[Letters] The wrong “Easterlin Paradox”

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[Letters] The wrong “Easterlin Paradox”

As you recently reported, the Korea Development Institute, remarking on South Korea’s low quality-of-life ranking, wrote: “Korea’s per capita income has risen significantly over the past 20 years. Nonetheless, Koreans’ satisfaction level of their quality of life is stagnant. We are seeing the ‘Easterlin Paradox’ here.”

Problem is that the Easterlin Paradox appears to be wrong. Two recent papers analyzed the data, concluding that the Easterlin Paradox does not exist. Distilling the essence of these studies in his book “The Rational Optimist,” Matt Ridley writes: “Rich people are happier than poor people; rich countries have happier people than poor countries; and people get happier as they get richer.”

Given the importance of economic prosperity in human happiness, then, the South Korean government should think twice before it crafts economic policies around platitudes such as “harmony.” Quite simply, the government cannot create happiness; it can only get out of the way and allow individuals to create it for themselves.

Aaron McKenzie, a graduate student in Seoul
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