Subjective Well-Being Inside the Obama Administration

An interesting observation about the potential policy impact of “happiness economics” in?this weekend’s Financial Times from the always-astute?Tim Harford:

Perhaps Barack Obama has been taking note: three leading happiness scholars, Betsey Stevenson, Kahneman’s co-author Alan Krueger and Cass Sunstein all have senior government positions. Maybe they can figure out how to improve the nation’s mood.

While the UK House of Lords has?Richard Layard, I can’t think of any country in the world in which three senior political appointments have been filled by happiness scholars.? I wonder how the research of these scholars informs and shapes their policy work.

Read?the full piece here.

Mr. Bad Example

They could improve the country's mood by recommending policies that, ultimately, will make everyone poor and reliant on the Federal government.


Evidently, he doesn't listen to them, because we are not very happy right now.


Does anyone spouting the reliant on big government line ever look any deeper than that?

We've had policies since Reagan to continually reduce the government intervention into private business. We've received huge faceless businesses that control our lives.

Instead of relying on big government, you now rely on big business. Think about where you spend your money and tell me that you could shake the business owners hand. Your mortgage company, your power company, your phone/internet/cable company, your grocery store, your gas company, your insurance company, your car manufacturer, your car maintenance, etc.

It used to be that Americans owned things. Now, we work for people who own things. This is bad for America, and it's the fault of both parties.

If you want America to dig out of this hole, you have to stop pretending that the guys on your side (either side) have all the answers and stop making excuses for them when they mess up.

That said, I love happiness more than money, and I think that trading the latter for the former is the sort of transaction everyone should be trying to make.


Abir Mandal

"Think about where you spend your money and tell me that you could shake the business owners hand. "

I don't care about shaking hands. However, I do care about being able to choose where to spend my money.
With big government you have no choice.


Abir, perhaps what you meant was "With monopolies, you have no choice, while government always offers some recourse through elections."


Given the huge increase of people on depression medication in the last two years, I would say they are not doing their job. I would say the best thing they could do is say they were leaving and taking congress with them. That would make a lot of people happy, myself included.


It should be noted that Charles Dickens answered this question fairly conclusively:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."


A government which relies on economists who claim to define my happiness is terrifying.


Firing Hack Sunstein would be a start.


"Given the huge increase of people on depression medication in the last two years, I would say they are not doing their job. "

Or more likely the sales teams of major pharma companies are doing their job.


Personally, I think money makes a big part of our happiness. Even though happiness comes from within, we are affected within by our incomes. The article explains that it's specifically absolute income that affects our happiness as opposed to relative income. Absolute income is the level of our income on absolute terms, while relative income is our income relative to the rest of the people in our country.
In life we do things depending on whether we can or not (economically). In countries such as the Dominican Republic, where several social services are not provided like they are in the United States, many citizens are deprived from receiving proper education and health care because their income doesn't allow them. So, when you face a situation like this it is almost impossible not to allow money to affect happiness.
When working, people with higher incomes receive much more marginal benefits, while people with lower income have a smaller opportunity cost of doing other activities rather than working but must work to receive the little, if none, marginal benefits that result from their work.
However, it doesn't matter what is concluded from all the research that's made, because measuring happiness is not objective. To some, happiness is just satisfaction and acceptance, while to others it's much more than that.



One interesting part of the Hartford article is that it is important to "Keep up with the Joneses." I have noticed that families from other countries, while living here, tend to not care as much about "Keeping up with the Joneses" and are very happy living their lives...while here...But...when they go "home" they become consumed with "Keeping up with the Joneses" of the country they left.

One thing to point out, the families I have experience of observing live in areas where there are not many others "like them" - mostly people from this country, and not in ethnically segregated areas....

Could there be a level to achieve minimal happiness if one relocates to an area where they differ from the "Local Joneses" and live their everyday lives not worrying about it?


Gotta be honest, I feel a sincere lack of care regarding Obama's mood currently. Let's get the country back together then worry about our own moods.