Seminar by Professor Mitsuhiko Iyoda, 7 September 2011

Toward a High Quality of Life in the Mature Society

The last seminar in the Summer Term 2011 Economics and International Studies series was given by Professor Mitsuhiko Iyoda, Professor in the Faculty of Economics at Momoyama Gakuin (St Andrew’s) University, Japan and Visiting Professor in the Department of Economics and International Studies at the University of Buckingham.

Professor Iyoda introduced, in a clear and accessible talk, the relationship between GDP, welfare and happiness. Professor Iyoda analysed problems in the weakness of GNP as a measure of welfare and looked at various suggested alternatives such as Net National Welfare (NNW), Net Economic Welfare (NEW) and the Genuine Progress Indicator.

Attempts to measure happiness or reported subjective wellbeing suggest they do rise with income. They may, however, not imply a more satisfied society. There are three important factors that affect the quality of life: education, market failures and the government. The most important foundation on which to build an ideal society may well be education, in a broad sense, including social, family and school education.

An important lesson that we have learned as a result of the bubble economy and the financial crisis is to consider economic stability domestically and internationally as an important target. Maintaining economic stability is sometimes a difficult task. This stresses the importance of international co-operation.

The discussion of Professor Iyoda’s presentation focused on the definition and subjectivity of the term ‘happiness’. Professor Iyoda defended his idea that the definition of happiness is not as subjective as one might think, while discussants felt that in some cultures it might be considered to be impolite to express unhappiness, whilst in other cultures it is not.

Report by Anniek Peters