, a relationship exists between income and well-being, but after a certain, surprisingly low level of GDP is reached, the strength of this relationship declines markedly.

GDP is also insensitive to the distribution of income within countries. A country with high rates of poverty, a small but affluent elite, and high exports could have a similar GDP per capita to one with comparably little inequality and a thriving domestic economy. GDP also fails to distinguish money spent correcting or compensating for undesirable events. This can lead to some apparently perverse results. For example, it has been estimated that the Enron accounting scandal may have contributed up to $1 billion to US GDP. Natural disasters - hurricanes, floods and so on -also tend to boost GDP, because huge amounts of public money are typically spent in mitigating the resulting damage. From an environmental perspective this is a disastrous oversight - GDP counts resource consumption, but takes no account whatsoever of the extent to which it can be maintained, or its real cost."
http://www.happyplanetindex.org/why.htm

Concluziile sunt clare: pentru a obtine un nivel de fericire ridicat al populatiei, nu avem nevoie de o economie dezvoltata, de niveluri ridicate de consum, ci de un mediu inconjurator curat, alaturi de satisfactia generala a populatiei si o durata lunga de viata. Care pot fi obtinute, dupa cum se vede, fara a avea o economie extraordinara. O noua dovada ca mania materialista e o pista falsa in cautarea fericirii.

Studiul NEF poate fi descarcat integral de la adresa:
http://www.happyplanetindex.org/download.htm

Pesta adusa de capitalismul-consumerist


Keith Brooks este masterand al Universitatii din York, specializandu-se in studiul consumerismului, activismului si in domeniul schimbarii structurii sociale. Intr-un excelent articol intitulat "The Modern Consumer:
Overtaxed, Overwhelmed, and Overdrawn", Brooks evidentiaza dezastruoasele efecte avute de ciuma consumerista in tarile capitaliste. In urma flagelului, mediul inconjurator se degradeaza, inegalitatile economice ating proportii monstruoase, societatea este sufocata de kitchurile si non-valorile corporatiste iar viata oamenilor se indreapta spre epuizare, nicidecum spre sporirea sau macar stagnarea nivelurilor de satisfactie.

Magnitudinea flagelului consumerist

"It has been argued that consumerism, rather than democracy or capitalism won the ideological battle of the 20th century (see Flavin, 2003) and is the defining characteristic of modern developed nations. The consumerist zeal is palpable in the U.S. where consumerism enjoys near hegemonic status, tied to notions of freedom, choice and economic prosperity. Consumerism is valourized to such a degree that George Bush Sr. declared a National Consumers Week in 1989 (American Presidency Project) essentially stating that consumerism is both a right and a virtue. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 George W. Bush Jr. asked Americans to go shopping, claiming that if Americans didn’t feel free to shop, the terrorists had already won (Barber, 2007). Consumerism is so central to the American psyche that people who willingly curbed their consumption have been accused of being “un-American” (Caldwell, 2007). While consumerism may not be as central to Canadian identity as it is to the American, the situation in Canada and other developed countries is not much different. Our malls are just as busy, our public spaces as full of advertisements and shopping is a national pastime. [...]
Aggregate and per-capita consumer spending is greater now than ever before (Assadourian et al., 2004). It seems that nothing is sacred or beyond the reach of the consumer culture. Whether consumption is used to help us fit in, or whether it is used to help us stand out, our identity is structured around our consumption. We are what we buy. We are addicted to consumerism and while its economic benefits are clear, it has devastating effects on society."

Excesul de consum, incurajat de capitalism
"The word consumerism first emerged to describe the movement to protect the rights of consumers, but recent critiques of consumerism focus more on the economic rationale that supports mass consumption and the incredible importance our society attaches to material possessions. Early capitalism focused on the production side of the economy, but now the focus is on the consumption side. The protestant work ethic that Weber argued allowed capitalism to thrive has now been replaced by a hedonistic consumer ethic that demands we consume and equates private greed with public good
(Barber, 2007). Consumerism is understood to be good for the country and good for the individual; it keeps the economy growing and allows individuals to pursue the happiness that is believed to lie at the end of a successful shopping spree or bargain hunt.
The roots of consumerism can be traced to many different places. Some attribute Adam Smith with birthing the consumer ethic when he said “consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production” (from the Wealth of Nations, quoted in Daunton and Hilton, 2001; p. 9). Some trace consumerism to the development of post WWII suburbia, which Lizabeth Cohen refers to as “the landscape of mass consumption” (2003, p.6).
Others posit that consumerism took hold in United States in 1960, with the introduction of the Consumer Bill of Rights by John F. Kennedy. Whatever its roots, consumerism is embraced by nations and individuals alike and the consumer utopia, the new American Dream, has now become the dream of many developing nations."

Consumerismul, inamicul mediului inconjurator

"The true consequences of consumption are hard to see, but what we choose to consume and how much we consume influences the degree to which we impact the natural environment. Humans’ environmental impacts are a function of both resource consumption and waste production (Diamond, 2005; p. 351), both of which are exacerbated by consumerism. Unfortunately, there has never “been any attempt systematically to create a situation where all costs and benefits are allowed for in deciding whether or not to consume” (Carr-Hill and Lintott, 2002: p. 15) and the impacts
are largely hidden. Consumer culture impacts the environment to such a degree that the Worldwatch Institute dedicated the 2004 issue of their annual State of the World report to the consumer society. One of the best ways to understand environmental sustainability is in terms of “natural capital” (Steffen, 2006). This analogy equates the earth’s resources with capital, which if managed properly yields interest. In order to be living sustainably, we should be living off the interest (and if we were more thoughtful and purposeful about our resource use we could live quite well off the interest). But right now we’re spending the interest and taking a big bite out of the capital. North America and Europe run ecological deficits
(Barber, 2007). Globally, we’re in what ecologists refer to as “overshoot”, meaning that we are degrading the earth’s ecosystems faster than they can be renewed (Steffen, 2006).
Just like a bank account, less capital yields less interest. Everyday that we use more of the capital, the earth’s ability to support life is further diminished."

Risipa consumerista
"Humans also affect their environment through the production of waste. Often people equate waste with litter and point the finger at styrofoam cups and excessive packaging. Municipalities develop waste management strategies to divert household waste from landfills via recycling and composting and contemplate proposals to ban plastic bags. While these initiatives are commendable, they fail to address the issue that waste is generated throughout every product’s entire lifetime. It has been said that as little as 2% of the waste generated by human activity actually passes through our doors. In order for a consumer product to be available for purchase, raw resources are mined or otherwise procured, refined, and turned into a finished product, which is then packaged and shipped, often from long distances. By the time a product reaches the store shelf it has left behind it a legacy of waste. To make matters worse, many products are not built to last. The disposable nature of consumer goods is partially understandable since styles come and go, new gadgets constantly present themselves, waves of “creative destruction” continue to break, but our disposable world chews through massive amounts of resources and generates mountains of waste. Consumer electronics are often rendered obsolete within a couple years of purchase. “Consumer Reports says Americans threw away about 3 million tons of electronics in 2003. Some 700 million cell phones have already been thrown away worldwide, with 130 million disposed of in 2005 alone” (Elgin, 2007).
Waste from home electronics, called e-waste, is so abundant that in 2007 there were numerous Earth Day campaigns specifically targeting it. Most of our waste reductions strategies are geared towards dealing with waste as it leaves people’s homes but little attention is paid to the amount of waste generated in getting products to people’s homes. In order make a substantial reduction on the amount of waste generated, there will have to be a corresponding reduction in the amount of goods produced because waste isn’t just what you throw in the trash can."

