Film review: The Economics of Happiness

‘Go local’ is the over-riding message of this new film, yet it hasn’t tried to hang onto the ‘localist’ Coalition’s coattails, and the DVD may not yet be on Eric Pickles’s Amazon wishlist.

The content of the film is very sympathetic to the work and objectives of CLES. We see a point-by-point demolition of the effects of globalisation, followed by a promotion of localised solutions. The only thing missing was a reference to CLES’s resilience framework. So far, so didactic, but it is brought to life at times by thoughtful contributions and moving footage.

The film includes impressive contributions from the inspirational Vandana Shiva (whose grasp of human culture makes her seem like the wisest person you’ve never met), Zac Goldsmith MP (who speaks effectively on the waste inherent in our distribution networks and is very convincing on the way in which ‘free market’ economics is nothing of the sort) and Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation (nef), who paints a rosy picture of the amount of bottom up economic localisation already happening.

Nicola Steuer of nef talked recently about the way that, in the west, most of us have lost any sense that we can influence, or even shape, our local economy. This is the film to make you believe that it is possible – or, at the very least, worth trying. My only real reservation is a sense that the fairly bleak opening of the film will not find it a willing audience among people for whom the issues it raises are completely new.

So is this the film for you? Well, if you’re beginning to realise that classic economics, the pursuit of growth as defined by GDP, and local regeneration by shopping mall might not be all it’s cracked up to be, then yes.

If, on the other hand, you already have a head full of stats and bons mots about sustainability and globalisation, you’ll not learn much from the Economics of Happiness, but maybe that’s not the point. Its aim is to get people acting differently; you can, for example, host a screening, and use it to make something happen in your local economy.


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