The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 13, 2012

Other Views: Fed chief should skip happy talk

Are you happy with your lot in life? The chairman of the Federal Reserve wants to know.

Lately, Ben Bernanke, head of the nation’s main fiscal policy body, has been talking about happiness and how to measure it. As he has noted, how people feel about their wealth, their financial stability and what the future holds says a lot about how they conduct themselves in the marketplace.

In short, people who are happy and comfortable are more likely to spend money and perhaps take a few more economic risks.

Data show that when people have financial security, either through jobs or personal wealth, they tend to be happier. That makes sense; someone who knows where his next meal is coming from is likely to have a better outlook than an individual who doesn’t.

The Federal Reserve tracks all manner of hard data, ranging from money supply to productivity to interest rates as part of the process in determining monetary policy. Bernanke is now pushing for what economists sometimes call “happiness studies.”

“We should seek better and more-direct measurements of economic well-being,” the Fed chief said in a speech last week to economists and statisticians in Cambridge, Mass. As Bernanke sees it, the Fed’s economic tasks ultimately boil down to an effort to make people happy.

We can’t argue with the notion that happiness plays a role in how a nation may recover from an economic downturn. Emotion plays a significant role in the financial decisions of human beings.

But at the same time, we also know that happiness is a subjective concept that isn’t easy to measure.

Ask people a question about their happiness two different times in the same week and you are likely to receive different responses. For many people, happiness is linked to the emotions of the moment, not some long-term rational assessment of one’s financial situation.

So if the Federal Reserve intends to make happiness a factor in assessing the state of the nation’s economy, it must be careful. It will need to do a lot of measuring. And it will have to do extensive testing to determine the best way to ask the right questions.

Meanwhile, the Fed might want to make use of existing data. We note that public opinion pollsters routinely ask Americans about job satisfaction and similar happiness-related matters.

Even in an era where government wants to measure emotions, it makes fiscal sense to use what’s already available.

New Castle News, New Castle, Pa.

Text Only
  • Our View.jpg Our View: That's 'b,' as in bloated

    You can spin this two ways. Only about 2.5 percent of the money the federal government spends each year is spent on improper payments, such as overpayments to people receiving government benefits or tax credits for people who don’t qualify.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Other Views Other Views: Time for special inquiry

    Testifying at a House committee hearing recently, Internal Revenue Services Commissioner John Koskinen did nothing to enlighten Congress or the public about a year-old scandal about whether his agency improperly targeted conservative groups.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: Roundabout education

    With an influx of new roundabouts in Joplin, someone needs to promote education on how to drive through one. For instance, what yield means, stay in your lane, slow down, etc.

    July 10, 2014

  • Your View: How tragic

    “Governor vetoes 72-hour wait” was the headline on the front page of the July 3 Globe.

    July 10, 2014

  • Our View.jpg Our View: Restore the hall

    To borrow a phrase from a Home Depot commercial: “Let’s start doing.”

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Geoff Caldwell, columnist: It's like stepping into the Twilight Zone

    U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., was visiting the Fort Sill military complex in his home state and decided to visit the illegal immigrant processing center the federal government had recently opened on base.

    July 9, 2014

  • Your View: Who’s to blame?

    Not long ago, Mercy cut area jobs because our Republican legislators have refused Medicaid expansion.

    July 8, 2014

  • Your View: Access to health care

    On June 30, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against an Affordable Care Act requirement that employers cover certain contraceptive products at no extra charge, as part of preventive benefits in employee health insurance plans.

    July 8, 2014

  • Our View.jpg Our View: Who’s calling the shots?

    If Missouri Farmers Care really does care about the “Right to Farm” amendment on the Aug. 5 ballot, it sure has an odd way of showing it.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Darvin Bentlage, guest columnist: Big ag dream wrong for Missouri farmers

    For centuries, we have had the right to farm. On Tuesday, Aug. 5, a proposed constitutional amendment will be on the state ballot that is supposed to give us protection so we can have the “Right to Farm.”

    July 7, 2014

Local News
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter

Although the president of the United States is limited to two terms in office, members of Congress have no term limits. Would you support term limits for U.S. representatives and senators?

     View Results
NDN Video
Joy Fills Streets of Cleveland As LeBron Returns Proposed Bill to Regulate NY Costumed Characters WH: LeBron's Move a 'Powerful Statement' Ana Ortiz on 'Devious Maids' Finale CDC Addresses Lab Safety Problems Texas Shooting Suspect Collapses in Court Death Toll Tops 100 As Israel Offense Continues LeBron James Says He's Returning to Cavaliers Man Flees Police in World Cup Scalping Scheme Robot Writes Jewish Torah Scroll Raw: Israel, Gaza Exchange Rocket Fire More Immigrants Detained Along Rio Grande World Cup Final Pits Argentina Against Germany Police: Prostitute Linked to 2nd Death Thousands Attend NYC Firefighter's Funeral Art of Haitian Machete Fighting Revived Raw: Australia Hosts Annual Beer Can Regatta Mass. Mayor: Families Lost Everything in Fire Fans Dying to Be Near Jazz Greats Robots Gearing Up for Their Own 'World Cup'