Chapter 8: Human Well-Being: A New Approach that Considers the Overall Quality of People’s Lives
Sen . . . believes that it is the responsibility of government to promote the overall good of society, and that it is the job of the economist to produce an operational deﬁnition of that good and to identify the policies that will best promote it. Robert Sugden, 1993, p. 1948 INTRODUCTION There is no shortage of ideas about the nature of human well-being. The ideas on what well-being is range from the material, for example, consumption of goods and services, to the spiritual, for example, enlightenment or union with God. The problem is that the notion of well-being incorporated into mainstream economics is severely limited; it does not adequately reﬂect even many of the good ideas concerning the economic aspect of well-being. And, important philosophic and religious ideas of what constitutes the essence of a good quality life are not considered at all. Therefore, this chapter proposes to develop a concept of human well-being usable by economists and others, a concept that integrates the economic and noneconomic aspects of life in order to satisfy the important objections to the mainstream economic approach. The well-being concept developed here is a synthesis utilizing the ideas of many others along with the relatively new concept of social capital and the newer concept of personal capital. This concept of well-being will be considered successful if it makes sense in light of: (a) research ﬁndings on well-being; (b) wise thinking regarding well-being; and (c) our intuitive sense of what well-being means for us. Is a...
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