Title: Happiness policy and economic development

Authors: Bruno S. Frey; Jana Gallus

Addresses: Department of Economics, University of Zurich, Hottingerstrasse 10, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland. ' Department of Economics, University of Zurich, Hottingerstrasse 10, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract: Governments have paid great attention to the results of happiness research. In many countries, the object of government policy is no longer taken to be development in terms of raising GNP. Their focus has shifted to a National Index of Happiness. This paper analyses whether such an aggregate Happiness Index is a better guide to development than GNP or other indices of development. We argue that when the National Happiness Index becomes the official goal of policy, it will be distorted by political interests. The respondents to surveys will resort to strategically answering the questions posed. Even more importantly, the government in power will manipulate the Index in order to further its own interests. As a result, the National Happiness Index will lose its informational quality and will no longer serve as a measure of true happiness in the process of economic development.

Keywords: happiness policy; subjective well-being; life satisfaction; economic development; economic indicators; manipulation principle; political economy; political interests; politics; National Happiness Index; government policy.

DOI: 10.1504/IJHD.2012.050835

International Journal of Happiness and Development, 2012 Vol.1 No.1, pp.102 - 111

Received: 19 Jul 2012
Accepted: 18 Sep 2012

Published online: 23 Nov 2012 *

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