Consumerismul incurajeaza inegalitatile socio-economice
"During the 1950s, advocates of consumerism in the U.S. claimed that greater consumption was the way to promote a more egalitarian distribution of wealth without requiring stringent political intervention (Cohen, 2003; p. 127). Fifty years of history have proven this thesis wrong. The economic and social disparity between individuals both within and among countries is greater than ever before and the situation continues to
worsen. In the U.S., one percent of the population controls 40% of the household wealth and the wealthiest twenty percent of the population is responsible for over half the country’s consumer spending (Holt and Schor, 2000; p vii).
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports that “the after-tax income gap has never been this high in at least 30 years, and it has been growing faster than ever since the late 1990s” (Yalnizyan, 2007; p. 3). In a global sense, while only 5% of the global population reside in Canada and the U.S, these two countries are responsible for 31% of consumer spending (Anderson, 2007). In 2006 the per capita GDP of the U.S. was over forty times greater than that of the twenty poorest countries. (www.cia.gov).
Benjamin Barber (2007) points out that the unfortunate reality is that it’s not profitable to produce goods for the needy because they have limited purchasing power. As Barber says, we’re in a period where the haves have no needs, but the needy have no means. In the interests of profit, instead of
servicing the needs of the needy, advertisers manufacture needs for the haves. This situation can be evidenced by the incredible sums of money spent on advertising. While the amount of money required to eradicate poverty by 2015 as set out in the UN Millennium Development Goals has still not been made available, spending on advertising is greater than ever. In 2005 the amount of money spent on advertising was approximately seven times the amount spent on aid."

Iata deci ca se confirma o data in plus faptul ca sistemul capitalist e potrivit doar pentru cei avuti, in timp ce zeci de milioane traiesc in saracie lucie. Evident, firmele capitaliste nu sunt interesate de ei, caci acestia nu au suficient de multi bani incat sa cumpere si sa le aduca profituri.

Capitalismul, bazat pe exploatarea Lumii a Treia
"Globalization is only exacerbating economic inequality. Now that companies are free to set up shop wherever they please, (which will be discussed in more detail below) it is in their best economic interest to do so in a country with low wages, thus pitting counties against each, under-cutting each other in a ruthless race to the bottom. The result
is an income gap that takes on epic proportions where the richest make millions while their labourers in the third world, some of whom toil in excess of eighteen hour days, don’t have access to clean drinking water and struggle to feed their families. In 1997 the workers in a garment factory in Jakarta were paid the equivalent of US$2 per day to make a product they couldn’t even properly name, because it is completely inappropriate for
their climate (Klein, 2000: p. xvii).
Consumerism is not closing the income gap; it’s prying it open and jamming it with toys made in Taiwan and t-shits from India.[...]
Economic globalization has intensified consumerism. As a result of free trade agreements most consumer goods are produced in developing countries where there is an abundance of cheap labour and access to resources, but consumed in countries were people have large disposable incomes. While the United States and Canada have become nations of consumers, countries like China, Indonesia, and South Korea have become
nations of producers. This split has resulted in reduced prices for consumer goods, which has correspondingly led to increases in consumption. It has also led to a situation where consumers don’t see how much waste is generated in the production of goods, because they are removed from the process of production by thousands of kilometres. It is well known that China is expected to become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and most analysts suggest that there is little we can do, but what they fail to mention is that many of these Chinese factories responsible for emitting pollutants into the atmosphere are making products which are destined for North American markets. It makes logical sense that a nation of producers correspondingly pollutes more, however it is less obvious to make that connection between our consumption and the production of waste when the evidence is thousands of kilometres away.
The search for the cheap labour and natural resources needed to supply developed nations with inexpensive consumer goods has led to the “proletarianization” of millions of people, privatizing common lands, turning people into landless labourers in a process Marx termed primitive accumulation (McNally, 2002; p. 77)."

Asadar, exploatarea crunta a muncitorilor din Lumea a Treia inseamna costuri de productie extrem de scazute si deci preturi relativ ieftine pentru pietele tarilor dezvoltate. Iar preturile relativ ieftine de acolo, coroborate de advertisingul capitalist (vezi mai jos) sporesc consumul pana la cote irationale.

