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Should National Happiness be Maximized?

  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Alois Stutzer

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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Paper provided by Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA) in its series CREMA Working Paper Series with number 2006-26.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
Date of revision: Mar 2007
Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2006-26
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  1. 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.
  2. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  3. Schelling, Thomas C, 1978. "Egonomics, or the Art of Self-Management," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 290-94, May.
  4. Leigh, Andrew & Wolfers, Justin, 2006. "Happiness and the Human Development Index: Australia is NOT a Paradox," CEPR Discussion Papers 5476, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Valuing Public Goods: The Life Satisfaction Approach," CREMA Working Paper Series 2004-11, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  6. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
  7. 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.
  8. Dafflon, Bernard & Rossi, Sergio, 1999. " Public Accounting Fudges towards EMU: A First Empirical Survey and Some Public Choice Considerations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 101(1-2), pages 59-84, October.
  9. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  10. 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, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
  11. John Helliwell, 2007. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 81(3), pages 455-496, May.
  12. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2005. "Happiness and the Human Development Index: The Paradox of Australia," IZA Discussion Papers 1601, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Silvia Pezzini, 2005. "The Effect of Women's Rights on Women's Welfare: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(502), pages C208-C227, 03.
  14. 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.
  15. J.J. Ehrhardt & W.E. Saris & R. Veenhoven, 2000. "Stability of Life-satisfaction over Time," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 177-205, June.
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