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As economics ceases to dominate political debate, other things pop up to take its place. The security and identity themes have begun to lay claim to more space. Less noisily, but perhaps more benignly, the idea that public policy should seek to maximise happiness rather than income is also back in play.

Richard Layard’s full-throated endorsement of Benthamite utilitarianism will alarm some readers, with its apparent disregard for the sometimes conflicting claims of freedom, and its difficulty distinguishing between short and long-term happiness. A more subtle critique is that Layard is not a utilitarian at all, and instead elides two…

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