Handbook of Economics and Ethics
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Handbook of Economics and Ethics

Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren

The Handbook of Economics and Ethics portrays an understanding of economic methodology in which facts and values, though distinct, are closely interconnected in a variety of ways. From theory building to data collection, and from modelling to policy evaluation, this encyclopaedic Handbook is at the intersection of economics and ethics.
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Chapter 27: Happiness

Luigino Bruni


Luigino Bruni Introduction The ‘professors of the dismal science’ (Carlyle [1850] 1898, p. 43) have rekindled their interest in happiness. In an editorial note to ‘Controversy: economics and happiness’ in the Economic Journal, Huw D. Dixon (1997, pp. 1812–13) introduced ‘three economists from different backgrounds who all believe that happiness must play a more central role in economic science once again’.1 With the ‘once again’ Dixon refers back to a period in economic thought when the notion of ‘pubblica felicità’ (public happiness) was introduced as the core concept of economic analysis by Italian economists such as Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Antonio Genovesi and others in the mid-1700s. This period ended in the rejection of the utilitarian foundations of choice theory in the first decades of the twentieth century.2 The reason for economics’ new interest in happiness is well expressed by Andrew J. Oswald, one of the three authors referred to in the ‘Controversy’ article: ‘The importance of the economic performance is that it can be a means for an end. The economic matters interest only as far as they make people happier’ (Oswald 1997, p. 1815). The same idea is restated by another of the authors mentioned, Yew-Kwang Ng: ‘We want money (or anything else) only as a means to increase our happiness. If to have more money does not substantially increase our happiness, then money is not so important, but happiness is’ (Ng 1997, p. 1849). By arguing that happiness should take a more central role in economics...

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