Some years ago Gerry Harvey the chief executive of retailer Harvey Norman says he can't find a path through the fog of bad economic news as it continues to weigh on consumers. He suggests people be happy and spend.
He said that with unemployment at only 5 per cent and a resources boom, we should all be happy. However, the current economic mix was terrible. Retail, manufacturing and tourism and are all in trouble. Harvey continued by saying that something is wrong when New Zealand, which isn't benefiting from a mining boom, is forecasting stronger growth than Australia.
While there had been much commentary about the cautious consumer, Harvey Norman franchisees had "never experienced so much customer traffic and transactions" (www.smh.com.au)
Without doubt, business leaders would applaud such sentiments, that (presumably) through consumer spending the economy will leap forward and the nation will escape from whatever economic downturn the world might have coming its way.
But, there appear to be several issues with such economic forecasts.
The first is obvious. What is good for the high profile retailers may not necessarily be good for the 'Mums and Dads' of Australia. This is a pertinent point. It is precisely because Mr and Mrs 'Average Australian' have been buying what were once termed 'luxuries', but are now advertised as 'necessities', that retail businesses such as Harvey's (at that time) had been doing well. However, for these ordinary people, being in debt certainly doesn't make them happy.
Another issue is that not everyone agrees that the mining boom automatically ensures that every other aspect of Australian commerce and industry is doing well. Australia's manufacturers are doing it tough. Australia's primary industries are not singing 'hallelujah' from their farm roof tops. Our national airline Qantas had to go offshore to make ends meet in the international arena. The argument that we can be supported by our natural resources, and that the benefits are equally spread, doesn't ring true for everyone.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you talk to the Charity sector, you'll get a very different sentiment than that purported by Gerry Harvey, that being happy is based on spending.
Being happy has very little to do with spending money. Here are some examples.
Ask any grandparent where their happiness lies, perhaps with a new born adding to their quiver of grandchildren, and they will be delighted and thankful for the new little lives.
Ask an athlete where their happiness lies, surely with a personal best or team best effort, and they will bet hankful they have the wherewithall to enjoy such physical activity.
Ask any school teacher where their happiness lies, possibly when one of their charges finally "gets it" and the light goes on, and their understanding is changed forever; and they will be 'over the moon' that they have had an effect on the future generation.
Ask any Minister where their happiness lies, and he/she will probably tell you about the untold joy they experience when someone like themselves, a sinner, in need of repentance, forgiveness and Salvation, invites Jesus Christ into their whole being to guide and lead them.
No, spending money the like of which Gerry Harvey suggests, may or may not be helpful to the economy, it may or may not be helpful to someone's bank balance, but it certainly is not "the essence" of happiness.
Luke chapter 12 verse 15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html