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Prosperity (also good, well-being) is a positive state of the individual is perceived differently. Prosperity is made up of immaterial and material prosperity (see also standard of living ). The standard of living is easier to measure. Colloquially, prosperity means that someone has more money than “normal” or that they lack nothing materially.

In the context of political decisions and modes of action, material prosperity or gross domestic product per capita has so far been taken into account as an indicator of material prosperity. Other indicators of prosperity are the Engel coefficient and the human development index .

In the context of the changes in our society there is a demand that other aspects of prosperity are also perceived and included in the political discourse, e.g. B. the mental development and the mental balance.

historical development

The anthropologist Marshall Sahlins described the hunter-gatherer cultures (the warm countries) than the original affluent societies , for all needs were met and there was plenty of time for leisure. On average, they only had to spend two to five hours a day hunting, gathering and preparing food. In the modern consumer society, however, advertising constantly creates new needs, which, however, often cannot be met without money and a job. Sahlins expressly points out that it would be presumptuous to regard our modern ideas of a good life as the only true standard.

"Our greatest prosperity lies in the number of kupunas (elders)"

- Alex Pua, Hawaii Islander

The interpretation of wealth has changed a lot over time. In ancient times and the Middle Ages , prosperity was essentially determined by ethical and religious norms. The overall goal of mercantilism (in Germany, cameralism ) was the ruler's well-being. For physiocrats (18th century, Quesnay ), agricultural products were the only source of wealth. The labor factor and the principle of the division of labor gained relevance in the Classical era ( Wealth of Nations , Adam Smith , David Ricardo , Malthus ).

"Grace, order, prosperity and dignity are inseparable"

- Friedrich Schiller

In the context of utilitarianism , the individual perception of prosperity according to the "principle of greatest happiness for the greatest number" was important. At the beginning of the 20th century, Alfred Marshall introduced the theory of consumer surplus , which takes into account the economic and material aspect of prosperity. Pigou already understood the measurability of money and the criteria for increasing prosperity at the beginning of the 20th century. In the New Welfare Economy , prosperity was based on the principle of the Pareto optimum , which was characterized by the individual well-being of the individual households. The current understanding of prosperity is determined by the national accounts . As early as the middle of the 17th century, this was recorded for the first time through Petty's estimate of the national income. In Germany, this goes back to Leopold Krug . In the course of time, Keynes and Föhl developed the theory of the economic cycle further. Their work served as the basis for international systems such as that of the OECD . Today, the 3rd edition of the System of National Accounts (National Accounts, 1993) is available, in the European version ESA 1995 (European System of National Accounts). To this day, it is the basis for calculating economic indicators.

Happiness research

Economists such as Bruno S. Frey have examined the relationship between the development of income and well-being , among other things , and put forward the thesis that it is more important to deal with the conditions of happiness than with the average level of happiness. In Happiness Research in Economics , Frey describes four problems in economics: income, unemployment , inflation and inequality . He tries to show that unemployment has the greatest negative effect on happiness, as it limits income. According to Frey, the feeling of happiness is less affected by inflation. The book also highlights the importance of social norms. The negative effects of unemployment on people's well-being seem to be less if this state is socially accepted. In addition to unemployment, according to Frey, other economic factors also influence people's well-being. The feeling of happiness is positively influenced by the increase in income. (But compare: economic happiness research .)

The Asian state of Bhutan has set up a state commission for happiness research, which regularly determines the “ gross national happiness ” of the population. The country has a non-growth-oriented anchored economic model in its constitution and by representatives of the growth-critical movement cited as an example, other government targets to pursue as economic growth.

Influencing factors

The influencing factors can be divided into positive and negative aspects. Negative influencing factors can prevent or reduce the increase in prosperity. In contrast, positive influencing factors contribute to the increase in prosperity.

