Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Happiness State and Nunavut's Inuit

The Happiness State coming to Canada?

On the website of the newly created Ludwig Von Mises Institute of Canada (awesome!), George Bragues posted the above blog regarding the possibility of individual happiness becoming a goal of government policy. Brague summarized his main concerns as follows:

"[Because] the wealthy supposedly do not get much additional happiness from all their money, while the less well-to-do can, let’s [through government intervention] redistribute incomes. That will augment the over-all level of happiness. And since, we’ll all be more equal as a result, people won’t be so dissatisfied by how they stand relative to others. Not only that, if people can be encouraged to become less avaricious, they can get off the so-called “hedonic treadmill” and focus instead on their families, friends, and communities."

I posted this response (with some revisions for my blog):

Talking about redistribution of wealth policies, what we need is an empirical analysis of the 'money for nothing' policy of Canada's Inuit people. Several of the communities in Nunavut have had been in a sustained state of welfare (i.e., over 50% on Social Assistance) since at least the 80s, if not longer. When I worked with Gov't of the NWT in the 90s, some communities had welfare rates of 80%.

Interested to see what the current statistics were, the Internet was very obliging. For 2010/11, the estimated transfer payment from the Federal gov't to Nunavut is 1.2 billion, which is $35,000 per person. (The NWT is not much better at $23,000 per person.) From 2001-2004, about 8,000 people per year have received Social Assistance (i.e., welfare payments) in Nunavut. That's about 25% of the population of Nunavut (In 2006, the population of Nunavut was 29,474,with 24,640 people identifying themselves as Inuit.)

Do we see an increase in happiness of the Inuit of Nunavut? Inuit suicide rates are more than 11 times higher than the Canadian rate, according to Health Canada. And 83% of these are people under 30 years of age.

This statistic is probably the tip of the ice berg of the state of well-being of Nunavut people. If anyone at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada wants to do research on how chronic welfare destroys a person's (and culture's!) psychological well-being, Nunavut would be a place to study. 



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