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Should We Maximize National Happiness?

  • 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 Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 306.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:306
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  1. 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).
  2. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
  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. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  5. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, . "Valuing Public Goods: The Life Satisfaction Approach," IEW - Working Papers 184, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Beyond Outcomes: Measuring Procedural Utility," IEW - Working Papers 076, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  7. Andrew Leigh & Justin Wolfers, 2005. "Happiness and the Human Development Index: Australia is Not a Paradox," CEPR Discussion Papers 505, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  8. 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.
  9. von Hagen, Jurgen & Wolff, Guntram B., 2006. "What do deficits tell us about debt? Empirical evidence on creative accounting with fiscal rules in the EU," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(12), pages 3259-3279, December.
  10. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  11. 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.
  12. Oswald, A.J., 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Papers 18, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  13. John Helliwell, 2007. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 81(3), pages 455-496, May.
  14. 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.
  15. Stutzer, Alois & Frey, Bruno S., 2006. "Does marriage make people happy, or do happy people get married?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 326-347, April.
  16. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
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