Happiness, Efficiency, and the Promise of Decisional Equity: From Output to Process

47 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2008 Last revised: 25 Aug 2009

See all articles by Jeffrey Lynch Harrison

Jeffrey Lynch Harrison

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: May 2009


Those who resist the teachings of law and economics are rightfully concerned that economic efficiency is largely based on the predictions of relatively acquisitive people about what will make them feel or be better off. Due to a variety of factors, these predictions often turn out to be wrong. The explosion in happiness research would appear to have the potential to close the link between choices and actual outcomes and, consequently, make the concept of efficiency more meaningful. This Article explores this promising advance. It concludes that direct focus on one concept or another of happiness or "better-off-ness" does not fully address the limitations of law and economics and may raise additional issues. For example, which is more important, feeling better off or being better off? In addition, when does happiness count? Is it at the time of the activity or as one remembers it? The Article explains why outcome-oriented goals like efficiency, happiness, or well-being are ultimately of limited use as goals for law. It then makes the case that law would be more usefully applied to the process of decision-making. To this end, it examines the extent to which law can be devoted to a decision-making idea or "decisional equity." The ideal of decisional equity requires addressing three areas - information imbalances, psychic biases, and adaptations to social conditions.

Keywords: happiness, efficiency, coase, pareto, sustein, contract law, economics, relative deprivation, equity, behavioral economics

JEL Classification: A11, A12, A14, K00, K12

Suggested Citation

Harrison, Jeffrey Lynch, Happiness, Efficiency, and the Promise of Decisional Equity: From Output to Process (May 2009). Pepperdine Law Review, May 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1161253

Jeffrey Lynch Harrison (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

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