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Happiness and Economics: A Buddhist Perspective

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  • Colin Ash

    () (Department of Economics, University of Reading)

Abstract

Economics and particularly economic policy often seems to focus almost exclusively on the growth of income and creation of wealth. However economists have always viewed Gross National Product (GNP) as an imperfect measure of human welfare. Recent research on subjective well-being (happiness) consistently confirms that there are diminishing marginal returns to income. Once basic material needs are satisfied, happiness responds more to interpersonal relationships than to income. One’s personal values and philosophy of life also matter, as do strategies and techniques for mood control and raising each individual’s baseline or set-point level of happiness. This paper briefly summarises the research findings which have led to this gradual and ongoing shift of focus. Then we take a Buddhist perspective on happiness and economics. Many of the recent research findings are consistent with Buddhist analysis, particularly its analysis of the conditioning process leading to unhappiness. Furthermore, Buddhist practices provide skilful means for the mind to control the mood. The paper ends, however, on a cautionary note: in what sense, if any, is the “greatest happiness” the Buddhist goal?

Suggested Citation

  • Colin Ash, 2008. "Happiness and Economics: A Buddhist Perspective," Economics & Management Discussion Papers em-dp2008-59, Henley Business School, Reading University.
  • Handle: RePEc:rdg:emxxdp:em-dp2008-59
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    File URL: http://www.reading.ac.uk/nmsruntime/saveasdialog.asp?lID=23089&sID=34517
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    Keywords

    income; happiness; Buddhism;

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