The Happy Economist: Happiness for the Hard-Headed

By Ross Gittins | Go to book overview

in happiness has become a lot more adult, a lot more commercialised and a lot more scientific. Dozens of popular books with the word ‘happiness’ in their titles have been published in the past decade. I’ve read a lot of them and will quote from the most authoritative. Why such a glut? Perhaps because the satisfaction of so many of our material ambitions in recent decades has, paradoxically, left us vaguely unsatisfied, or unhappy if you like. Is that all there is? Or perhaps it’s that, as our material needs edge closer to satiation—a point I doubt we’ll ever reach—our aspirations turn to higher order, more psychological needs.

I remember noticing that the Australian public’s measured concern about environmental issues reached a peak in the economic boom of the late 1980s. With employment and wages growing strongly, we had room to worry about pollution and recycling. But as the boom turned to bust in the early 1990s, concerns about the availability of jobs and the malfunctioning of the economy seemed to crowd out concerns about the environment. I formed the view then that, like so many other things, the public’s degree of interest in the environment varied with the state of the business cycle. It was, in a sense, a luxury good. With the present conjuncture of another economic downturn and with the urgent need for concrete action to prevent climate change, that theory is about to be tested.

Similarly, it will be interesting to see whether the surge of public interest in happiness is merely a by-product of the world’s long economic boom of the past decade or two and, if so, whether it survives the present severe global recession. I hope it does—because, as with the environment, I regard the pursuit of happiness as a matter of great intrinsic significance rather than a luxury—but I’m not sure it will.

-10-

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The Happy Economist: Happiness for the Hard-Headed
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction- Happiness and Economics 1
  • Part One - Micro Happiness 7
  • 1 - What Is Happiness? 9
  • 2 - Evolution and Happiness 22
  • 3 - Who Is Happy? 39
  • 4 - Money and Happiness 69
  • 5 - Work and Happiness 98
  • 6 - How to Be Happy 132
  • Part Two - Macro Happiness 159
  • 7 - What’s Wrong with Economics 161
  • 8 - The Economy and the Environment 195
  • 9 - Towards the Happy Society 218
  • Bibliography 242
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