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The Economic Problem of Happiness. Keynes on Happiness and Economics

Author

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  • Anna M. Carabelli
  • Mario A. Cedrini

    (SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont)

Abstract

In their latest book (2008), Bruno Frey and the members of the research group he chairs at the University of Zurich announce that happiness research is leading a revolution in economics. More precisely, the revolutionary character of happiness economics would draw on measurement, on how people value goods and social conditions, as well as on policies. This paper aims to discuss critically this claim and what we identified as five crucial issues of mainstream happiness economics, i.e.: 1. the ambiguous relationship between income and happiness, 2. the “back to Bentham” approach, 3. problems of incommensurability, 4. heterogeneity and multidimensionality, 5. the scope of economics in relation to happiness. In so doing, we attempt to review John Maynard Keynes’s vision about happiness and economics, starting from a revisiting of his essay Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren in the light of his early unpublished writings on ethics as well as of the whole bulk of his writings in economics. We then provide reasons to argue that the rediscovery of Keynes’s legacy in this respect can be of help to point out and examine the most controversial aspects of today’s happiness research.

Suggested Citation

  • Anna M. Carabelli & Mario A. Cedrini, 2009. "The Economic Problem of Happiness. Keynes on Happiness and Economics," Working Papers 123, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
  • Handle: RePEc:upo:upopwp:123
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Barrotta, Pierluigi, 2008. "Why Economists Should Be Unhappy With The Economics Of Happiness," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(02), pages 145-165, July.
    2. Barry Gordon, 2005. "Aristotle and Hesiod: The economic problem in Greek thought," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(3), pages 395-404.
    3. Bruno S. Frey & Matthias Benz, 2004. "From Imperialism to Inspiration: A Survey of Economics and Psychology," Chapters,in: The Elgar Companion To Economics and Philosophy, chapter 4 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Roberto Marchionatti, 2010. "J. M. Keynes, thinker of economic complexity," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 18(2), pages 115-146.
    5. Jon Wisman, 2003. "The Scope and Promising Future of Social Economics," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 61(4), pages 425-445.
    6. Anna Carabelli & Nicolo De Vecchi, 1999. "'Where to draw the line'? Keynes versus Hayek on Knowledge, ethics and economics," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(2), pages 271-296.
    7. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1848-1858, November.
    8. Daniel Kahneman & Peter P. Wakker & Rakesh Sarin, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-406.
    9. Hosseini, Hamid, 2003. "The arrival of behavioral economics: from Michigan, or the Carnegie School in the 1950s and the early 1960s?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 391-409, September.
    10. Lee E. Ohanian, 2008. "Back to the future with Keynes," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Jul, pages 10-16.
    11. Anna M. Carabelli & Mario A. Cedrini, 2010. "“Veiling The Controversies with Dubious Moral Attitudes”? Creditors and Debtors in Keynes’s Ethics of International Economic Relations," Working Papers 127, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
    12. Cedrini Mario, 2006. "Keynes, l'arte, lo stato: il paradiso ritrovato e poi perduto," CESMEP Working Papers 200601, University of Turin.
    13. Mario A. Cedrini, 2008. "Fighting Through Britain. The “Gift Dimension” of Keynes's Quest for a New Global Order," Working Papers 119, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
    14. Goodwin, Craufurd D., 2000. "Economic Man in the Garden of Eden," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(04), pages 405-432, December.
    15. Dolan, Paul & Peasgood, Tessa & White, Mathew, 2008. "Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-122, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anna M. Carabelli & Mario A. Cedrini, 2010. ">i>Indian Currency>/i> and beyond: the legacy of the early economics of Keynes in the times of Bretton Woods II," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(2), pages 255-280, January.
    2. Anna Carabelli, 2012. "A new methodological approach to economic theory: what I have learnt from 30 years of research on Keynes," Chapters,in: Keynes’s General Theory for Today, chapter 5, pages 79-97 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Carabelli, Anna M. & Cedrini, Mario, 2013. "Globalization and Keynes’s Ideal of a “Sounder Political Economy between all Nations," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201349, University of Turin.
    4. Jörg Bibow, 2010. "Global imbalances, the US dollar, and how the crisis at the core of global finance spread to "self-insuring" emerging market economies," European Journal of Economics and Economic Policies: Intervention, Edward Elgar Publishing, vol. 7(2), pages 325-359.
    5. Carabelli, Anna & Cedrini, Mario, 2013. "A Methodological Reading of "The Economic Consequences of the Peace"," CESMEP Working Papers 201304, University of Turin.
    6. Anna M. Carabelli & Mario A. Cedrini, 2010. "“Veiling The Controversies with Dubious Moral Attitudes”? Creditors and Debtors in Keynes’s Ethics of International Economic Relations," Working Papers 127, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
    7. Ricardo Crespo & Belén Mesurado, 2015. "Happiness Economics, Eudaimonia and Positive Psychology: From Happiness Economics to Flourishing Economics," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 931-946, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Happiness; Happiness economics; John Maynard Keynes; Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren;

    JEL classification:

    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals

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