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Happiness is back

Growing incomes in western societies no longer make us happier, and more individualistic, competitive societies make some of us positively unhappy. Public policy should take its cue once more from Bentham's utilitarianism, unfashionable for many decades but now vindicated by modern neuroscience

By Richard Layard   March 2005

Over the last 50 years, we in the west have enjoyed unparalleled economic growth. We have better homes, cars, holidays, jobs, education and above all health. According to standard economic theory, this should have made us happier. But surveys show otherwise. When Britons or Americans are asked how happy they are, they report no improvement over the last 50 years. More people suffer from depression, and crime—another indicator of dissatisfaction—is also much higher.

These facts challenge many of the priorities we have set ourselves both as societies and as individuals. The truth is that we are in a situation previously…

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