Sarko embraces national happiness

Nicolas Sarkozy’s government is rolling out a “revolutionary” new economic indicator: France plans to include happiness and well-being in its measurements of economic progress, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday, beckoning other countries to join in a “revolution” in the way growth is tracked after the global economic crisis. […] France — whose growth has ...

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech at the Sorbonne University in Paris on September 14, 2009. Sarkozy declared that statisticians should find a way to measure the general well-being of the population rather than just raw economic growth. Speaking at the launch of a report that he commissioned from Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Sarkozy said France would pioneer the new technique and urge other countries to follow suit. AFP PHOTO / POOL / MICHEL EULER (Photo credit should read MICHEL EULER/AFP/Getty Images)

Nicolas Sarkozy's government is rolling out a "revolutionary" new economic indicator:

France plans to include happiness and well-being in its measurements of economic progress, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday, beckoning other countries to join in a "revolution" in the way growth is tracked after the global economic crisis. [...]

Nicolas Sarkozy’s government is rolling out a “revolutionary” new economic indicator:

France plans to include happiness and well-being in its measurements of economic progress, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday, beckoning other countries to join in a “revolution” in the way growth is tracked after the global economic crisis. […]

France — whose growth has lagged its peers in recent decades according to standard measures — will also try to convince other governments to change their economic tracking, Sarkozy said

“A great revolution is waiting for us,” he said. “For years, people said that finance was a formidable creator of wealth, only to discover one day that it accumulated so many risks that the world almost plunged into chaos.”

“The crisis doesn’t only make us free to imagine other models, another future, another world. It obliges us to do so,” he said.

One minor quibble: Sarkozy should really give some credit to King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan, the true pioneer of gross national happiness.

Skeptics can (and will) look at this new innovation as a ploy for France to “juke the stats,” since its short workweek and social benefits look a lot more impressive than its GDP growth.

That aside, the transformation of Sarkozy’s economic message has been pretty astounding. The president came to power promising privitization and economic modernization and was lambasted by French left-wingers for his attachment to “Anglo-Saxon” economic models. But since the economic crisis (and his own popularity crisis) he’s made a habit of attacking the Anglo-Saxons for their free-market orthodoxy and consulting with market-skeptics Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz on new economic indicators.

Where have you gone, Sarko l’Américain?

MICHEL EULER/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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