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How's Your Government? International Evidence Linking Good Government and Well-Being

Listed author(s):
  • HELLIWELL, JOHN F.
  • HUANG, HAIFANG

In this paper we employ World Values Survey measures of life satisfaction as though they were direct measures of utility, and use them to evaluate alternative features and forms of government in large international samples. We find that life satisfaction is more closely linked to several World Bank measures of the quality of government than to real per capita incomes, in simple correlations and more fully specified models explaining international differences in life satisfaction. We test for differences in the relative importance of different aspects of good government, and find a hierarchy of preferences that depends on the level of development. The ability of governments to provide a trustworthy environment, and to deliver services honestly and efficiently, appears to be of paramount importance for countries with worse governance and lower incomes. The balance changes once acceptable levels of efficiency, trust and incomes are achieved, when more value is attached to building and maintaining the institutions of electoral democracy.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal British Journal of Political Science.

Volume (Year): 38 (2008)
Issue (Month): 04 (October)
Pages: 595-619

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Handle: RePEc:cup:bjposi:v:38:y:2008:i:04:p:595-619_00
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  1. Torsten Persson, 2002. "Do Political Institutions Shape Economic Policy?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(3), pages 883-905, May.
  2. Helliwell, John F., 2003. "How's life? Combining individual and national variables to explain subjective well-being," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 331-360, March.
  3. Dani Rodrik & Arvind Subramanian & Francesco Trebbi, 2004. "Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions Over Geography and Integration in Economic Development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 131-165, 06.
  4. Robert J. Barro, 1991. "Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 407-443.
  5. Frey, Bruno S & Stutzer, Alois, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(466), pages 918-938, October.
  6. Helliwell, John F., 1994. "Empirical Linkages Between Democracy and Economic Growth," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(02), pages 225-248, April.
  7. Torsten Persson, 2003. "Consequences of Constitutions," NBER Working Papers 10170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Knack, Stephen, 2000. "Social capital and the quality of Government : evidence from the U.S. States," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2504, The World Bank.
  9. Stephen Knack, 2001. "Aid Dependence and the Quality of Governance: Cross-Country Empirical Tests," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 310-329, October.
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