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Maximising Happiness?

  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Alois Stutzer

The measurement of individual happiness challenges the notion that revealed preferences only reliably and empirically reflect individual utility. Reported subjective well-being is a broader concept than traditional decision utility; it also includes concepts like experience and procedural utility. Micro- and macroeconometric happiness functions offer new insights on determinants of life satisfaction. However, one should not leap to the conclusion that happiness should be maximised, as was suggested for social welfare function maximisation. In contrast, happiness research strengthens the validity of an institutional approach, such as reflected in the theory of democratic economic policy.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 022.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:022
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  1. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2001. "Identifying Welfare Effects from Subjective Questions," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(271), pages 335-57, August.
  2. Jorgenson, Dale W & Lau, Lawrence J & Stoker, Thomas M, 1980. "Welfare Comparison under Exact Aggregation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(2), pages 268-72, May.
  3. Yew-Kwang Ng, 1996. "Happiness surveys: Some comparability issues and an exploratory survey based on just perceivable increments," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 1-27, May.
  4. Konow, James & Earley, Joseph, 2007. "The Hedonistic Paradox: Is Homo Economicus Happier?," MPRA Paper 2728, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Yew-Kwang, Ng, 1997. "A case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Departmental Working Papers _081, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics.
  6. Kapteyn, Arie, 1994. "The Measurement of Household Cost Functions: Revealed Preference versus Subjective Measures," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 7(4), pages 333-50, November.
  7. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-364386 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Kapteyn, A.J., 1994. "The measurement of household cost functions : Revealed preference versus subjective measures," Discussion Paper 1994-3, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  9. Sen, Amartya, 1995. "Rationality and Social Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 1-24, March.
  10. Robert P. Inman & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 1997. "Rethinking Federalism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 43-64, Fall.
  11. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  12. Lars P. Feld & Gebhard Kirchgassner, 1999. "Public Debt and Budgetary Procedures: Top Down or Bottom Up? Some Evidence from Swiss Municipalities," NBER Chapters, in: Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance, pages 151-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
  14. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
  15. Loewenstein, George, 1999. "Because It Is There: The Challenge of Mountaineering . . . for Utility Theory," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(3), pages 315-43.
  16. Rafael Di Tella & Robert J. MacCulloch & Andrew J. Oswald, 2003. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 809-827, November.
  17. Frank, Robert H, 1997. "The Frame of Reference as a Public Good," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1832-47, November.
  18. Santerre, Rexford E, 1993. " Representative versus Direct Democracy: The Role of Public Bureaucrats," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 76(3), pages 189-98, July.
  19. Tom R. Tyler, 1997. "Procedural Fairness and Compliance with the Law," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 133(II), pages 219-240, June.
  20. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  21. repec:dgr:kubcen:19943 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Boskin, Michael J & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1978. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation when Individual Welfare Depends upon Relative Income," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 589-601, November.
  23. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-31, November.
  24. Kenny, Charles, 1999. "Does Growth Cause Happiness, or Does Happiness Cause Growth?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 3-25.
  25. Jon Elster, 1998. "Emotions and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 47-74, March.
  26. Daniel T. Slesnick, 1998. "Empirical Approaches to the Measurement of Welfare," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 2108-2165, December.
  27. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 1999. "Measuring Preferences by Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 155(4), pages 755-778, December.
  28. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  29. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521070904 is not listed on IDEAS
  30. Frey, Bruno S, 1997. "A Constitution for Knaves Crowds Out Civic Virtues," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(443), pages 1043-53, July.
  31. Yew-Kwang Ng, 1999. "Utility, informed preference, or happiness: Following Harsanyi's argument to its logical conclusion," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 197-216.
  32. Alois Stutzer, . "Demokratieindizes für die Kantone der Schweiz," IEW - Working Papers 023, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  33. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1998. "Comparison-concave utility and following behaviour in social and economic settings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 133-155, October.
  34. Feld, Lars P & Savioz, Marcel R, 1997. "Direct Democracy Matters for Economic Performance: An Empirical Investigation," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 507-38.
  35. Gerlach, Knut & Stephan, Gesine, 1996. "A paper on unhappiness and unemployment in Germany," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 325-330, September.
  36. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. "Fiscal Effects of the Voter Initiative: Evidence from the Last 30 Years," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 587-623, June.
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