Influencing factors positive negative
Political situation Peace, security, freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of the press,

War, flight, military influence, isolation, closed borders, blockades, corruption, uncontrolled power, populism, terrorism

Economic situation

rising labor productivity, rising real wages, homogeneous income distribution , technical progress

Inflation, currency devaluation, loss of property, unemployment, frequent strikes, legal uncertainty, excessive national debt

Ecological situation

clean air and water, little noise, access to nature and green areas

Natural disasters, pollution

Social situation

Educational opportunities, child care, cultural activities, social and political engagement, leisure time

Epidemic diseases, addiction, illiteracy, professional crime, mafia-like structures, collective fear

Prosperity in Germany

Prosperity arises from high domestic production of goods and services, because it improves the supply of supplies. An important prerequisite is growing domestic sales or increasing exports. In view of the stagnating population and the increasing aging population, growth in domestic demand in Germany is only possible to a limited extent. In order for foreign trade potential to be exploited and the domestic market not to be threatened by competing countries, domestic international competitiveness is important. The country's high export sales show that German companies are internationally competitive and can therefore sell high-priced products on the world market. According to the preliminary results of the Federal Statistical Office, these amounted to € 1,157.18 billion in 2008 (nominal / price-adjusted).

Wealth of Germany 1950–2008 measured in terms of GDP per capita in €

For this consideration, the gross domestic product per capita is a good measure that is influenced by productivity and employment. Here productivity is measured as the gross domestic product per hour worked. In Germany, however, the development of both sizes is unfavorable. The average annual productivity growth rate from 2000 to 2005 was only 1.2% and a negative trend is emerging. Employment growth declined by an average of 0.4% during this period. For this reason, policies aim to create more jobs.

The system of the social market economy is decisive for the country's prosperity. Germany thus benefits from the efficiency of the markets. At the same time, social aspects are taken into account in the interests of society.

From the perspective of the population, rising incomes lead to more prosperity. In Germany the main source of income is dependent employment. Net earnings have increased significantly faster than prices over a period of 60 years. The average hourly wages in West Germany were 1.31 DM = 0.67 € in 1950 and rose to 13.59 € by 2007. This positive development is also reflected in the wage share , which in 2008 still reached a high level of 65% due to rising wages. With the increasing use of the production factor capital this should actually have decreased in the long run.

Another characteristic of the increase in German prosperity to date is the increase in leisure time. The collectively agreed weekly working hours in the country have fallen from an average of 47 to 37 hours. With around 30 vacation days a year, Germany is at a high level. These also contribute to greater prosperity.

In addition to this selection, other aspects are important. This includes, for example, an intact environment as well as cultural and social values. However, these dimensions of prosperity are not taken into account when measuring prosperity using gross domestic product - which only measures material prosperity.

In order to take into account the complexity of prosperity, it is therefore required that GDP be supplemented by ecological and social prosperity indicators to measure it. Advocate for this u. a. the Expert Council for the Assessment of Macroeconomic Development in Germany and the French Conseil d'Analyse Economique (CAE) in their joint report “Economic Performance, Quality of Life and Sustainability: A Comprehensive System of Indicators”. Specifically, they propose 25 indicators from three areas of application: material prosperity, quality of life and sustainability . A similar proposal comes from the Denkwerk Zukunft foundation. In the so-called prosperity quintet, it provides four additional indicators for the gross domestic product per capita: a distribution measure (the so-called 80/20 ratio), the social exclusion rate, the ecological footprint in relation to the globally available biocapacity and the debt ratio.

Comparison of EU countries

Despite the many criticisms, the gross domestic product is the most widely used indicator for measuring prosperity. In order to enable an international comparison between the countries, this is calculated on a per capita basis.

Comparison of EU countries according to GDP per capita

If the GDP per capita is measured in terms of purchasing power standards (PPS for short), the differently high price levels between the countries are balanced out.

In the comparison of EU countries based on gross domestic product per capita, Luxembourg ranks first. According to Eurostat , this is due, among other things, to the large number of foreigners who work in Luxembourg, as although they contribute to GDP, they are not counted as part of the population. The wealth of Luxembourgers is 2.5 times that of the average EU citizen. Besides the Luxembourgers, the richest EU citizens are in Ireland. Bulgaria is in last place. The people there are not even half as wealthy as a normal citizen of the EU. One of the reasons for this is the low wage, which is just € 1.80. Germany is currently 116%, just above the average.

In 2008 the situation was judged to be that Germany had developed more slowly than the other countries in recent years. In 2008, another scenario was considered in which this development would continue and in the next few years it would have been expected that Germany would be overtaken by Italy or Spain, for example. In the meantime it has been shown that Spain, Italy and Ireland, which were still doing very well in 2008, have now slipped into a serious crisis and that Germany in particular is doing well in comparison. In Ireland and Spain, the bursting of property bubbles was the main reason for the slide into the crisis.

Problems of wealth measurement

Over time, scientists have developed a number of indicators and indices to measure prosperity, including gross domestic product, per capita income , welfare function, and human development index (HDI). But the gross domestic product in particular has been increasingly criticized for years. Critics complain that losses in prosperity such as environmental pollution, noise and traffic accidents are not recorded, but also variables such as leisure and housework.

The United Nations Development Program established by the Human Development Index (HDI) an index which also takes into account in addition to the per capita income still aspects such as life expectancy, public health and educational level.

The so-called Net Economic Welfare (NEW) offers a further approach to wealth assessment. This is based first on the gross domestic product, which is adjusted for social costs , such as environmental pollution, and expanded to include private services, such as housework. The problem with this method is the right combination of the individual measured variables.

Even if these indicators achieve significant improvements compared to the GDP measurement, no indicator has so far emerged that really measures a country's wealth in a holistic way.