Sufocati de apucaturile corporatiste
"advertising and the “brand bullies” into every aspect of North American culture. Our televisions have been inundated with ads for some time, but now virtually every facet of our social lives serves as yet another venue for marketers to catch our attention. Our streets are covered in billboards, subway stations and busses plastered with advertisements, even our garbage cans are selling something. Sports stadiums that used to be named for historical figures are now sponsored by corporations, Canada’s most
prominent literary award is sponsored by a bank, and virtually all arts production relies on corporate sponsors. Many of us even cover ourselves in advertisements, proudly displaying our brand savvy. Increasingly public schools, libraries and parks are being commercialized. The withdrawal or reduction of public funding from these institutions leaves them little option but to seek corporate sponsors. In many public schools in the U.S., privately owned Channel One is permitted to air commercials during classes in exchange for providing schools with audio-visual equipment (Barber, 2007).
In Klein’s book we hear the reason for the relentless encroachment of marketing into our daily lives when a marketing executive tells her “Consumers…are like roaches – you spray them and spray them and they get immune after a while” (2000, p. 9). I follow Klein when she says “That we live in a sponsored life is now a truism and it’s a pretty safe bet that as spending on advertising continues to rise we roaches will be treated to even more of these ingenious gimmicks, making it ever more difficult and more
seemingly pointless to muster even an ounce of outrage” (2000; p. 12).
Whether you blame marketers for advertising to us at every available opportunity, governments for cutting funding and forcing public institutions to ask for corporate hand-outs, or individuals for not fighting back, the end result is that everywhere we turn we are bombarded by messages encouraging us to buy something. Brands have become “cultural
accessories and lifestyle philosophers” (Klein, 2000: p. 16). The landscape is obscured by the brandscape. Not everyone is bothered by the abundance of logos covering every available nook and cranny, but to many it is a sign that we’ve gone too far.
It drives home the point that we live in branded world where it seems that everything we do is just another opportunity for someone to try and sell us something."

Pe scurt, corporatiile au pus gheara pe o parte insemnata a vietii sociale, transformand in goana lor animalica dupa profit intregi aspecte ale umanitatii in nimic altceva decat oportunitati de a mai stoarce un castig.

Suprema ironie: consumerismul nu ne face mai fericiti
Toata aceasta dementa consumerista ar fi putut fi jutificata, intr-o oarecare masura daca, desi degradeaza mediul, incurajeaza inegalitatile economice, exploateaza natiuni intregi si le mentine in saracie, m,acar i-ar fi facut mai fericiti pe cei care beneficiaza de rate exagerate de consum. Ceea ce insa nu e cazul.

