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Should We Maximize National Happiness?

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  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Alois Stutzer

Abstract

Cross-disciplinary ‘happiness research’ has made big progress in the measurement of individual welfare. This development makes it tempting to pursue the old dream of maximizing aggregate happiness as a social welfare function. However, we postulate that the appropriate approach is not to maximize aggregate happiness in seeking to improve outcomes by direct policy interventions. The goal of happiness research should rather be to improve the nature of the processes through which individuals can express their preferences. Individuals should become better able to advance their idea of the good life, both individually and collectively.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 306.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:306

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Keywords: Economic policy; happiness; life satisfaction; political economy; social welfare; utility;

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References

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  1. Alois Stutzer & Bruno S. Frey, . "Does Marriage Make People Happy, Or Do Happy People Get Married?," IEW - Working Papers, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich 143, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. John F. Helliwell, 2004. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," NBER Working Papers 10896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  4. von Hagen, Jürgen & Wolff, Guntram B., 2004. "What do deficits tell us about debt? Empirical evidence on creative accounting with fiscal rules in the EU," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2004,38, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  5. Schelling, Thomas C, 1978. "Egonomics, or the Art of Self-Management," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 290-94, May.
  6. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
  7. Rafael Lalive & Alois Stutzer, 2010. "Approval of equal rights and gender differences in well-being," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 933-962, June.
  8. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Valuing Public Goods: The Life Satisfaction Approach," CREMA Working Paper Series, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA) 2004-11, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  9. Andrew Leigh & Justin Wolfers, 2005. "Happiness and the Human Development Index: Australia is Not a Paradox," CEPR Discussion Papers, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University 505, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  10. J.J. Ehrhardt & W.E. Saris & R. Veenhoven, 2000. "Stability of Life-satisfaction over Time," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 177-205, June.
  11. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
  12. Brennan,Geoffrey & Buchanan,James M., 2008. "The Reason of Rules," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521070904.
  13. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," CESifo Working Paper Series 246, CESifo Group Munich.
  14. Silvia Pezzini, 2005. "The Effect of Women's Rights on Women's Welfare: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(502), pages C208-C227, 03.
  15. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  16. Dafflon, Bernard & Rossi, Sergio, 1999. " Public Accounting Fudges towards EMU: A First Empirical Survey and Some Public Choice Considerations," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 101(1-2), pages 59-84, October.
  17. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-2001, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  18. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2005. "Happiness and the Human Development Index: The Paradox of Australia," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 38(3), pages 307-318, 09.
  19. Kerwin Kofi Charles, 2002. "Is Retirement Depressing?: Labor Force Inactivity and Psychological Well-Being in Later Life," NBER Working Papers 9033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Beyond Outcomes: Measuring Procedural Utility," IEW - Working Papers, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich 076, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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Cited by:
  1. Sarracino, Francesco, 2013. "Determinants of subjective well-being in high and low income countries: Do happiness equations differ across countries?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 51-66.
  2. Hayo, Bernd, 2007. "Happiness in transition: An empirical study on Eastern Europe," Economic Systems, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 204-221, June.

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