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Against happiness

With governments struggling to deliver on existing commitments is it sensible to make them responsible for something as complex as personal happiness? Moreover, much of the happiness data is faulty and where it isn't it points to conservative measures

By Paul Ormerod   April 2007

Over the past 40 years, GDP per head has risen sharply in western countries; but the average level of happiness reported by individuals has shown little or no increase. This apparent failure of economic growth to make people feel happier is one of the central claims in contemporary political debate.

From this premise, prominent happiness advocates, such as Richard Layard in his book Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, argue for big policy changes. One is that taxation should be made more progressive to reduce income inequality because, it is claimed, it is relative rather than absolute levels of income…

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