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Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta
Chapter 16: Happiness, Morality and Game Theory
16 Happiness, morality and game theory Luca Zarri* 1. Introduction As far as contemporary economically advanced societies are concerned, it would be hardly deniable that people’s search for happiness is signiﬁcantly aﬀected not only by the satisfaction of material needs, but also by several non-material sources such as psychological and social factors, as well as by the pursuit of complex, morally-charged goals, as a growing body of experimental and empirical contributions tends to conﬁrm (see, for example, Easterlin 2001; Fehr and Gächter 2002; Rabin 2002). Recent evidence suggests that money is less and less able to buy happiness and, in this light, Rabin (1993: 1283) correctly remarks: ‘Welfare economics should be concerned not only with the eﬃcient allocation of material goods, but also with designing institutions such that people are happy about the way they interact with others’. These two types of objectives (that is, material and non-material ones) seem to interplay in complex ways; for instance, it is often the case that the pursuit of non-material ends such as the search for social prestige or freedom of choice crucially passes through the attainment of monetary gains. As an example of this, we may think of a status-seeking agent deciding to buy a luxury car or an expensive yacht in order to more eﬀectively signal a given status level (regardless of its reﬂecting his/her actual social position or not): in the agent’s view, status acts as a source of (positional) utility directly provided...
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