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On the pathway to happiness « Previous | |Next »
March 8, 2003

The utilitarian policy makers hold that "the pursuit of happiness" (utility) was the key objective of public policy. It is an old idea, genderally traced back to Jeremy Bentham; and though it is rarely mentioned these days, it is still tacitiy held. The neo-liberal emphasis on wealth creation for its own sake would seem to buried happiness as policy goal, but what is the point of earning a lot of money if you are unhappy?

Unhappy because you are sick from pollution, no one loves you, you have no friends and the dog leaves you for the butcher around the corner. So happiness is not dead and buried as a policy goal. Its just that the economists had been seduced by mathemetics, model building and equations. A slow resurrection of happiness has begun because of the horrors of the market place.

People are not happy even though we are being told by John Hyde in the Australian Financial review (8.3.2003, p. 50; subscription required) that we have benefited from the economic reforms of the past two decades and become a lot more wealthy. We are very unhappy with corporations and their corporate governance as these have resulted in a decade of downsizing, overwork, unpaid overtime, insecurity of employment, a mean organizational culture, hugh executive payouts for bad performance and destruction of shareholder wealth. And whats more these guys have poured scorn on democracy.

No one is in the mood to kiss the CEO these days. There's not much room for love in the marketplace.

Who knows? Maybe we are so unhappy that we have taken to reading old French history books. Maybe, in our blackest moments, we thinking about bringing back the guillotine to sort things out.

So you can see why the economists and policy makers are brushing the dust of that old concept of happiness as the proper end of public policy. (Link courtesy of the excellent waydownhere weblog).

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:10 PM | | Comments (0)