Broadening the Public and Policy Discourse
Edited by Timo J. Hämäläinen and Juliet Michaelson
Chapter 8: What implications does well-being science have for economic policy?
It is now very widely agreed that the intermediate objective that has dominated economic policy for the last 40 years and more - maximizing GDP - no longer does the job. Over the last three to four years it has become clear to a steadily widening group that growth on its own cannot deliver what a broad coalition now wants: sustainability, social justice and improved well-being. Instead, we need to ask how efficient different forms of economic and other societal activity are at delivering what we really want, that is, well-being, or the good life. Well-being may be a function of economic activity, but it is clearly not a simple one: there are many other variables involved as well. In addition, if we also ask what impact these forms of activity have on the environment, we can start to manage the trade-off between well-being now and well-being in the future, that is, delivering well-being in a way that is sustainable. In this chapter I try to set out some of the implications for economic policy of making well-being efficiency a central objective - that is, of trying to maximize the well-being generated by each unit of output. The chapter presents some of the key empirical findings from the literature, and draws together the implications of these findings for policy objectives. This is followed by an illustrative deep dive into what two or three of these objectives might mean for economic policy in the UK at the moment.
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