Skip to main content


  • Daniel M. Hausman (a1)

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.

Hide All
Aristotle 2000. Nicomachean ethics. Tr. Irwin Terence. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
Barrotta P. 2008. Why economists should be unhappy with the economics of happiness. Economics and Philosophy 24: 145165.
Bentham J. 1789 [2007]. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. New York: Dover Publications.
Bernheim D. and Rangel A. 2004. Addiction and cue-conditioned cognitive processes. American Economic Review 94: 15581590.
Blanchflower D. and Oswald A. 2004a. Money, sex and happiness: An empirical study. Scandinavian Journal of Economics 106: 393415.
Blanchflower D. and Oswald A. 2004b. Well-being over time in Britain and the USA. Journal of Public Economics 88: 13591386.
Blanchflower D. and Oswald A. 2005. Some policy implications of behavioural economics – Happiness and the human development index: The paradox of Australia. Australian Economic Review 38: 307318.
Broome J. 1991. Utility. Economics and Philosophy 7: 112.
Camerer C., Issacharoff S., Loewenstein G., O'Donoghue T. and Rabin M. 2003. Regulation for conservatives: behavioural economics and the case for ‘asymmetric paternalism’. University of Pennsylvania Law Review 151: 12111254.
Clark A. and Oswald A. 2002. A simple statistical method for measuring how life events affect happiness. International Journal of Epidemiology 31: 11391144.
Crisp R. 2006. Reasons and the Good. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Di Tella R., MacCulloch R. and Oswald A. 2003. The macroeconomics of happiness. Review of Economics and Statistics 85: 809827.
Dolan P. and Kahneman D. 2008. Interpretations of utility and their implications for the valuation of health. Economic Journal 118: 215234.
Easterlin R. A. 1974. Does economic growth improve the human lot? Some empirical evidence. In Nations and Households in Economic Growth: Essays in Honour of Moses Abramovitz, ed. David P. A. and Reder M. W., 89125. New York: Academic Press.
Easterlin R. A. 1995. Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization 27: 3548.
Feldman F. 2004. Pleasure and the Good Life: Concerning the Nature, Varieties, and Plausibility of Hedonism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gauthier D. 1986. Morals by Agreement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goodin R. 1986. Laundering preferences. In Foundations of Social Choice Theory, ed. Elster J. and Hylland A., 75101. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Griffin J. 1986. Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement and Moral Importance. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Gul F. and Pesandorfer W. 2008. The case for mindless economics. In The Foundations of Positive and Normative Economics: A Handbook, ed. Caplin A. and Schotter A., 339. New York: Oxford University Press.
Harsanyi J. 1982. Morality and the theory of rational behaviour. In Utilitarianism and Beyond, ed. Sen A. and Williams B., 3962. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hausman D. and McPherson M. 2006. Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Hausman D. and McPherson M. 2009. Preference satisfaction and welfare economics. Economics and Philosophy 25: 125.
Haybron D. 2008. The Pursuit of Unhappiness. The Elusive Psychology of Well-being. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hochschild A. 2001. The Time Bind: When Work becomes Home and Home becomes Work. New York: Holt Paperbacks.
Kahneman D. 1999. Objective happiness. In Well-being: Foundations of Hedonic Psychology, ed. Kahneman D., Diener E. and Schwarz N., 327. New York: Russell Sage Foundation Press.
Kahneman D. 2000a. Evaluation by moments: past and future. In Choices, Values and Frames, ed. Kahneman D. and Tversky A., 693708. New York: Cambridge University Press and the Russell Sage Foundation.
Kahneman D. 2000b. Experienced utility and objective happiness: A moment-based approach. In Choices, Values and Frames, ed. Kahneman D. and Tversky A., 673692. New York: Cambridge University Press and the Russell Sage Foundation.
Kahneman D. 2006. New challenges to the rationality assumption. In The Construction of Preference, ed. Slovic P. and Lichtenstein S., 487503. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kahneman D., Wakker P. and Sarin R. 1997. Back to Bentham? Explorations of experienced utility. Quarterly Journal of Economics 112: 375405.
Kahneman D., Krueger A., Schkade D., Schwarz N. and Stone A. 2004a. A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: the day reconstruction method. Science 306: 17761780.
Kahneman D., Krueger A., Schkade D., Schwarz N. and Stone A. 2004b. Toward national well-being accounts. American Economic Review 94: 429434.
Kahneman D. and Sugden R. 2005. Experienced utility as a standard of policy evaluation. Environmental and Resource Economics 32: 161181.
Kahneman D. and Krueger A. 2006. Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives 20: 324.
Kahneman D. and Thaler R. 2006. Utility maximization and experienced utility. Journal of Economic Perspectives 20: 221234.
Kelman M. 2005. Hedonic psychology and the ambiguities of ‘welfare’. Philosophy and Public Affairs 33: 391412.
Köszegi B. and Rabin M. 2008. Choices, situations, and happiness. Journal of Public Economics 92: 18211832.
Kraut R. 2007. What is Good and Why. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Layard R. 2005. Happiness: Lessons from a New Science. New York: Penguin.
Little I. 1957. A Critique of Welfare Economics, 2nd edn.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lively P. 1993. Cleopatra's Sister. New York: Harper's Perennial.
Loewenstein G. and Ubel P. 2008. Hedonic adaptation and the role of decision and experience utility in public policy. Journal of Public Economics 92: 17951810.
Mill J. 1859 [1978]. On Liberty, ed. Rappaport Elizabeth. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
Mill J. 1863 [2002]. Utilitarianism, ed. Sher George. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.
Ng Y. 1997. A case for happiness, cardinalism, and interpersonal comparability. Economic Journal 107: 18481858.
Nozick R. 1974. Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.
Oswald A. and Powdthavee N. 2007. Obesity, unhappiness, and the challenge of affluence: theory and evidence. Economic Journal 117: F441F459.
Oswald A. and Powdthavee N. 2008. Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges. Journal of Public Economics 92: 10611077.
Redelmeier D., Katz J. and Kahneman D. 2003. Memories of colonoscopy: a randomized trial. Pain 104 (1–2): 187194.
Scanlon T. 1998. What we Owe to each Other. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sen A. 1993. Capability and well-being. In The Quality of Life, ed. Nussbaum M. and Sen A., 3053. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Sidgwick H. 1907. The Methods of Ethics, 7th edn.London: Macmillan.
Smith A. 1759. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Reprinted and edited by Raphael D. and MacFie A.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976.
Smith D., Sherriff R., Damschroder L., Loewenstein G. and Ubel P. 2006. Misremembering colostomies? Former patients give lower utility ratings than do current patients. Health Psychology 25: 688695.
Thaler R. and Sunstein C. 2003. Libertarian paternalism. American Economic Review 93: 175179.
Thaler R. and Sunstein C. 2008. Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Economics & Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0266-2671
  • EISSN: 1474-0028
  • URL: /core/journals/economics-and-philosophy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 13
Total number of PDF views: 165 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 824 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.