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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 October 2010

Daniel M. Hausman*
University of Wisconsin-Madison


This essay criticizes the proposal recently defended by a number of prominent economists that welfare economics be redirected away from the satisfaction of people's preferences and toward making people happy instead. Although information about happiness may sometimes be of use, the notion of happiness is sufficiently ambiguous and the objections to identifying welfare with happiness are sufficiently serious that welfare economists are better off using preference satisfaction as a measure of welfare. The essay also examines and criticizes the position associated with Daniel Kahneman and a number of co-authors that takes welfare to be ‘objective happiness’ – that is, the sum of momentary pleasures.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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