Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 659–674

The use of happiness research for public policy

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00355-011-0629-z

Cite this article as:
Frey, B.S. & Stutzer, A. Soc Choice Welf (2012) 38: 659. doi:10.1007/s00355-011-0629-z


Research on happiness tends to follow a “benevolent dictator” approach where politicians pursue people’s happiness. This paper takes an antithetic approach based on the insights of public choice theory. First, we inquire how the results of happiness research may be used to improve the choice of institutions. Second, we show that the policy approach matters for the choice of research questions and the kind of knowledge happiness research aims to provide. Third, we emphasize that there is no shortcut to an optimal policy maximizing some happiness indicator or social welfare function since governments have an incentive to manipulate this indicator.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryUK
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Faculty of Business and EconomicsUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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