Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

In Search of Happiness: Suse Reynolds Argues That Globalisation in the Form of Increased International Trade Is the Path to Greater Economic and Social Well-Being

Academic journal article New Zealand International Review

In Search of Happiness: Suse Reynolds Argues That Globalisation in the Form of Increased International Trade Is the Path to Greater Economic and Social Well-Being

Article excerpt

Globalisation has the power to do immense good n and a key element of globalisation is trade. International trade is vital to removing the sense of hopelessness that besets many poor or badly governed countries. Through it, growth can be generated, and no country has ever succeeded in reducing poverty without growth. The more a country trades the wealthier its citizens become. The fewer barriers to trade the better for both rich and poor countries. It is not open borders to trade but rather endemic maladministration, corruption and over-abundance of natural resources that condemn many poor countries, especially in Africa, to poverty. Liberalising trade in agriculture would be hugely beneficial to developing countries.


There is a constant stream of theories and studies about human well-being and happiness. These are often translated into policy suggestions. What is going to make us happy? Responding to this question is a bit like defining globalisation--we could talk about it forever.

But I want to answer it by exploring the link between globalisation and economic and social well-being. For me, and given my credentials this should not be too surprising, 'globalisation' would not be much of anything without 'trade'. So I will focus on trade, and use 'trade' and 'globalisation' to mean pretty much the same thing.

This article discusses 'happiness' and then addresses globalisation and growth. It is important to discuss growth because it is hard to be happy without it. Some of the most common criticisms of globalisation relating to jobs, the environment and the poor will be considered.

Globalisation and trade are not the complete answer. But globalisation has the power to do immense good. Just look at the amazing leap in our living standards since the Second World War. Or see how the Japanese went from rags to riches in a generation. Compare it to the protectionist nightmare of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The inability to trade, the consequent economic deprivation and effective isolation it created between nations and people, made the case for war easier and more compelling. It is not as hard to kill people you do not know and do not rely on.

Johan Norberg notes that for centuries philosophers and poets have tried to understand what happiness is and what might contribute to it. In recent decades, he suggests, scientists have started to come up with the answers. Happiness is electrical activity in the left, front part of the brain. Norberg believes it is generated by things like marriage, friends, getting rich and avoiding communism. (1)

How often have we heard 'money can not buy you happiness'? But in fact one of the few things there is a consensus about in this field is that money does buy happiness. There is an extremely strong correlation between wealth and happiness. Low income countries report low levels of happiness; middle income countries report middle levels and high income countries high levels. Economic growth is vital.

Strong correlation Surveys show that a lack of hope and opportunity correlate strongly with unhappiness. In poor and badly governed countries entire societies suffer from hopelessness. If you have few opportunities, no conviction that what you do affects your position, no hope tomorrow will be a better day, you expect little and you get it. There is little joy in life.

Belief ha the future arises when the possibility of positive change becomes real. For the global poor, positive change is only possible if growth is possible. When poor countries begin to experience growth, when markets open up, when incomes increase and people's decisions begin to affect their place in society, belief in the future is worth having. The future becomes real.

For a recent example look at Ireland, which reported declining levels of satisfaction between the early 1970s and the late 1980s. The Irish did not get any poorer during this time, but the country experienced low growth and high unemployment. …

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