Table of Contents

Handbook on the Economics of Happiness

Handbook on the Economics of Happiness

Elgar original reference

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta

This book is a welcome consolidation and extension of the recent expanding debates on happiness and economics. Happiness and economics, as a new field for research, is now of pivotal interest particularly to welfare economists and psychologists. This Handbook provides an unprecedented forum for discussion of the economic issues relating to happiness. It reviews the more recent literature and offers the interested reader an insight into the vast scope of the field in terms of the theory, its applications and also experimental design. The Handbook also gives substantial indications as to the future direction of research in the field, with particular regard to policy applications and developing an economics of interpersonal relations which includes reciprocity and social interaction theory.

Chapter 17: Why are People so Unhappy? Why do They Strive so Hard for Money? Competing Explanations of the Broken Promises of Economic Growth

Stefano Bartolini

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology

Extract

Stefano Bartolini 1. Introduction For millennia, human history has been dominated by the substantial stability of per capita income, the reason being that any rare and slow increase in output generated – à la Malthus – population growth. Approximately two centuries ago, the onset of economic growth triggered by the Industrial Revolution heralded the advent of a new era, replete with promises of improvements in the human condition. From the outset, however, it was evident to many that matters were not simple: the new road forward was paved with dramatic social and environmental costs. Nevertheless, during the subsequent two centuries it generally seemed that the game was worth the candle. After all, the prospect of a progressive increase in purchasing power held out at least two seductive promises: first, the reduction of the conditioning that the need to have money imposes on individual choices; and second, the increase in the degree of satisfaction that people feel in their own lives. The two promises were obviously connected. It seemed reasonable to expect, after all, that human beings freed from mass poverty would feel better. The ample availability of data regarding the relevant variables allows one to try to give an answer to the question: has growth lived up to its promises? Section 2 very briefly surveys the evidence, which shows that economic growth has largely betrayed its promises. Rich countries seem peopled by a dissatisfied humanity, largely absorbed in a feverish hunt for money. This evidence, removed over a long period, gives...

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