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In fact, I see every reason to believe that happiness measurements and policies will be a feature of British society for considerable time to come, potentially with transformative implications, possibly - though not necessarily - manifest in a happier, better society.
This field, that only really took off in the mid-1990s, uses survey data on how people feel about their lives to understand how different life changes – unemployment, ill-health, divorce – affect them and to what extent.
Values can then be put on different outcomes in order to compare them.
It is one that fulfils us as human beings, marking us out from other animals.
Aristotelians are not necessarily averse to engaging in technical, economic debates, as Amartya Sen’s wonderfully expansive intellectual career has demonstrated.
The ‘national wellbeing’ statistics that will soon be emerging from the ONS could, in time, have a profound effect on how ‘Britain’ is imagined, criticised and governed.
Thirdly, there is the economics of subjective wellbeing, which looks to become particularly influential in health policy.The happiness 'movement' has the potential to transform society, but do its proponents know what they're doing?William Davies sets out four strands of the debate - philosophical, statistical, economical and psychological - and shows how confusion between them is hindering progress The launch of Action for Happiness last week generated yet more debate about the meaning and value of happiness.It involves tips, training and enthusiasm for ‘talking cures’, whether or not one feels the ‘need’ for them, which lend it the air of a mission.To delineate these four traditions as separate may look to the uninitiated (or uninterested) like the narcissism of small differences.But taking a longer term historical view also reveals quite how muddled the happiness ‘movement’ currently is.One question that needs to be asked is – do the happiness proponents and their public spokespersons know what they’re doing?On top of the Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) ‘national debate’ on how to define and measure ‘national wellbeing’, one can scarcely open a newspaper nowadays without discovering more political, scientific or pseudo-scientific pronouncements about what does or doesn’t make us .In a nation as stubbornly curmudgeonly as Britain, it is no surprise to find that the cynics seem equally delighted to have discovered so much Californian chirpiness to grumble about, right here in their own backyard. There is no reason to dismiss any of this as a flash in the pan.Interest in social indicators is often represented as hostility to GDP measurement or economic growth, as if ‘Gross National Happiness’ were offered as a for GDP.This is a gross misunderstanding of the work of Stiglitz and others, who argue for multiple indicators, and not simply the replacement of one by another.