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  1. 1. CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN LAW & SOCIETY<br />Week 12<br />Happiness and the Law<br />Assistant Professor Liz Spencer<br /><br />
  2. 2. Notes and quotes from<br />Should National Happiness <br />Be Maximized ?<br />By Bruno S. Frey & Alois StutzerMarch 2007<br />
  3. 3. ‘Happiness Research’ has attracted a great deal of attention in the social sciences as well as in the general public. <br />…A massive increase in the amount of scholarly work on people’s subjective well-being….<br />
  4. 4. Next logical step?<br />A National Happiness Indicator (analogous to Gross National Income) <br />To be used by governments to maximize National Happiness<br />Based on “National Indicators of Subjective Well-Being and Ill-Being”<br />???<br />
  5. 5. The use of National Happiness Indicators is supported by “libertarian paternalists” (e.g. Sunstein 2007)<br />overcomes the problem that individuals are not always able to maximize their own utility<br />
  6. 6. What’s New?<br />Maximizing social welfare as the ultimate goal of economic policy had already been promoted by Bentham (1789) and Edgeworth (1881) and, in modern economics, by exponents of quantitative economic policy (Tinbergen 1956 and Theil 1964). <br />However, a major drawback to this approach was that the social welfare function could not be empirically measured.<br />This situation has changed dramatically.<br />
  7. 7. Indicators of Happiness<br />global evaluations of individual life satisfaction, based on representative surveys;<br />the Experience Sampling Method, collecting information on individuals’ actual experience in real time in their natural environments; <br />the Day Reconstruction Method, asking people how satisfied they felt at various times during the day; <br />the U (“unpleasant”)-Index, the fraction of time per day that an individual spends in an unpleasant state; and <br />Brain Imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan individuals’ brain activities.<br />
  8. 8. Who’s happy?<br />Extroverts tend to be happier than introverts<br />Left-brain people happier than right brain<br />Married – slight boost over single<br />Satisfied with occupation<br />Health<br />Happiness is paying your taxes…?<br />
  9. 9.
  10. 10. National Happiness rankings <br />World Values Survey (Stockholm) <br />Happiest<br />1. Puerto Rico <br />2. Mexico <br />3. Denmark <br />4. Ireland <br />5. Iceland <br />Least happy<br />78. Russia <br />79. Armenia <br />80. Ukraine <br />81. Zimbabwe <br />82. Indonesia<br />The Orlando Sentinel<br />
  11. 11. How do you define happiness?<br />
  12. 12. Conceptions of Happiness<br />Hedonic (Happiness as pleasure)<br />Happiness as an expression of virtue (Pausch)<br /><br />To be happy is to flourish as a human being. “Happiness is understood here to refer to a deep sense of fulfillment, accompanied by a sense of peace and a host of positive qualities such as altruism”… it is different from pleasure because it “does not depend upon time, location, or objects [as pleasure is]” (Ricard)<br />
  13. 13. Causes of Happiness<br />In 1930 Bertrand Russell wrote The Conquest of Happiness:<br />“Happiness is not, except in very rare cases, something that drops into the mouth, like a ripe fruit, by the mere operation of fortunate circumstances. That is why I have called this book ‘The Conquest of Happiness.’… Happiness must be, for most men and women, an achievement rather than a gift of the gods, and in this achievement effort, both inward and outward, must play a great part.” <br />
  14. 14. Biggest Factors:<br />family relationships (or other very close relationships)<br />financial situation<br />work<br />community and friends, and <br />health<br />
  15. 15. Obstacles to Happiness<br />“Happiness begins where unhappiness ends” (Layard)<br />‘rampant individualism and our frantic lifestyle have isolated the individual. This isolation is often accompanied by a growing sense of meaninglessness because of the postwar decline in influence of meaning systems that encompass something bigger than the individual, e.g., religion. … teenagers experience this isolation and meaninglessness very deeply. <br />
  16. 16. “It’s possible to be happy even with a hectic schedule and many life problems” Doctor Majid Fotuhi of Harvard Medical School <br />The realities of our lives need not be obstacles to our striving to make ourselves happier and healthier. What we do need is the resolve to stop being unhappy; this is something we need to keep doing over and over and over again!<br />
  17. 17. But can nations maximize happiness?…and, if so, should they?<br />The possibility of adequately measuring happiness has led to new visions being formed in economics and other social sciences. <br />There is a call to use the measurements to maximize aggregate happiness as a social welfare function.<br />
  18. 18. Has the time come to maximize happiness?<br />
  19. 19. No!!!(???)<br />classical welfare economics<br />happiness research itself<br />fundamental objections from political economy <br />the problem of incentive distortions <br />concerns by libertarian paternalists<br />
  20. 20. The alternative approach<br />use the insights of happiness research for policy<br />construct aggregate happiness indicators (useful for several purposes)<br />but do not try to maximize them.<br />
  21. 21. Welfare Economic Objections to Social Welfare Maximization<br />Classical welfare economics has raised fundamental arguments against using the concept of aggregate social welfare in contrast to individual welfare. <br />
