Happiness, Economics and Public Policy

60 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2007

See all articles by Helen Johns

Helen Johns

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Paul Ormerod

Volterra Consulting


In a lucid and compelling analysis, written for economists and non-economists alike, the authors find that happiness research cannot be used to justify government intervention in the way its proponents suggest. Those who would wish governments to take into account measures of wellbeing when setting policy often point to the fact that increases in income have not lead to increases in measured happiness, and thus governments should concentrate on redistribution and improving the quality of life, rather than on allowing people to benefit from economic growth. In fact, measured happiness does not appear to be related to public spending, violent crime, property crime, sexual equality, disability, life expectancy or unemployment either. The stark fact is that the difficulties in measuring society's happiness are insurmountable, and policymakers should not claim that they can control and increase happiness through public policy decisions.

Keywords: Economics of happiness, measuring happiness, wellbeing, welfare

JEL Classification: A1, B4, C00, D6, D63, I31

Suggested Citation

Johns, Helen and Ormerod, Paul, Happiness, Economics and Public Policy. Institute of Economic Affairs, Research Monograph 62, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1020246

Helen Johns (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Paul Ormerod

Volterra Consulting ( email )

5 The Old Power Station
121 Mortlake High Street
London SW14 8SN
United Kingdom

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