"The benevolent nature of consumerism is being increasingly questioned in
wealthier countries in the wake of the publication of a number of studies showing that greater material wealth doesn’t equate with greater happiness. We often associate notions of happiness with an abundance of consumer goods and are led to believe that larger salaries and greater consumption will make us happier. When we’re feeling depressed, many of us head to the malls hoping to buoy our spirits. But studies have shown lasting happiness cannot be found through consumption. Sure, initially we might feel elated from purchasing something we’ve always wanted, or the newest coolest thing, but the feeling is often fleeting. In fact, we often end up feeling worse as a result of our consumption.
There’s even a commonly used turn of phrase, buyers remorse, to express the unhappiness that ultimately lies at the end of many purchases.
The number of people reporting they are “very happy” plateaued fifty years ago, while income and commensurate consumption levels have increased steadily (see Assadourian and Gardner, 2004; p. 164). The notion that you can’t buy happiness is even gracing the front pages of newspapers (Herst, 2007).
Studies are showing that happiness can be found rather simply, and without spending a nickel. Happiness results from two things: meeting one’s expectations, and feeling that one is faring well relative to others.
Unfortunately, our expectations are constantly raised. In our modern consumerist society, we’re constantly keeping up with the Jones’, caught up in what philosopher Mark Kingwell termed a “consumerist arms race” (2000, p. 215). When comparing ourselves to others, most of us feel that we deserve at least as big a piece of the pie as anyone else, if not an even greater slice. “Most people… would prefer [to make] $50,000 while others made $25,000 to earning $100,000 while others made $250,000” (Kingwell, 2000; p. 214). The point here is that it isn’t important how much money we make; it’s important mow much we make relative to others. These two trends, continually rising expectations and the relative nature of wealth, would seem to suggest that there is no logical point at which we fill find satisfaction through consumption. The bar continues to be raised. Canadians and Americans have greater levels of work related stress, seek out more therapy, use more medications to cope with the demanding lifestyles we’ve adopted in order to consume more things we don’t need. Consumerism isn’t making us happier; it’s making us busier. [...]
As mentioned above, there is no logical end point to acquisition. The consequence of this insatiable desire for goods is that in order to afford them, we now work harder than ever. “Those of us in the most prosperous parts of the world now work longer hours, commute farther and sleep less – all in the service of the good life” (Kingwell, 2000: p. 217-18). The end result is that even though the wealthiest of us have no real needs, we continue to feel like our needs are never met, no matter how much time we devote to
them. Our wants are so grand that we must constantly pursue them and have limited time available to attend to civic duties."

Exact ceea ce am spus cu alte ocazii: competitia capitalista nu face decat sa ridice constant nivelul asteptarilor, ceea ce inseamna ca oricat ai avea in prezent, maine ti se va parea putin si vei continua sa alergi in jurul cozii la infinit. Timp in care stresul, munca in exces, bolile de nervi incep sa abunde.

Consumerismul, incompatibil cu statutul de bun cetatean
"Engaged citizenry have been ushered. Unfortunately, consumerism doesn’t only lead to increased environmental degradation and economic inequality; it also keeps people from acting to remedy these situations. It undermines the ability of citizens to come together and act in the face of social and environmental issues. There has been a great deal of scholarship regarding the need for stronger democracy and deeper definitions of citizenship to face issues of environmental sustainability and social justice, but in wealthy
western nations citizenship appears to be in retreat instead of revival. Two of the last three Canadian elections saw just over sixty percent of registered voters cast a ballot, with just a slight improvement in 2006 to 64% turnout (www.elections.ca).
In the U.S. the situation is even worse where between 50 and 55 percent of the registered voters can be expected to come out for the presidential elections, but less than 40 percent for the mid-term elections. To create “the world we want” (Kingwell, 2000) citizens need to direct society. Unfortunately, many of them are too busy working and shopping. One way consumerism affects citizenship is by fostering individualism over community. As mentioned above, consumerism equates private greed with public good (Barber, 2007). A citizen can be seen to be doing their part by pursuing personal wealth and happiness through exercising consumer choice. The greedier one is, the more money they can spend on consumer goods, and the more they stimulate the economy. Of course, every country needs a strong economy and people should be free to pursue happiness, but
the idea that happiness is found in material wealth has been shown to be false. “We are not happier with more stuff but with more meaning” (Kingwell, 2000; p. 218). But instead of pursuing meaning through nurturing community, cooperating with our neighbours and engaging with other state and non-state actors in an effort to provision for public goods and shape society in a manner that makes it more just, more interesting, and more beautiful, we’re relentlessly pursuing consumer products while consoling our conscience with the belief that were acting in the public’s best interest."

