More anti-happiness

In: Uncategorized

17 Jul 2007

Helen Johns and Paul Ormerod have written a useful critique of the idea that government policy should be focused on happiness in today’s Financial Times (“Don’t ask the state for happiness”). Their thoughts are based on their Happiness, Economics and Public Policy, which is published this week by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Among the useful points they make:

* Happiness data “show no correlation with a whole range of factors that might reasonably be thought to improve well-being, such as a massive increase in leisure time, a tendency to live longer and a decline in gender inequality.”

* “More sinisterly, the happiness view of the world has tendencies that are inherently anti-democratic. The expert with his or her clipboard and regressions knows better than ordinary people themselves what makes them happy. So local democratic or individual decisions can be overridden with a clean conscience.”

* “GNP is not an all-encompassing measure of welfare; it simply measures the size of the economy.”

However, they do not go as far as Michael Savage in explicitly rejecting happiness as a worthy goal for human action (see 11 July post).

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