... and the Pursuit of Happiness

Wellbeing and the Role of Government

Executive summary:

  • The idea put forward by the British government that economists and politicians pursue policies directed towards maximising GDP is a ‘straw man’. Government has always had a multitude of different objectives and government policy would be very different today if economic growth were the single priority.
  • Explicit attempts by government to control GDP, or rapidly increase GDP growth, have normally failed. Such a target- driven mentality is part of the conceit of central planning. Attempts to centrally direct policy towards improving general wellbeing will also fail.
  • Contrary to popular perception, new statistical work suggests that happiness is related to income. This relationship holds between countries, within countries and over time. The relationship is robust and also holds at higher levels of income as well as at lower levels of income. This c