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Über dieses Buch

This book will argue against the use of well-being to guide policymaking and in favor of a rule-oriented approach to policymaking that respects the choices of individuals.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Abstract
This book is about many things, but at its heart it’s about the right of all people to lead their lives according to their own goals, dreams, and values. Most modern Western democracies are based on this idea, also known as liberal neutrality, maintaining that the state should have no say in how people choose to run their lives as long as they don’t wrongfully harm others in the process. Depending on your political orientation, you may believe that the state should limit itself to enforcing basic laws and providing national defense, or you may believe that it has a more positive role in helping the disadvantaged and supplying essential services such as education and health care. Few people on either side of the political spectrum, however, believe that the government should decide how we should run our lives. But as I’ll argue in this book, it does, though in a subtle way that is unlikely to inspire cries of government overreach and tyranny.
Mark D. White

Chapter 1. Happiness

Abstract
In this chapter, I’m going to discuss the current “hot thing” in policymaking—happiness—and use that as a springboard into other approaches to policy based on well-being. As we’ll see, happiness (or subjective well-being) seems to have clear advantages over more traditional measures of economic welfare (such as gross domestic product, or GDP). According to advocates, it respects the subjectivity of individuals’ goals and tracks their actual well-being much more closely than GDP does—and it may even be the same as well-being itself, in which case measuring happiness would be the perfect tool for the job. However, the reality is more complicated than that: given the nature of the concept of happiness, it is difficult to define it, measure it, and implement policy based on it without additional complications, problems that prove fatal to the entire enterprise. In addition, there is reason to doubt that happiness is the most important basis on which to make policy—or even an important one at all.
Mark D. White

Chapter 2. Well-Being

Abstract
In the previous chapter, I explained why the advantages of using happiness or subjective well-being as measures of general well-being for economics and policymaking purposes are exaggerated. Happiness is far too vague and multifaceted an idea to be accurately and precisely measured and used for policymaking purposes. Furthermore, happiness is not the same as well-being in general, which is what most scholars and policymakers try to influence—but does the concept of well-being fare any better than happiness does?
Mark D. White

Chapter 3. Interests

Abstract
Over the last two chapters, we’ve examined a number of approaches to measuring well-being, from the standard but maligned gross domestic product, to more recent calls for an accounting of happiness, and finally to the economists’ favorite, preference satisfaction. We saw that each has its own specific problems in conception, practice, and policy, but one thing they all share is that they define well-being for the people whose well-being is being measured. This is no problem for advocates of objective versions of well-being, who normally make no claim to any level of subjectivity—though we’ll see there are exceptions to this—but this limits how deeply subjective measures like happiness and preference satisfaction can be. These measures depend on people to report their feelings or choices, which is subjective, but they do not leave people free to define their own conception of well-being—that’s up to the researchers, who decide whether they are measuring hedonic pleasure, life satisfaction, or preferences. In short, these measures are assessed subjectively but defined objectively.
Mark D. White

Chapter 4. Respect

Abstract
In the previous chapter we saw that people’s interests, the entirety of what matters to them and motivates their choices, are impossible for outside observers to specify or measure because they are multifaceted, complex, and inherently subjective. People cannot accurately describe or report their own interests, much less those of anybody else or of an entire population. Furthermore, even if we could identify what a person’s interests consist of, it is difficult enough to measure the quantifiable aspects of interests, such as well-being, without considering the qualitative aspects such as principles and ideals—never mind determining how a person balances this multitude of factors in specific decision-making contexts according to his or her unique judgment.
Mark D. White

Conclusion

Abstract
While I did not write this book to bury anybody, I do want to put to rest two very dangerous and pernicious ideas: that our government knows how we should run our lives better than we do, and that it has the right or responsibility to do it for us.
Mark D. White

Backmatter

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