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Wellbeing and Happiness

  • Elias L. Khalil
Article
What measurement criterion should we use to gauge the level of wellbeing or what the economists call “utility” or “welfare”? The Sarkozy 2009 report, supervised by Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi, conclude:

the time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being (Stiglitz et al. 2009, 12) (emphasis in original).

Indeed, one author of the report, Amartya Sen ( 1999), insists on using the term “wellbeing,” rather than the old term “utility” or “welfare,” on one hand, and the fashionable new term “happiness,” on the other. For Sen, and many others as shown below, the term “utility/welfare” connotes an objective function whose main, if not sole, argument is pecuniary personal income or, equivalently, the material goods that such income can buy. For them, the term “wellbeing” can be geared to denote an objective function that can be extended to include as well non-tangible arguments. Such arguments...

Notes

Acknowledgment

Earlier versions benefited from the comments of Steven Gardner, Lucy Mayne, Fiona Newton, Michael Ewing, Yew-Kwang Ng, Birendra Rai, Michael Dunstan, James Ang, Ranjan Ray, Dietrich Fausten, Ratbek Dzhumashev, Haiou Zhou, Jonathan Wight, Carol Graham, Volker P.N. Grzimek, anonymous referees, participants of sessions at the Southern Economic Association conference, the Australia New Zealand Workshop on Experimental Economics, and participants of seminars at George Mason University, James Madison University, University of Richmond, Deakin University, Queensland University of Technology, and Monash University. The usual caveat applies.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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