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Against unhappiness

Paul Ormerod is splitting hairs over methodology. People want to be happy, and politicians should try to help

By Richard Layard   June 2007

I welcome Paul Ormerod’s contribution to the happiness debate (Prospect, April 2007) but I disagree with most of what he says. He argues that government should not concern itself with happiness, since this would only lead to excessive government and ill-informed intervention.

But what should the government be seeking to promote, if not happiness? When goals like liberty, equality and prosperity conflict, by what criterion should we chart our course other than the happiness of our citizens? Ormerod offers no alternative. He just wants the government to keep out of happiness and avoid the dangers of information failure, even if…

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