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The Economic Problem of Happiness. Keynes on Happiness and Economics

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  • Anna M. Carabelli
  • Mario A. Cedrini

    (SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont)

Abstract

In their latest book (2008), Bruno Frey and the members of the research group he chairs at the University of Zurich announce that happiness research is leading a revolution in economics. More precisely, the revolutionary character of happiness economics would draw on measurement, on how people value goods and social conditions, as well as on policies. This paper aims to discuss critically this claim and what we identified as five crucial issues of mainstream happiness economics, i.e.: 1. the ambiguous relationship between income and happiness, 2. the “back to Bentham” approach, 3. problems of incommensurability, 4. heterogeneity and multidimensionality, 5. the scope of economics in relation to happiness. In so doing, we attempt to review John Maynard Keynes’s vision about happiness and economics, starting from a revisiting of his essay Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren in the light of his early unpublished writings on ethics as well as of the whole bulk of his writings in economics. We then provide reasons to argue that the rediscovery of Keynes’s legacy in this respect can be of help to point out and examine the most controversial aspects of today’s happiness research.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont in its series Working Papers with number 123.

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Date of creation: May 2009
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Handle: RePEc:upo:upopwp:123

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Keywords: Happiness; Happiness economics; John Maynard Keynes; Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren;

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References

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  1. Mario A. Cedrini, 2008. "Fighting Through Britain. The “Gift Dimension” of Keynes's Quest for a New Global Order," Working Papers 119, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
  2. Cedrini Mario, 2006. "Keynes, l'arte, lo stato: il paradiso ritrovato e poi perduto," CESMEP Working Papers 200601, University of Turin.
  3. Dolan, Paul & Peasgood, Tessa & White, Mathew, 2008. "Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-122, February.
  4. Lee E. Ohanian, 2008. "Back to the future with Keynes," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Jul, pages 10-16.
  5. Yew-Kwang, Ng, 1997. "A case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Departmental Working Papers _081, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics.
  6. Anna M. Carabelli & Mario A. Cedrini, 2010. "“Veiling The Controversies with Dubious Moral Attitudes”? Creditors and Debtors in Keynes’s Ethics of International Economic Relations," Working Papers 127, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
  7. Roger Backhouse & Bradley Bateman, 2006. "John Maynard Keynes: Artist, Philosopher, Economist," Atlantic Economic Journal, International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 34(2), pages 149-159, June.
  8. Barry Gordon, 2005. "Aristotle and Hesiod: The economic problem in Greek thought," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(3), pages 395-404.
  9. Jon Wisman, 2003. "The Scope and Promising Future of Social Economics," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 61(4), pages 425-445.
  10. D. E. Moggridge, 2005. "Keynes, the Arts, and the State," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 37(3), pages 535-555, Fall.
  11. Marchionatti Roberto, 2009. "J. M. Keynes, thinker of economic complexity," CESMEP Working Papers 200902, University of Turin.
  12. Barrotta, Pierluigi, 2008. "Why Economists Should Be Unhappy With The Economics Of Happiness," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(02), pages 145-165, July.
  13. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
  14. Anna Carabelli & Nicolo De Vecchi, 1999. "'Where to draw the line'? Keynes versus Hayek on Knowledge, ethics and economics," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(2), pages 271-296.
  15. Hosseini, Hamid, 2003. "The arrival of behavioral economics: from Michigan, or the Carnegie School in the 1950s and the early 1960s?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 391-409, September.
  16. Goodwin, Craufurd D., 2000. "Economic Man in the Garden of Eden," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(04), pages 405-432, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Anna M. Carabelli & Mario A. Cedrini, 2009. "Indian Currency and Beyond. The Legacy of the Early Economics of Keynes in the Times of Bretton Woods II," Working Papers 121, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
  2. Anna M. Carabelli & Mario A. Cedrini, 2010. "“Veiling The Controversies with Dubious Moral Attitudes”? Creditors and Debtors in Keynes’s Ethics of International Economic Relations," Working Papers 127, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.

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