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Group G

Mark Anielski has served as an economic

policy advisor to the Alberta Government
and is recognized as a rising star amongst
international progressive economists.

Much of his work revolves around

developing alternative measures of
economic progress.

Anielski describes The Economics of

Happiness as having 4 main goals:

Anielski questions conventional definitions

of wealth and value, and looks into
developing a better system of measuring
human progress.
While the GNP might be great at adding up
all the money we spend on goods and
services in an economy, it was a lousy
measure of what mattered most to
Americans: their quality of life.
Robert Kennedy

Anielski looks into creating a system of wellbeing accounting that would measure the
actual physical and qualitative conditions of

This involves new forms of capital accounting:

Human capital (time, knowledge, and
Social capital (trust and strength of

The book describes Genuine Wealth as the

conditions of well-being that are true to the
core values of our life.

Genuine Wealth creates a more complete

method of measurement where the effects
of human, social, natural, built and financial
capital are all taken into account.

Anielski constructed a large database based

on to determine whether the US as a whole
is better off in 2001 than it was in 1950
based on Genuine Progress Indicators. He
looked at typical indicators such as life
expectancy and personal income, as well as
Genuine Wealth indicators such as self-rated
happiness and youth suicide rates.

He found that many of the Genuine Wealth

areas have substantially worsened despite
the fact that the US GDP and financial
markets have boomed.
The number of Americans who say they are
very happy has declined from 35% in
1957 to 30% in 2002, and the youth suicide
rate has almost tripled.

The Genuine Wealth model is based on what

we value in life the most:

It has five fundamental principles:

1. True wealth represents all things that make life
worthwhile, not simply monetary or material
2. True wealth is abundant, not scarce.
3. True wealth is more abundant when freely given and
freely received through the spirit of reciprocity.
4. True wealth ultimately comes as a gift from God; each
one of us has a responsibility to be co-stewards with
God for this wealth.
5. The management of our genuine wealth is grounded in
sustaining the integrity and vitality of the assets which
contribute most to our pursuit of love and happiness.

The process of Genuine Wealth

Assessment (GWA) begins by us asking
ourselves the questions:
Hows life?
Whats going well in life?
What areas would we like improved?

At the same time, we take into account

the principles that guide our lives, such as
It is essentially a measure of our selfsatisfaction.

A Personal Genuine Wealth Assessment

involves examining ourselves in a light
mirror and a dark mirror.
In the light mirror, we examine what we love about
ourselves ad what others love about us.
In the dark mirror, we look at the things we dont
like about ourselves or what others dislike about us.

Ultimately, these mirror images help to

create a complete and honest profile of our
physical, mental, emotion, and spiritual wellbeing.

In conducting a personal
Genuine Wealth
Assessment, we identify
strengths and areas
needing improvement in
our personal lives as well
as the strengths and
weaknesses of our
professional and work
life. Each of us will define
the good life from our
own unique perspective
and experience.

The power to create money no longer

resides with us but rather is increasingly
concentrated in the hands of a few private

Money is no longer backed by

anything real.

This leads Anielski to the belief that money

should be created to support the conditions
of the 5 capitals in the Genuine Wealth
Accounting System:

What is Money?
Money is a medium of exchange, store of
value and unit of account.
In Reality...
Money is not a thing and has no inherent
It is not real or tied to anything of real
substance or genuine wealth.

How is Money Created?

Money is literally created out of nothing
when the private bank issues a mortgage, a
student loan, or a business loan or the
government prints money and issues a
government debt bond.

This debt based system of money is

only a recent phenomenon.

Charging of interest, or usury, on a loan

refers to the transfer of real wealth from the
debtor to the lender.
Until recent times, Christianity outlawed
usury, as it was a sin.

On average we pay 50% interest on all

prices of goods and services
If interest charges on all debts were
eliminated, we would likely have to work at
least 50% less

Interest Charges


Vision for Genuine Wealth Economy:

Real life example: the JAK Members

Bank of Sweden provides members
with interest free loans.
Members share their savings.
Ultimate goal is to abolish interest as an
economic instrument and to replace it with
means which help its members build healthy
and sustainable communities.

GDP does not measure the ends of

happiness, love, or spiritual engagement.

Having healthy relationships, good and

hopefully meaningful jobs, and trusting
work places makes people happier.

Does money buy happiness?

Once people have met most of their basic
material needs for life, money doesnt translate
into either more objective or subjective well-being
or happiness.

From Andrew Oswalds research:

An employee earning $10,000 becomes
happier when offered another $10,000
BUT a person earning $100,000 doesnt have
the same rise in happiness with another
According to Yale University professor, Robert Lane:
In affluent countries, the correlation between
income and happiness is close to zero.

Anielskis book addresses the issue that

economics is studied as if it has nothing to
do with people, when economic systems are
ultimately the ways in which people are
Takes a moral point of view to factor people
into the study of economics
human wealth
social wealth
environmental wealth

Genuine Wealth Model makes it harder for

corporations to act immorally by integrating
all accounting, HR, environmental
performance and corporate information:
Integrated 5 capitals balance sheet
Full cost-benefit sustainable income
Sustainable progress indicators
Genuine progress or sustainability report

It will be easier for companies to exercise

corporate social responsibility because the
moral obligations will be demanded by
If a company wants to improve the
welfare of its employees it will have a more
effective way to measure it, without just
seeing the loss in profits.

Overall, the book is well written and makes

a good case for the switch to wealth
accounting standards.
Good examples were presented, in particular the
JAK Members Bank of Sweden example.
Evidence such as the GPI database is also
effective in illustrating Anielskis points.

The Economics of Happiness is definitely a

major contribution to the field of happiness
economics, as this is a relatively new and
untouched field.
Much of Anielskis evidence comes from
research that he did himself and had never
been done before.

This book raises many questions regarding

the future of business, government, money
and wealth.
What is the future of accounting? How will
standards change in the future?
How will governments create and maintain
wealth? Will the economy still be debt-driven in
the future?
What role will money play in the future? Will it
still be the main indicator of wealth as it is today?
How will wealth be defined in the future?

Anielski makes many interesting comments

about wealth and money, and in particular,
his concept of Genuine Wealth could help
governments, corporations and individuals
better account for their true wealth in the

His insights into whether or not money can

buy happiness are also particularly
interesting, as money is often the motivator
for ethically questionable actions. As we
have seen, people often sacrifice their wellbeing or the well-being of others for more

Ultimately, Anielskis concept of Genuine

Wealth is an interesting idea, but
implementing it would be unrealistic.
Human and social capital is difficult to measure,
and it would be even more difficult to ensure that
they are measured consistently by different
It would be difficult to convince banks to stop
charging interest.

Although Anielski has plenty of interesting

ideas, he does not fully explain how these
ideas could be implemented.
For example, well-being accounting could be a
very good idea, but how can businesses
seamlessly switch from traditional accounting to
this new way?
JAK Members Bank of Sweden is an interesting
case, but how could a regular bank switch to this
sort of lending format without any negative

Anielski describes how Genuine Wealth

gives a better overall picture of wealth, but
fails to illustrate a clear and consistent way
of measuring intangibles such as
happiness besides surveying selfsatisfaction.

Anielski goes into great detail about how

our picture of progress is flawed.
However, he does not clearly indicate ways
in which well-being accounting or Genuine
Wealth would improve the situation.
He does a good job describing the benefits of
these things, but doesnt leave the reader
wanting to switch away from the current system.

Thank you!