Happiness and Economics

What is happiness? What has happiness to do with economics?
When I chose to study economics, I had in mind that it would give me the tools to help make the world a better, happier place to live in. Although nowadays I find changing myself so that I can make people happier an hard enough task, I still believe that the aim of economics is to help develop policies that will increase the amount of happiness in society. After all Betham and the other founding fathers of economics believed that public policy should be aimed to maximize the sum of happiness in society. Later the aim of economics was restricted to the study of “human behavior as a relationship between given ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.”( Lionel Robbins 1932 An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science). Recently however there has been a renewed interest on the relationship between economics and happiness. Here is the link to the Lionel Robbins memorial lectures given by Richard Layard on March 2003:

  • lecture1 Happiness: has social science a clue?
  • lecture2 Income and happiness: rethinking economic policy
  • lecture3 What would make a happier society

Other good sources on economics and happiness are the review article by Frey. & Sturzer 2002 ‘What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research? Journal of Economic Literature
40(2), 402-35 and the book Happiness and economics: How the economy and institutions affect well-being; By Frey, Bruno S.; Stutzer, Alois, 2002, pp. viii, 220, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press and the book Happiness in economics; By Easterlin, Richard A., ed., 2002, pp. xvi, 244, Elgar Reference Collection. International Library of Critical Writings in Economics, vol. 142. Cheltenham, U.K. and Northampton, Mass.: Elgar; distributed by American International Distribution Corporation, Williston, Vt.


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