Limited Experienced Happiness or Unlimited Expected Utility, What About the Differences? - Review of Happiness Around the World; the Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires by Carol Graham Oxford University Press, New York, 2009, ISBN 978-0-19-954905-4
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Happiness and utility are two types of subjective well-being, but measured in different ways. Happiness is measured by asking people questions about their subjective appreciation of their life as a whole. Utility is measured by an assessment of their subjective priorities, as revealed in their actual behaviour. Both methods have specific pros and cons and additional value. These methodological issues are important in an epistemological way: how to obtain knowledge about subjective well-being. There are, however, also three important ontological differences between happiness and utility in the actual nature of these phenomena in reality. (1) Happiness depends on available market and non-market commodities and living-conditions; utility depends only on available market-commodities. (2) Happiness is about experienced well-being, utility is about expected well-being. (3) Happiness is limited because it is related to the fulfilment of a limited number of needs, utility is unlimited because behaviour always reveals preferences in terms of expected well-being. Economists and happiness-researchers tend to neglect the last two differences. Their analysis, the analysis of Carol Graham included, could gain strength if more attention would be paid to these last two differences.
- Subjective well-being
- Revealed preferences
- Needs and wants
- Self-reported happiness