See also


  • Johannes M. Waidfeld: Growth, the error. Prosperity, a social consideration . Fischer & Fischer Medien AG, Frankfurt 2005, ISBN 3-89950-076-8 .
  • Georg von Wallwitz: Mr. Smith and Paradise. The invention of wealth . Berenberg Verlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-937834-63-4 .
  • Otmar Issing : History of the national economy . 2nd edition, Vahlen Verlag, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-8006-1256-9 .
  • Alfred Eugen Ott, Harald Winkel : History of theoretical economics . Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht Verlag, Göttingen 1985, ISBN 3-525-10525-8 .
  • Dieter Brümmerhoff : National accounts . 8th edition, Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58335-9 .
  • Hartwig Bartling: Fundamentals of Economics. Introduction to economic theory and economic policy . 9th edition. Vahlen, Munich 1992, ISBN 3800616459 .
  • Helga Luckenbach: An overview of economics . Volume I, Fundamentals of Economics . Franz Vahlen Verlag, 1994, ISBN 978-3-8006-1797-5 .
  • Reinhard Schneider: Location Germany - Foundations of Prosperity . MV Verlag, Münster 2006, ISBN 978-3-86582-383-0 .
  • Thomas Gries: International Competitiveness, A Case Study for Germany . 1st edition. Gabler, Wiesbaden 1998, ISBN 978-3409123105 .
  • Heinz-Dieter Hardes, Frieder Schmitz, Alexandra Uhly: Basic features of economics . 8th edition, Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-486-25919-9 .
  • Werner Lachmann: Economics I Basics . 4th edition, Springer Verlag, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-540-43730-4 .
  • René Bornmann, Michael Dauderstädt and others: Prosperity through productivity - Germany in international comparison . 2009 ( online as a PDF file, 323 kB, accessed on November 11, 2009).
  • Bruno Frey: Happiness, a Revolution in Economics . CES Publisher, London 2008, ISBN 978-0-262-06277-0 .
  • Hans Gerd Fuchs, Alfred Klose, Rolf Kramer: Goods and Ungüter . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-428-07089-5 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Prosperity  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Yanomami ( Memento from September 26, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). Website of the organization Survival International . Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  2. Georg Kneer , Armin Nassehi , Klaus Kraemer (eds.): Special sociologies - approaches to society. LIT Verlag, Münster, Hamburg 1995.
  3. The material culture of the Australian Aborigines - a "stone" age? (PDF; 104 kB). Website of the ethnological office Corinna Erckenbrecht. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  4. How people became diligent . FAZ website. Article dated November 5, 2011.
  5. Marshall Sahlins, quoted in Erich Fromm : Anatomie der Menschen Destruktiv Reinbek 1977.
  6. Christian Flohr: The secret messages of the primitive peoples. In: PM perspective. No. 92/028 "Naturvölker", Gruner + Jahr AG, Munich 1992.
  7. a b c Issing: Geschichte der Nationalökonomie, 1988, p. 169.
  8. Alfred Eugen Ott, Harald Winkel : Geschichte der theoretical Volkswirtschaftslehre, 1985, p. 24.
  9. Issing: Geschichte der Nationalökonomie, 1988, p. 170.
  10. ^ Friederich Schiller: Works and letters in twelve volumes. Edited by Otto then among others Volume 8: Friedrich Schiller: Theoretische Schriften. Edited by Rolf-Peter Janz with the collaboration of Hans Richard Brittnacher, Gerd Kleiner and Fabian Störmer. Frankfurt aM 1992, pp. 1001-1003
  11. Issing: Geschichte der Nationalökonomie, 1988, pp. 173 ff.
  12. Dieter Brümmerhoff : National Accounts, 2007, p. 40 ff.
  13. Frey: Happiness, a Revolution in Economics . CES, London 2008, ISBN 978-0-262-06277-0 .
  14. Bruno Frey: What makes us happy . FAZ of September 28, 2009, No. 225, p. 12.
  15. ^ Gross National Happiness Commission
  16. ^ Voss, Elisabeth: Solidarity Economy. Possibilities and examples of self-organized projects and companies, their limits, contradictions and ambivalences. Social work in the economization trap? Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2016, pp. 225–244.
  17. Hardes / Schmitz / Uhly: Grundzüge der Volkswirtschaftslehre, 2002.
  18. Lachmann: Economics I Basics, 2003.
  19. ^ Schneider: Location Germany - Foundations of Prosperity. 2006, pp. 382-387.
  20. ^ Federal Statistical Office: Genesis database , accessed on November 17, 2009.
  21. Bornmann, Dauderstädt u. a .: Prosperity through productivity - Germany in an international comparison, 2009, pp. 6-18.
  22. Gries: International Competitiveness, a case study for Germany. 1998, p. 31 ff.
  23. ^ Initiative New Social Market Economy (2009): Wealth Balance Germany. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  24. Denkwerk Zukunft (ed.): Das Wohlstandsquartett - To measure prosperity in Germany and other early industrialized countries  ( page no longer available , search in web archives ). Memorandum of the Denkwerk Zukunft - Foundation for Cultural Renewal. Bonn 2010.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  25. Expert Council for the Assessment of Overall Economic Development and Conseil d'Analyse Economique (2010), Economic Performance, Quality of Life and Sustainability: A Comprehensive System of Indicators, Expertise on behalf of the Franco-German Council of Ministers (PDF; 3.3 MB), December 2010, Paris, Wiesbaden .
  26. Denkwerk Zukunft (Ed.) (2011), Das Wohlstandsquintett - To measure prosperity in Germany and other early industrialized countries . Memorandum of the Denkwerk Zukunft - Foundation for Cultural Renewal. Bonn.
  27. a b European Commission Eurostat: GDP per capita in PPS .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archives ) Retrieved on November 16, 2009.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  28. European Commission Eurostat: Table: GDP per capita in PPS . Retrieved November 16, 2009
  29. Welt Online: EU comparison: In Bulgaria an hour of work costs 1.80 €. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
  30. Welt Online: Country comparison: Germany's decline in the prosperity league. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
  31. Brümmerhoff: National Accounts, 2007, p. 276 ff.
  32. a b Seidel, Temmen: Fundamentals of Economics  ( page no longer available , search in web archives ) (PDF). 27th edition Bildungsverlag Eins pp. 13–15. Retrieved November 18, 2009.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  33. Walterscheid, Wegehenkel: Discussion Paper No. 62: Prosperity of Nations and Legal Structure of a Social System 2008, p. 2 ( Memento of January 30, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF). Retrieved November 6, 2009.