  22. 22. Objections from Happiness Research to Social Welfare Maximization<br />In happiness research, two phenomena are studied that question the maximization of aggregate happiness as an objective of public policy:<br /> hedonic adaptation and <br /> the aspiration treadmill<br />
  23. 23. many changes in life circumstances have only a short-lived effect on reported subjective well-being because people adapt to the new situation (hedonic adaptation)<br />The change of people’s aspirations due to changes in their life circumstances, e.g. people quite rapidly adjust to increases in income: after about one year, two-thirds or more of the benefits of an increase in income wear off as people increase their income aspirations (the aspiration treadmill)<br />
  24. 24. Objections from Political Economics to the Maximization of AggregateHappiness<br />The social welfare maximization approach disregards, and tries to substitute for, existing political institutions and processes.<br />
  25. 25. procedural utility<br />People have preferences for processes over and above outcomes. They gain well-being from living and acting under institutionalized processes, as they contribute to a positive sense of self, addressing innate needs of autonomy, relatedness and competence. <br />
  26. 26. Scope of Govt Intervention<br />Happiness research doesn’t provide rules<br />
  27. 27. Induced Incentive Distortions<br />Two kinds:<br />Once aggregate happiness has become politically relevant, the government, public bureaucracy and various interest groups have an incentive to manipulate it.<br />When individuals become aware that the happiness level they report influences the behavior of political actors, they have an incentive to misrepresent it.<br />
  28. 28. Concerns by Libertarian Paternalists<br />Institutions to help individuals to overcome the harm produced by systematically mistaken decisions.<br />
  29. 29. Summary of arguments against maximization of aggregate happiness as asocial welfare function <br />Governments are not composed of purely benevolent politicians wanting to make the population as happy as possible; the personal interests of politicians matter;<br />Essential elements of democratic governance are disregarded: democracy consists of interaction between politicians and citizens on many different levels, structured by the constitution and not simply recording the reported well-being of the citizens;<br />
  30. 30. Summary (cont’d)<br />The government has an incentive to manipulate the happiness indicators and to create new ones to suit their goals;<br />Individuals have an incentive to misrepresent their happiness levels strategically in order to influence government policy in their favor.<br />Some also argue that problems of cardinality and interpersonal comparability can never be fully overcome.<br />
  31. 31. An Alternative Vision of How to Use Happiness Research for Policy<br />The insights provided by happiness research should be used in a different way…<br /> the quality of the political process is a key factor to people’s happiness <br /> the legitimacy of political action rests on the voluntary agreement of the citizens involved<br /> individual sovereignty should not be reduced to self-reports on one’s well-being, but should include choices on how to pursue happiness, both individually and collectively<br />
  32. 32. Summary<br />HAPPINESS: <br />IT’S STILL YOUR CHOICE <br />(at least for now…)<br />
  33. 33. 3d International Conference on Gross National Happiness<br />Letter to Sen and Stiglitz<br /><br /><br />
  34. 34. Conference on Happiness and its Causes<br /> Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre<br />5-6 May 2010<br /><br />‘….A too powerful ego is a prison from which a man must escape if he is to enjoy the world to the full. A capacity for genuine affection is one of the marks of the man who has escaped from this prison of self……..Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness’ Bertrand Russell<br /><br />
  35. 35. Paradise Engineering<br />THE  HEDONISTIC  IMPERATIVEA B S T R A C T<br />This manifesto outlines a strategy to eradicate suffering in all sentient life. The abolitionist project is ambitious, implausible, but technically feasible. It is defended here on ethical utilitarian grounds. Nanotechnology and genetic-engineering allow Homo sapiens to discard the legacy-wetware of our evolutionary past. Post-humans will rewrite the vertebrate genome, redesign the global ecosystem, and abolish suffering throughout the living world.<br />
  36. 36. Paradise Engineering<br /> The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved only because they served the inclusive fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. They can be replaced by a radically different sort of neural architecture. Life-long happiness of an intensity now physiologically unimaginable can become the genetically-preprogrammed norm of mental health. A sketch is offered of when, and why, this major evolutionary transition in the history of life is likely to occur. Possible objections, both practical and moral, are raised and then rebutted. <br /><br />
  37. 37. Selected Reading<br />Layard, Richard (2005). Happiness: Lessons from a New Science. <br />Sen, Amartya K. (1970). Collective Choice and Social Welfare. <br />Arrow, Kenneth J. (1951). Social Choice and Individual Values.<br />“Happiness and the Human Development Index: The Paradox of Australia,” NBER Website, Thursday, August 25, 2005, <br />And for many other references go to<br />
  38. 38. ‘One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one&apos;s work is terribly important.’ <br />Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 5 British author, mathematician, & philosopher (1872 - 1970)<br />
  39. 39. The end<br />Thank you<br />