Economics is the Science of Happniess

by Lene Johansen on March 12, 2008

in Blog

Will Wilkinson had a very nice comment on NPR's Marketplace Morning. I once had an economics professor who started off his course by explaining that economics is the science of happiness, how to maximize happiness, and this comment reminded me of this.

I also thought about the argument from Vaclav Klaus at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change where he said:

"I am afraid there are people who want to stop the economic growth, the rise in the standard of living (though not their own) and the ability of man to use the expanding wealth, science and technology for solving the actual pressing problems of mankind, especially of the developing countries. This ambition goes very much against the past human experience which has always been connected with a strong motivation to go ahead and to better human conditions."

But back to Wilkinson, here is an excerpt from his speech, but spend the five minutes to listen to his entire commentary. It will be a feel good moment worth 5 minutes of your day.

"Now, if you're forced to choose between a rewarding job and a lot of money, choose the rewarding job. Happiness research doesn't say you should aim to be wealthier. What it says is that, if you hold everything else constant — the richness of your relationships, the joy of your work — a little more money tends to makes us feel a little bit better.

But the corollary for politics is that economic growth and public happiness tend to move in the same direction. The political choice to put a brake on growth is not the social equivalent of choosing a lower-paying, but more meaningful job. It's the choice to make tens of millions of people slightly less happy than they otherwise might have been.

Maybe something is worth that cost. I just can't imagine what it might be."

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: