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The use of happiness research for public policy

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Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Bruno S. Frey.

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Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer are also associated with CREMA—Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts.

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Frey, B.S., Stutzer, A. The use of happiness research for public policy. Soc Choice Welf 38, 659–674 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00355-011-0629-z

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