Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 567–583

Happiness, morality, and politics

Research Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10902-010-9207-9

Cite this article as:
Brülde, B. J Happiness Stud (2010) 11: 567. doi:10.1007/s10902-010-9207-9


The idea that politics should promote the happiness of the population is rather common in the community of happiness researchers. This political view is sometimes based on the happiness principle, the fundamental ethical view that we have a strong moral reason to do what we can to maximize the happiness and minimize the suffering in the world. The first main purpose of this paper is to investigate (1) what role this principle play in ethics as a whole, how it should be weighed against other moral considerations, and (2) how exactly it should be understood, i.e. which possible version of the principle that is most plausible. This is the only way to arrive at well-founded theory of the fundamental moral (and political) significance of happiness and suffering (an “ethics of happiness and suffering”). The idea that politics should promote happiness is sometimes accompanied by the notion that we should introduce some kind of happiness index, and that it is a central goal of politics to maximize the value of this index. The second main purpose of this paper is to examine this suggestion. I will first ask (3) how such an index should be constructed, assuming that it might be a good idea to construct an index in the first place. I assume that an index of this kind cannot be plausible unless it incorporates a number of moral considerations, and that (3) is very closely related to (2). I will then ask (4) whether the suggestion is plausible, or whether there are better ways to put a politics of happiness into practice, e.g. to simply apply the knowledge we have about the determinants of happiness.


Egalitarianism Ethical theory Happiness principle Happy life years (HLYs) National happiness index Politics of happiness Population health Prioritarianism (the priority view) Utilitarianism 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Linguistics, and Theory of ScienceUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

Personalised recommendations