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Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta
Chapter 23: Happiness and Sustainability: A Modern Paradox
Silva Marzetti Dall’Aste Brandolini 1. Introduction Sustainability is a social construct, and non-sustainability is considered a consequence of social actions. As we read in Our Common Future (WCED 1987, pp. 11, 63) ‘an environment adequate for health and well-being is essential for all human beings – including future generations’. Therefore, if we have to pass from economic growth to human sustainable development, we need a moral evolution which must help humankind ‘cope with rapidly changing social, environmental, and development realities’. Economists are directly involved in this change, because material prosperity is still the main worry of human beings. They speak of welfare economics in the awareness that the link between what is valuable and what is right is welfare. However, the nature of value and its nexus with welfare and morality is a source of controversy in ethics and this disagreement is also reﬂected in economics. Philosophers, in fact, distinguish diﬀerent ethical doctrines, and welfare economics has to a large extent been inﬂuenced by these. We believe that not only do the utilitarian and the neo-Humean views have to be kept in mind in the discussion about values in welfare economics, but also idealism and speciﬁcally the idealism of George Edward Moore. Therefore we distinguish four diﬀerent theories of economic welfare, each one based on a diﬀerent picture of values: the ‘classical’ theory1 based on the utilitarian view; the new welfare economics (NWE) based on the neoHumean view; John Harsanyi’s rule utilitarianism based on Benthamism...
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