IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Approaches to well-being, use of psychology and paternalism in economics


  • Collewet, Marion


This paper discusses three approaches in economics which take a position on the definition of well-being and which use insights from psychology to support their positions: Scitovsky's Joyless Economy, happiness economics, and the constitutional approach to happiness in economics. The paper shows first that the definition of well-being by each approach, which is a normative step, is revealed by the choice of a psychological theory or method rather than resulting from the application of a theory or method. Secondly, this paper demonstrates that personal judgement by the authors is often needed in the positive realm, in order to interpret psychological results and to then translate them into practical recommendations. Both of these issues have implications for those theories that define well-being as something other than the fulfillment of individual preferences whatever their content, and which therefore yield a potential justification for paternalism. This paper argues that the potential paternalistic implications of these approaches are not based on positive science only, but rely on normative choice and personal judgement.

Suggested Citation

  • Collewet, Marion, 2014. "Approaches to well-being, use of psychology and paternalism in economics," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 8, pages 1-25.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:201432

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert Sugden, 2004. "The Opportunity Criterion: Consumer Sovereignty Without the Assumption of Coherent Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1014-1033, September.
    2. Brennan, Geoffrey & Brooks, Michael, 2011. "On the ‘cashing out’ hypothesis and ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ policies," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 601-610.
    3. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2010. "Happiness and public choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 144(3), pages 557-573, September.
    4. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
    5. Paul Anand & Graham Hunter & Ron Smith, 2005. "Capabilities and Well-Being: Evidence Based on the Sen–Nussbaum Approach to Welfare," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 74(1), pages 9-55, October.
    6. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
    7. Ruut Veenhoven, 2010. "Greater Happiness for a Greater Number," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 11(5), pages 605-629, October.
    8. Loewenstein, George & Ubel, Peter A., 2008. "Hedonic adaptation and the role of decision and experience utility in public policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1795-1810, August.
    9. Christian Schubert, 2012. "Pursuing Happiness," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 245-261, May.
    10. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    11. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(1 (Spring), pages 1-102.
    12. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur Stone, 2004. "Toward National Well-Being Accounts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 429-434, May.
    13. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2012. "The use of happiness research for public policy," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 38(4), pages 659-674, April.
    14. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
    15. Bruno Frey & Matthias Benz & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Introducing Procedural Utility: Not Only What, but Also How Matters," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 160(3), pages 377-377, September.
    16. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    17. Scitovsky, Tibor, 1992. "The Joyless Economy: The Psychology of Human Satisfaction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195073478.
    18. Maurizio Pugno, 2014. "Scitovsky's The Joyless Economy and the economics of happiness," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(2), pages 278-303, April.
    19. repec:pri:cepsud:125krueger is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Bianchi, Marina, 2003. "A questioning economist: Tibor Scitovsky's attempt to bring joy into economics," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 391-407, June.
    21. Anand, Paul & van Hees, Martin, 2006. "Capabilities and achievements: An empirical study," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 268-284, April.
    22. Bruno S. Frey, 2008. "Happiness: A Revolution in Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262062771, January.
    23. Daniel Kahneman & Richard H. Thaler, 2006. "Anomalies: Utility Maximization and Experienced Utility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 221-234, Winter.
    24. Backhouse, Roger E., 2009. "Robbins And Welfare Economics: A Reappraisal," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(04), pages 474-484, December.
    25. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2007. "Toward Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 464-470, May.
    26. Richard M. Ryan & Veronika Huta & Edward Deci, 2008. "Living well: a self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 139-170, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Antonio Bariletti & Eleonora Sanfilippo, 2015. "At the origin of the notion of “creative goods” in economics: Scitovsky and Hawtrey," Working Papers 2015-02, Universita' di Cassino, Dipartimento di Economia e Giurisprudenza.

    More about this item


    paternalism; well-being; Scitovsky; happiness economics; constitutional approach;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • B21 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Microeconomics


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:201432. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - German National Library of Economics). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.