There is clinical neurological evidence of happiness as a measurable construct related to activity in the right parietal lobe in the human brain. Studies of depression involving meditation and Buddhist monks practices have shown that it is possible to reduce anxiety and stress and increase personal happiness with the disciplines they employ.
In classical economics, increase in population happiness was the accepted primary goal of government actions.
The rationale for this was often utilitarian and followed a logic similar to that of Immanual Kant and which inspired the French Revolution directly:
Abbe Sieyes in the Prelude to the Constitution of France, 1789, put it this way:
:"If only men could see each other as agents of each others' happiness, they could occupy the Earth, their common habitation, in peace, and move forward confidently to achieve their common goal."
:"The prospect changes when they regard each other as obstacles; soon they have no choice but to flee or be forever fighting. Humankind seems then to be a gigantic error of nature." -
Historians regarded the achievements or failures of earlier civilizations also in this light. William Gibbon in his 1788 work Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by William Gibbon claimed that what distinguished the four Antonine emperors ending in Marcus Aurelius was their straightforward and single-minded devotion to the happiness of all citizens under their rule.
Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill had similar assumptions and were explicit about them.
Herman Daly, in addition to citing Smith and Mill (the latter on the zero growth economy being the most desirable), concluded that it was capital stock, not cashflow, that was most directly a predictor of this population happiness. He cited Boulding, 1949, who argued
:"that it is the capital stock from which we derive satisfactions, not fro the additions to it (production) or the substraints from it (consumption): that consumption, far from being a desideratium, is deporable property of the capital stock which necessitates the equally deporable activities of production: and that the objective of economcy policy should not be to maximize consumption or production, but rather to minimize it, i.e. to enable us to maintain our capital stock with as little consumption or production as possible" - p. 79
Daly cites this on page 68 of Beyond Growth and combines it with the analysis of Odum to yield:
:service/throughput = service/stock x stock/throughput
This he develops into a reputation of GDP analsyis, on the grounds that "economic growth" in GNP is a confliation of these two processes:
- growth (physical increase) and
- development (qualitative improvements that allow more stock maintanenace per unit of throughput, and more service per unit of stock)
He argues there can be no concept or theory of sustainable development without first "separating these two things." Which is done only in throughput accounting.
The Gross National Happiness, Genuine Progress Indicator, and measuring well-being proposals are all generally informed by this analysis:
In modern green economics, the "satisfactions" or "population happiness" are represented by constraint of well-being or quality of life is held up as an operational limit on methods of neoclassical economics which are mostly concerned with narrow cashflow and logistics and the deployment of human capital - not the creation and maintenance of it! A key linkage between the theories is the view of Acquisti and Baldassari that there is no provision for instance for the need for rest and recreation in a "balanced growth" analysis, as if humans and machines were to be repaired the same way. Similar views have been cited to justify more vacation time in developed nations and shorter work weeks.