Individualismul capitalism, semn de imbecilizare
"Benjamin Barber holds that this individualism is a sign of immaturity. Children naturally think of themselves as the centre of the universe, but as they become adults they recognize that they have responsibilities to others and that their private actions have public consequences. Barber contends that consumer capitalism is successful at propagating individualism because it infantilizes adults. Consumer culture requires that adults remain immature, forever in need of the next cool thing and searching for identity
and meaning through consumer products. Marketing strategies targeted to young professionals make tell them that you can still be cool well into your thirties, thus keeping the “cool hunt” going. The infantilization of adults keeps them focused on their individual desires, distracted from and disinterested in public affairs.
The interests of consumers and citizens are often at odds with each other. As a consumer, I want cheap goods from Wal-Mart, but as a citizen I want there to be high paying jobs. As a consumer I might I want a big gas-guzzling SUV, but as a citizen I want clean air and energy independence (Barber, 2007). According to Barber, our individualistic desires are called “first-order desires” and our larger, more civically minded desires are “second-order desires.” Our consumer culture privileges our first-
order desires over second-order desires. But while indulging our first-order desires “there is the quiet knowledge that what’s bad for us in common is good for the bottom line and just fine for me, for my bottom line, for my stock portfolio, and for the long-term value of my property” (Barber, 2007; p 135)."

Ce trebuie sa retinem din expunerea lui Brooks?
1. consumerismul este propagat de capitalism;
2. consumul in exces din tarile dezvoltate se datoreaza in buna masura exploatarii muncitorilor din tarile sarace;
3. consumerismul degradeaza mediul;
4. consumerismul, propagat pana la sufocare in Vest de corporatii, imbecilizeaza si infantilizeaza adultii;
5. consumerismul nu poate spori fericirea, mai degraba de gasit in placerile ieftine si gratuite.

Articolul integral: http://www.yorku.ca/robarts/projects/gradpapers/pdf/Brooks_Modern_Consumer.pdf

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Averea adusa de imbunatatirea relatiilor sociale

Cercetatorul englez de origine tailandeza Dr. Nattavudh Powdthavee este specialist in relatia dintre economie si fericire si preda la Universitatea din Londra. Intr-un articol recent publicat in Journal of Socio-Economics, 37(4), 1459-1480 si intitulat "Putting a Price Tag on Friends, Relatives, and Neighbours:
Using Surveys of Life Satisfaction to Value Social Relationships", Powdthavee demonstreaza ca pentru a ne spori fericirea, cel mai indicat este sa dedicam cat mai mult din timpul nostru relatiilor sociale, nu facerii de bani. O alta descoperire importanta este ca imbunatatirea relatiilor sociale echivaleaza cu o imensa sporire a venitului banesc personal, insa sporirea echivalenta propriu-zisa a venitului personal nu reuseste sa aduca in timp aceeasi cantitate de fericire. Altfel spus, fericirea adusa de relatiile sociale este echivalenta cu cea a imbogatirii financiare insa rezista mult mai bine in timp.
Sa urmarim ideile principale din articolul lui Powdthavee. El incepe subliniind, corect, ca data fiind limitarea timpului nostru, trebuie sa ne hotaram in ce mod il folosim: dedicandu-l prioritar relatiilor sociale ori activitatilor aducatoare de bani?

"This paper explores the links between social relationships, income, and human satisfaction. Can money buy the greatest amount of happiness for us? Or do the sources of true and lasting satisfaction come from having deep interpersonal relationships with close friends and other people in the community? Since it normally requires both time and effort to achieve either higher income or a stable social relationship with someone, the
weight attached to each individual’s investment decision thus depends upon the type of possession – money or friendship – that he or she believes will yield a larger impact on happiness than the other."

Cum se poate masura gradul de satisfactie?
"For a long time, there has been no simple way to assess the size of different influences upon happiness and satisfaction with life in general. Economists have, however, recently developed a way to do so. The process simply involves taking a random sample of individuals, record their satisfaction levels of the people in these samples at different points in time, and then use simple statistical methods (regression equations) to work out
the implied ‘shadow price’ of different occurrences in life. For example, economists have been able to show using happiness surveys that marriage (compared to being single) is worth around £70,000 (or $105,000) a year for a representative person in Great Britain. Separation, on the other hand, is equivalent to around minus £170,000 (or $255,000) a year (see Clark and Oswald, 2002). The method generalizes, and has been used by economists to calculate the happiness loss induced by non-intangibles such as the fear of crime (Moore and Shepherd, 2006) and the aircraft noise (Van Praag and Baarsma, 2005)."

