Last week SMH ran a gob smakingly absurd story by Cathy Alexander, entitled "
Apparently Aus ranks 102 in the happiness index. That’s 102 out of 143. Here are some pearls of wisdom from Cathy ....
South and Central America are home to the happiest, greenest people, the survey found; nine of the top 10 countries are from that region.
Rich western countries did badly, while African nations came in at rock bottom.
And some more ....
By now your bullshite metres must be spinning wildly out of control.
Heres some stuff Cathy didn't tell you ...
The happy planet index is produced by the New Economics Foundation. The foundation is described by Cathy as a British think tank. A more accurate description would be a bin of environmental Malthusian Marxists who appear to harbour an abject hatred of economic growth. Their self confessed goals are environmentalism and welfare economics. And by welfare economics they are not talking about welfare economics in the proper sense of using microeconomic techniques to assess allocative efficiency. I suspect they are talking about creating a welfare state (which any economists should be able to tell you is a rather shitty idea). ... well in Brittan’s case not creating but rather devolving to a welfare state.
and here is the index
Well it looks like Cathy didn't mention how the index was constructed for a good reason. I don't know about you but my modest exposure to statistics is standing on my shoulder poking its little pencil in my ear screaming ROY, I SMELL BULL! Luckily for us the Foundation was stupid enough to accompany the formula with some definitions.
Happy life years: A stat based largely on self reported life satisfaction data. Self reporting or self selection is at the best of times dodgy as ... just imagine how dodgy it is in regard to happiness. Imagine the framing issues. Where do you start ... even defining happiness is next to impossible. One man's happiness is not another’s. I am 100% confident that my utility function is totally different from that of a lycra clad masochist gimp. What makes him happy is not going to make me happy.
Ecological footprint: a measure of the amount of land required to provide for all resource requirements plus the amount of vegetated land required to sequester (absorb) all their CO2 emissions embodied in the products they consume ... apparently 2.1 hectares is each individuals fair share, any more than that and your using more of the globes resources than you are really entitled to, I also assume any less indicates your being ripped off (my BULLSHIT valve just blew a gasket).
Alpha: the alpha constant is added to ensure that the ecological footprint coefficient of variance matches that of the health life years across the entire dataset. Hey why not ... it would smooth things out some.
Beta: the beta constant is added to ensure that any country with a max life satisfaction of 10, life expectancy of 85, and is living within its "fair share" of resources gets a score of 100. Although i have paraphrased I’m not grossly miss quoting.... so yes they are basically saying the index is rigged to max outcomes for those of us who consume "fairly".
The results are driven primarily by the denominator. The data used shows quite clearly that US, Canada, Europe and Australia all have the highest stasifaction ratings and the highest life expectancies. However, the ecological footprint shows (as would be expected given the relative levels of development) that these countries use the most resourse. The US is the outlier using more than 4 planets worth of resources. Europe, Cananda, Australia and Japan come in at 2 to 4 planets worth. South America, Russia and China come in at 1 to 2 planets and Central America, Africa and West Asia come in at under 1 planet.
... all this begs the question of exactly which planet it is that we are currently running this massive trade imbalance with. It must be someone because we are apparently consuming more than 10 times the amount of resources the earth has to offer. I just bet its those pesky free trading plutonians, sneakly blue little bastards.
I could go on all day, but I’m not going to ... I’m more than convinced this is alot of bull.
The real tragedy here is not the crappy report but rather the crappy reporting. All Cathy had to do was spend 10 minutes on the Web and she would have had enough material to write a much more informative article about the absurd use of statistics to promote an essentially anti growth agenda. The last thing we would want is for developing countries to start getting all uppity.
Check it out for yourself.
Just to really piss you off, if you spend enough time on the site you may encounter the following
The Index doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world. It shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens. The nations that top the Index aren’t the happiest places in the world, but the nations that score well show that achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible.
So after all that the index turns out not to be about happiness.