Good Government
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Good Government

The Relevance of Political Science

Edited by Sören Holmberg and Bo Rothstein

In all societies, the quality of government institutions is of the utmost importance for the well-being of its citizens. Problems like high infant mortality, lack of access to safe water, unhappiness and poverty are not primarily caused by a lack of technical equipment, effective medicines or other types of knowledge generated by the natural or engineering sciences. Instead, the critical problem is that the majority of the world’s population live in societies that have dysfunctional government institutions. Central issues discussed in the book include: how can good government be conceptualized and measured, what are the effects of ‘bad government’ and how can the quality of government be improved?
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Chapter 16: Happiness

Marcus Samanni and Sören Holmberg


Marcus Samanni and Sören Holmberg The hypothesis in this chapter may seem a little strange, especially to neo-liberal economists. We shall test whether government could be part of the solution and not part of the problem, as is so often the case in some economic theories. Our hypothesis is that quality of government (QoG) – defined as effectiveness, impartiality, rule of law and no corruption – is a factor, a prerequisite, behind aggregate levels of feelings of happiness and satisfaction with life among populations across the world. QoG makes people happy. And it makes people happy in rich countries as well as in poor countries. Maybe not “big government”, but certainly “good government”, is an essential recipe for making citizens more content with their lives. That is our strange hypothesis. EARLIER RESEARCH Earlier research clearly indicates that, on a general level, QoG has a positive effect on happiness. The more effective, incorrupt and impartial government institutions are, the happier and the more satisfied with their lives are citizens (Bjørnskov et al. 2008; Helliwell and Huang 2008; Ott 2011). A debate in the literature is whether there is an interaction of QoG with economic development. It is sometimes argued that QoG has an effect only in poor countries. In models with only richer countries the QoG variable often, but not always, fails to reach significance. Helliwell and Huang (2008) analyze a total of 75 countries and find that QoG has a significant and positive effect on subjective well-being. However, when dividing...

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