Poate fi fericirea masurata?
Autorul continua cu o aparare generala a metodelor psihologice contemporane de a masura satisfactia personala:

"One issue in the psychology literature has been whether these self-rated well-being measures are, in their terminology, valid and reliable. A first argument in defence of using self-reported measures comes from evidence that they have often been shown to correlate substantially with other subjective data. These include, for instance, how different sets of well-being measures can be shown to be well correlated with subjective recall of positive and negative events (Seidlitz et al, 1997), with assessments of the
person’s happiness by friends and family (Pavot and Diener, 1993), reports by spouses (Costa and McCrae, 1988), and with memory measures, in which people must remember good versus bad events from their lives (Balatsky and Diener, 1993).
A second argument is based on findings within psychology literature of a well-defined correlation between well-being responses and various physical measures. For example, statistics on self-reported well-being have been shown to be positively correlated with the duration of genuine or the so-called “Duchenne” smile (Eckman et al, 1990), measures of responses to
stress such as heart rate and blood pressure (Shedler et al, 1993) and the risk of getting coronary heart disease (Sales and House, 1971)."

Altfel spus, masurarea fericirii personale este de incredere deoarece rezultatele acestor studii se coreleaza intre ele, se confirma recirproc, si se potrivesc cu alti factori sociali si fizici. Nu e deci de mirare ca masurarea bunastarii este luata in calcul intr-o arie larga de domenii psiho-economice:

"Though by no means exhaustive, economists have also used survey measures of life satisfaction to estimate the non-pecuniary effects of unemployment (Winkelmann and Winkelmann, 1998), to study social norms in the labour market (Clark, 2003; Stutzer and Lalive, 2004) and past unemployment (Clark et al, 2001), to understand people’s preferences between unemployment and inflation (Di Tella et al, 2003), to measure the effects of political institution (Frey and Stutzer, 2000), the impact of women’s rights (Pezzini, 2005), and the effects of crime (Powdthavee, 2005), on satisfaction. Regarding other factors affecting people’s satisfaction with life, most studies have found the level of reported life satisfaction to be high among those who are married, women, whites, the well-educated, the self-employed, the retired, and those occupied with home duties. Life satisfaction is apparently U-shaped in age. The results are not only consistent with the findings in the literature of psychology, but also seem to hold across different countries and time periods."

Acum, dupa ce ne-am convins de validitatea masuratorilor fericirii, sa trecem la subiectul principal al postarii: ce ne creste mai mult fericirea personala, timpul petrecut cu prietenii sau timpul petrecut facand bani?
Faptul ca prima varianta este cea corecta e sugerat de Powdthavee prin insiruirea beneficiilor dovedite ale bunelor relatii sociale:

Importanta relatiilor sociale in sporirea fericirii
"One of the influences on life satisfaction that is highly relevant to this paper is the level of social capital in the society (Putnam, 1995). Recent cross-sectional studies from both sociology and the recent economics of happiness literature have shown that key aspects of social capital - such as trust and membership in voluntary associations - contribute greatly to higher individual well-being (Putnam, 2000; Helliwell, 2003, 2006). Many studies that use cross-sectional data have shown that individuals with rich networks of active social relationships, that do not include people living in the same household, tend to be happier with their lives (Phillips, 1967; Burt, 1987). One explanation for their findings is that happiness tends to increase with the number of people available for discussing important matters. This idea of positive externality is relevant to the notion of social capital in economics, whereby individual chooses to invest in social capital (“the influence of past action by peers and others in an individual’s social network and control system”) in order to maximise utility (Becker, 1996). In Becker’s view, social capital is viewed as something approximating a public good that enters individual’s utility function."

