the science of happiness

FT columnist Samuel Brittan is not happy to see governments embrace this new science.

We are on particularly slippery ground when it is suggested that governments should promote happiness. If this simply means letting people satisfy their preferences to the maximum feasible extent, it should be uncontentious. But promoters of “the new science of happiness” mean something different. They want to promote activities they believe will make us truly happy, and discourage others. …. Happiness may be subject to ordinal rather than cardinal measurement. But happiness promoters, which include the current British government, go beyond this and have whole lists of activities they wish to promote or discourage.

Happiness policy either refers to preference satisfaction that allows people to promote their interests as they see them or to promoting activities that various politicians and writers believe promote true happiness. Fortunately, these writers disagree among themselves, which gives us a little space to promote our happiness in our own way as implied by the American Declaration of Independence.

Samuel Brittan, “Politics echoes with the sound of quack policies“, Financial Times, 6 September 2013.

Mr Brittan is reviewing Quack Policy – Abusing Science in the Cause of Paternalism, by Jamie Whyte (Institute of Economic Affairs, 21 August 2013).

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