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Economics, Politics, and Happiness

I’ve been enjoying Arthur Brooks‘s musings on the relationship between personal politics and personal happiness. And so I was interested to read an interesting piece in The Times (of London), assessing how my own recent research with Betsey Stevenson on income and happiness fits into the broader political debate.

And I’m a sucker for an article that can relate economic research to a story about my favorite bear (Paddington).

I should admit a personal bias:

Prior to my recent research, I believed the Easterlin Paradox, and with hindsight, I suspect that this belief partly reflected the fact that I wanted it to be true.

In a world in which we believed that people in Burundi were as happy as those in the U.S., the Easterlin Paradox allowed us to escape the crushing burden of guilt associated with the incredible abundance we enjoy. But the data are clear: the distribution of happiness around the world is incredibly unequal.

Daniel Finkelstein‘s article also raised a broader question:

We now understand that subjective well-being and G.D.P. are closely linked; is this good news for the industry of happiness researchers (because their findings are no longer as controversial), or bad news for the happiness industry (because their findings are no longer as controversial)? More broadly, what are the political implications of recent research on happiness?