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Happiness Studies: Ways to Improve Comparability and Some Public Policy Implications

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  • YEW-KWANG NG

Abstract

Recent happiness studies by psychologists, sociologists and economists have produced many interesting results. These have important implications, including the need to focus less on purely objective (including economic) variables and more on subjective well-being. In particular, the focus on GDP should be supplemented (if not replaced) by more acceptable national success indicators such as the environmentally responsible happy nation index. Welfare economics and cost-benefit analysis that are currently based on economic factors (which are in turn based on preferences) should be revised to be based on happiness or welfare. Public spending on areas important for welfare should be preferred over private consumption that is largely no longer important for long-term welfare at the social level. Public policy should put more emphasis (than suggested by existing economic analysis) on factors more important for happiness than economic production and consumption, including employment, environmental quality, equality, health and safety. Above all, scientific advance in general and in brain stimulation and genetic engineering in particular may offer the real breakthroughs against the biological or psychological limitations on happiness. Some simple ways to improve the accuracy and comparability (including interpersonal) of happiness measurement are suggested: pinning down the level of neutrality, recognising the possible nonlinear scale used in self-reports, and using the just perceivable increment of pleasure as the interpersonally comparable unit. Copyright © 2008 The Economic Society of Australia.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by The Economic Society of Australia in its journal Economic Record.

Volume (Year): 84 (2008)
Issue (Month): 265 (06)
Pages: 253-266

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ecorec:v:84:y:2008:i:265:p:253-266

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Cited by:
  1. Haiou Zhou, 2012. "A New Framework of Happiness Survey and Evaluation of National Wellbeing," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 108(3), pages 491-507, September.
  2. Yew-Kwang NG, 2013. "Some Conceptual and Methodological Issues on Happiness: Lessons from Evolutionary Biology," Economic Growth centre Working Paper Series 1308, Nanyang Technolgical University, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Economic Growth centre.
  3. Martin Binder & Tom Broekel, 2012. "Happiness No Matter the Cost? An Examination on How Efficiently Individuals Reach Their Happiness Levels," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 621-645, August.
  4. Tausch, Arno, 2011. "Costa Rica, superstar? some reflections on the global drivers and bottlenecks of the happy planet index," MPRA Paper 33226, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Tausch, Arno, 2011. "The ‘four economic freedoms’ and life quality. General tendencies and some hard lessons for EU-27-Europe," MPRA Paper 33225, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Arno Tausch & Almas Heshmati, 2013. "Worker remittances and the global preconditions of ‘smart development’," Society and Economy, Akadémiai Kiadó, Hungary, vol. 35(1), pages 25-50, April.
  7. Yew-Kwang Ng, 2011. "Happiness Is Absolute, Universal, Ultimate, Unidimensional, Cardinally Measurable and Interpersonally Comparable: A Basis for the Environmentally Responsible Happy Nation Index," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 16-11, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  8. Czapinski, Janusz, 2013. "The economics of happiness and psychology of wealth," MPRA Paper 52897, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Arno Tausch & Almas Heshmati, 2012. "Migration, Openness and the Global Preconditions of "Smart Development"," Bogazici Journal of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Bogazici University, Department of Economics, vol. 26(2), pages 1-62.
  10. Inga Kristoffersen, 2011. "The Subjective Wellbeing Scale: How Reasonable is the Cardinality Assumption?," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 11-15, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.

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