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CEP discussion paper
A happy choice: wellbeing as the goal of government
Andrew E. Clark, Paul Frijters, Christian Krekel and Richard Layard
October 2019
Paper No' CEPDP1658:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: D60; D70; H11; I31

Tags: subjective wellbeing; life satisfaction; public policy; political economy; social welfare

In this article, we lay out the basic case for wellbeing as the goal of government. We briefly review the history of this idea, which goes back to the ancient Greeks and was the acknowledged ideal of the Enlightenment. We then discuss possible measures on which a wellbeing orientation could be based, emphasising the importance of acknowledging the political agency of citizens and thus their own evaluations of their life. We then turn to practicalities and consequences: how would one actually set up wellbeing-oriented decision-making and what difference should we expect from current practice? We end by discussing the current barriers to the adoption of wellbeing as the goal of government, both in terms of what we need to know more about and where the ideological barriers lay.

A happy choice: wellbeing as the goal of government, Paul Frijters, Andrew E. Clark, Christian Krekel and Richard Layard, Behavioural Public Policy, Vol. 4, Special Issue 2, pp. 126-165, July 2020