Call for Policy Shift to Happiness
Journal of Happiness Studies , Volume 7 - Issue 1 p. 118- 126
Richard Layard is an economist and an expert in unemployment and inequality. He worked for the British government as an economic advisor and in 2000 he became a member of the House of Lords. His ambition is to shift the direction of public policy away from crude economic goals like wealth to "well-being" and "quality of life". Layard advocates an evidence-based utilitarian policy approach and tries to demonstrate how the insights of the new happiness science, in particular positive psychology, can be incorporated in economics in order to develop a new vision of which lifestyles and policies are sensible. For Layard, happiness is feeling good and wanting to maintain this feeling. Unhappiness is feeling bad and wishing things were different. If people report their feelings, they take a long view and accept ups and downs. Since positive feelings damp down negative feelings and vice versa we may assume that happiness is a one-dimensional concept; it is not possible to be happy and unhappy at the same time. Layard rejects - as being paternalistic - the idea of John Stuart Mill to distinguish between types of happiness in terms of higher pleasures, associated with virtuous conduct and philosophical reflection, and lower superficial pleasures. Layard does believe, however, that people who achieve some sense of meaning in life are happier than those who live from one pleasure to the next.