Should the State Care for the Happiness of its Citizens?

  • Aloys PrinzEmail author
Part of the Happiness Studies Book Series book series (HAPS)


One of the crucial public policy questions of happiness research is whether the state should care for its citizens’ happiness. Not surprisingly, this question is controversially discussed in economics. On the one hand, Richard Layard, for instance, supports that public policy should accept happiness as its goal for better policies. On the other hand, Bruno S. Frey, e.g., does not recommend this; the reason is that happiness indicators will lose their objectivity when employed for political objectives. However, in this paper the main question is not whether the state should care for happy citizens but rather how happiness research may contribute to a better institutional framework for public policy. The first answer of this paper is that there is no clear-cut ideal form of the welfare state which could be justified by happiness research. The second answer is more optimistic since it might be feasible to employ the principles of soft paternalism within the framework of a so-called avuncular state to improve the institutional design of the welfare state.


Life Satisfaction Welfare State Happiness Research Happy State Marriage Contract 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Extensive and useful comments to earlier versions of this paper from Jan Delhey and Björn Bünger are gratefully acknowledged. The remaining errors are mine.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Public Economics, Münster School of Business and EconomicsUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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