A slightly better world
By Saska Snellman
The American Pew Research Center published an international survey on Tuesday in which 46,000 respondents from 47 countries expressed their views on how things are going in the world. Finland was not part of the survey.
The media focused on one part of the report according to which there has been a sharp reduction in support for suicide attacks in the Muslim countries. This was an unusually encouraging piece of news, nor did the rest of the report make for sad reading.
The respondents' satisfaction with their own lives, with the material well-being of their families, and their own societies has increased in most countries in the past five years. In some, the increase has been quite considerable.
The greatest surges can be found in Eastern Europe and Latin America, and partially also in Asia. People in the large industrialised countries have been so content for some time, that the figures have not improved from what they were before. However, all in all, the world has become a better place to live in, in the view of its residents.
Satisfaction largely goes hand in hand with economic development. Wherever people recognise that they have become more prosperous, spirits rise.
Experts argue over whether or not prosperity in the West has already passed a threshold after which money no longer increases happiness, and where other matters, such as family life or leisure time, become more important.
At least on the Finnish book market, various guidebooks for jumping out of the rat race appear to be selling well again.
People living in Western countries have a bleaker attitude on the future than ever before. In China, 86 per cent of the people believe that the next generation will live better, and 73 per cent of those in Ivory Coast feel the same way. However, as many as 80 per cent of the French feel that their children will face a leaner life.
If the rich in the world need time and the poor need money, this means that the world needs a mechanism to distribute labour and money more equally than before.
Fortunately such a mechanism exists. It is called globalisation.
The Pew survey proves that happiness is increasing most in countries that have grabbed onto the tail of globalisation. It is interesting that the Hugo Chávez phenomenon notwithstanding, support for the market economy has increased in Latin America as well.
On the other hand, Africa, which has received the lion's share of development funding from around the world, and from Finland as well, is largely stagnant. Perhaps the situation will improve when Finland increases its development funding by EUR 375 million by 2011.
Perhaps debating the benefits of development aid is worthwhile, but there is no point in discussing the evils of globalisation any more; this study proves that globalisation is not the "morally wrong and politically unsustainable system" that President Tarja Halonen has dubbed it. Instead it is the most efficient means of distributing money, and apparently also good feelings, in at least a slightly fairer manner among the nations of the world that there has ever been in history.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 29.7.2007
Pew Global Attitudes Project
SASKA SAARIKOSKI / Helsingin Sanomat