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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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  • Yew-Kwang Ng, 2008. "Happiness Studies: Ways to Improve Comparability and Some Public Policy Implications," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 84(265), pages 253-266, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecorec:v:84:y:2008:i:265:p:253-266
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Tausch, Arno, 2016. "‘Smart development’. An essay on a new political economy of the environment," MPRA Paper 70204, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. repec:wsi:serxxx:v:60:y:2015:i:04:n:s0217590815400019 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Yew-Kwang Ng, 2015. "Some Conceptual And Methodological Issues On Happiness: Lessons From Evolutionary Biology," The Singapore Economic Review (SER), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 60(04), pages 1-17.
    4. Ingebjørg Kristoffersen, 2017. "The Metrics of Subjective Wellbeing Data: An Empirical Evaluation of the Ordinal and Cardinal Comparability of Life Satisfaction Scores," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(2), pages 845-865, January.
    5. Arno Tausch & Almas Heshmati, 2012. "Migration, Openness and the Global Preconditions of "Smart Development"," Bogazici Journal, Review of Social, Economic and Administrative Studies, Bogazici University, Department of Economics, vol. 26(2), pages 1-62.
    6. 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.
    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," Monash Economics Working Papers 16-11, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    8. 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.
    9. Haiou Zhou, 2012. "A New Framework of Happiness Survey and Evaluation of National Wellbeing," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 108(3), pages 491-507, September.
    10. O'Donnell, Gus & Oswald, Andrew J., 2015. "National well-being policy and a weighted approach to human feelings," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 59-70.
    11. Czapinski, Janusz, 2013. "The economics of happiness and psychology of wealth," MPRA Paper 52897, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. 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.
    13. Bünger Björn & Prinz Aloys, 2010. "Staatliche Glücksförderung? Karl Popper, Richard Layard und das Rauchen / Should public policy pursue happiness? Karl Popper, Richard Layard and smoking," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 61(1), pages 169-190, January.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.

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