Thursday, June 30, 2011

The happiness tour

Below is the abstract of a talk to be given on 30 June 2011. I can forward a pdf of the paper to anyone interested in it.

Title: Is happiness-maximization the new imperative for public policy?

Paper delivered to
Universität Regensburg


European leaders and agencies (including the OECD) are seeking to develop measures of social well-being and progress that go ‘beyond GDP’. Social research on subjective well-being (happiness and life-satisfaction) has supported this shift in political thinking. But, beyond the normative requirement to provide relevant public services, can the maximization of happiness become an obligation of governments, and can law and public policy be designed on such grounds? Happiness as a socio-political goal has yet to address problems associated with utilitarianism and to establish its place in relation to other values such as freedom or justice. While it is undoubtedly true that GDP fails to give us all the information we need about the state of a society, it is argued that governments ought not to be in the business of happiness.

Es ist zunehmend anerkannt, dass das Bruttosozialprodukt als Maßstab kollektiver Wohlfahrt nicht ausreicht. Sozialwissenschaftliche Studien zu individueller Zufriedenheit und Glück fördern diesen Perspektivenwechsel. Aber taugt “Glück” (happiness) als Maßstab staatlichen Handelns? Und können rechtliche und politische Steuerung an diesem Ziel ausgerichtet werden? Der Vortrag wird diese Fragen aus staatstheoretischem Blickwinkel kritisch beleuchten und letztlich verneinen.