Care sunt insa concluziile proprii ale lui Nattavudh Powdthavee referitor la relatia retea sociala-bani-fericire?

Fericirea oferita de interactiunile sociale este echivalenta cu cea oferita de imbogatire, insa e mult mai durabila
"This paper explores the old age question: what matters more to our happiness – money or social relationships? Using panel surveys of life satisfaction for Great Britain, it estimates one of the first micro-econometric life satisfaction equations with frequency of contact
with friends, relatives, and neighbours as independent variables. The paper also makes use of the shadow pricing method, which is more commonly used in the cost-benefit analysis in the field of economics, in order to put a financial value upon social relationships and other life events.
By allowing unobserved individual fixed effects to be factored out from the life satisfaction equation, an increase in the level of social interaction with friends and relatives is estimated to be worth up to an extra £85,000 a year. In terms of statistical significance, this is strikingly large. The estimated figure is even larger than that of getting married (which is worth approximately £50,000). It can compensate for nearly two-third in the loss of the happiness from going through a separation (minus £139,000) or unemployment (minus £143,000). It is also roughly nine times larger than the average real household income per capita in the dataset, which is around £9,800 a year. One possible reason for such a large equivalent evaluation may be because people adapt more slowly to activities that require more attention such as spending time with friends and relatives compared to income, which is mostly in the background (see Kahneman and Thaler, 2006).
In terms of economic significance, even though the largest equivalent valuation of social relationships (i.e. £85,000 a year) only applies to a mere 1% of the entire representative British sample, an increase from “seeing friends and relatives once or twice a week” to “seeing friends and relatives on most days” that applies to an approximately 20% of the sample is still equivalent to a large increase in real household income per capita of around £15,500 per annum.
Such large valuation of social relationships relatives to the mean income suggests that governments should start to rethink some of the policies that only encourage income growth. Take mobility policy for example. More mobility may lead to an increase in income for the individual, but it can also affect the quality of the existing social networks as well as the new one (see Layard, 2006). With this reasonably new pricing method, governments now have a way to weigh both tangible and intangible costs of such policy against its benefits, and reallocate their resources more effectively and efficiently in order to maximize the sum of happiness of their people."

Explicatia acestei stari de fapt:
Cum se explica faptul ca desi imbunatatirea relatiilor sociale valoreaza cat o intreaga avere financiara, averea financiara propriu-zisa nu e capabila sa pastreze acelasi nivel de satisfactie pe termen lung? Autorul a sugerat pe scurt in concluzie aceasta explicatie, dar la ea s-a referit ceva mai in detaliu si in articol:

"people adapt to changes in income faster than changes in the level of social capital experienced by the individual. According to the theory of attention by Kahneman and Thaler (2006), it may be possible that some experiences or activities such as spending time with friends are attended when they occur, while others, like having more income, are mostly in the background. Given that adaptation consists mainly of a reduction of attention to the new circumstance, it is therefore possible that people adapt more slowly to activities that involve a greater deal of attention from the individual such as investing in social capital than that of income. This partly explains why the shadow prices of “seeing more friends and relatives” are significantly larger in the “within” regression than that obtained from OLS estimates.""

Astfel, activitatile inter-sociale necesita un grad sporit de atentie decat obtinerea de bunuri materiale, ceea ce inseamna ca adaptarea hedonica se realizeaza mai greu in primul caz decat in al doilea.

Ce concluzii finale putem trage din articolul lui Nattavudh Powdthavee?
1. Fericirea se poate masura iar rezultatele acestei masuratori sunt de incredere.
2. Este mult mai indicat sa ne petrecem timpul in compania prietenilor, rudelor etc. decat facand bani, caci satisfactia pe termen lung oferita de viata sociala este net superioara celei oferita de bunurile pe care le-am putea obtine avand mai mult bani.

Articolul citat poate fi citit in intregime la adresa: http://www.powdthavee.co.uk/resources/valuing_social_relationships_15.04.pdf