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Happiness research and policy

There is more to the Benthamite juggernaut than I knew of when I posted on happiness research and taxes last week. You can get a good sense of this research program from a lucid and fascinating discussion with Richard Layard at RN's Background Briefing (ram or asx). **

Layard's remarks were very intriguing, so I bought his new book Happiness, even though I oppose his policy proposals. At one point in the program Layard claims that Western policies have been based on "excessive individualism" in recent years, a statement which hints at the basis for his unorthodox stance on policy. Yet as Layard also makes clear, people in Western countries have the highest levels of happiness in the world. Reorienting economic policy away from individualist-based incentives and toward collectivism seems at odds with both recent experience and more stylized empirical evidence. But there are interesting puzzles and paradoxes here, hence my purchase of the book.

**Be warned - at 50 minutes it's a lengthy listen!