Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta
Chapter 2: The ‘Technology of Happiness’ and the Tradition of Economic Science
Luigino Bruni* Truth, virtue and happiness are bound together by an unbreakable chain. (Marquis de Condorcet) 1. Happiness is back It is a matter of fact that happiness is once again one of the foci of interest for economists, the ‘professors of the dismal science’ (Carlyle 1850, p. 43). This is also the conviction of the editor of ‘Controversy: economics and happiness’ in the Economic Journal in 1997: ‘Economists from diﬀerent backgrounds . . . all believe that happiness must play a more central role in economic science once again’ (Dixon 1997, p. 1812). Dixon’s thesis is twofold: (a) ‘once again’: the reference is to the Neapolitan pubblica felicità (public happiness), developed by Antonio Genovesi and others in the mid1700s. In fact, Dixon sees a link between the new interest in happiness by contemporary economists and the eighteenth-century debate on ‘public happiness’ in the Latin countries, and in Italy in particular, as he explicitly says in a footnote; (b) ‘more central role’ according to Dixon, is that happiness nowadays does not play a central role in economics. In this chapter I shall show that it is possible to agree with Dixon on the second point, but disagree on the ﬁrst, because the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ happiness have very little in common. The reasons for the new interest in the issue of happiness in economics is well expressed by one of the three authors of the articles of the ‘Controversy’ in the Economic Journal: ‘The importance of the economic performance is that...
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