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France: Sad economy, happy people?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy smiles during a press conference.

TEXT OF STORY

Doug Krizner: Measuring economic growth usually means looking at the total output of goods and services. Well, the president of France wants to include something new in the calculation. Here's Megan Williams.


Megan Williams: French president Nicolas Sarkozy isn't happy with how the French economy is doing. Despite urging the French to love less and work more, growth is down. So he's enlisted two Nobel-winning economists to revamp how economic success is measured to include a happiness factor.

Belgium economist Paul de Grauwe says for several decades, France and Europe's per capita GDP has been lagging behind the U.S. by about 30 percent. That prompted researchers to ask: Are Americans, as a result, happier than Europeans?

De Grauwe: The happiness people have tried to measure all this, and came to the conclusion, no, there was no evidence that the average American is happier than the average European.

While counting happiness is important, says De Grauwe, he warns it can be a way out for politicians.

De Grauwe: Sometimes, it can also be abused to hide failures of economic policy, maybe that's also part of the story.

As France's economy drags, Sarkozy himself is on Cloud Nine with his new girlfriend, model Carla Bruni. And France, it seems, isn't happy about that.

I'm Megan Williams for Marketplace.

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