Pursuing Happiness

17 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2012

Date Written: May 2012


While positive research on the determinants of happiness (or ‘subjective well‐being’) abounds, comparatively little thought has been given to its practical policy implications. Two approaches to derive policy advice seem to emerge in the literature: The first, most prominent one, is organized in terms of the idea to maximize a hedonic social welfare function. The second focuses on the design of constitutional rules to facilitate the individuals' self‐determined ‘pursuit’ of happiness. We suggest to substantiate what it means to ‘pursue’ (rather than merely ‘enjoy’) happiness in order to provide the constitutional approach to happiness politics with deeper psychological foundations and a more refined policy focus. Specifically, the pursuit of happiness is seen as being constituted not only by the satisfaction of innate needs for self‐determination (generating procedural utility), but also by (i) the enjoyable anticipation of hedonically valuable outcomes, and (ii) the use of these outcomes within the context of an overarching process of preference learning. If extended in this direction, a notion of the pursuit of happiness has interesting conceptual and policy implications. The latter are exemplified by suggestions on how to re‐focus public decision‐making mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

Schubert, Christian, Pursuing Happiness (May 2012). Kyklos, Vol. 65, Issue 2, pp. 245-261, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2043466 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6435.2012.00537.x

Christian Schubert (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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