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Good Enough for Government Work? Life-Evaluation and Public Policy

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  • Noel Semple

    (University of Windsor)

Abstract

A life-evaluation question asks a person to quantify his or her overall satisfaction with life, at the time when the question is asked. If public policy seeks to make individuals’ lives better, does it follow that changes in aggregate life-evaluations track policy success? This paper argues that life-evaluation is a practical and philosophically sound way to measure and predict welfare for the purpose of analyzing policy options. This is illustrated by the successful argument for expanding state-funded mental health services in the United Kingdom. However, life-evaluations sometimes fail to adequately measure individual welfare. Policy analysts therefore must sometimes inquire into the extent to which individuals’ preferences would be fulfilled, if different policies were to be adopted. This article proposes synthesizing life-evaluation and preference-fulfilment data about individual welfare, as a basis for welfare-consequentialist policy analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • Noel Semple, 2021. "Good Enough for Government Work? Life-Evaluation and Public Policy," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 1119-1140, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jhappi:v:22:y:2021:i:3:d:10.1007_s10902-020-00266-0
    DOI: 10.1007/s10902-020-00266-0
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