Book Review: Welfare: Alternative Policy Perspectives edited by Timothy Beasley and Erin Boselli

in Welfare: alternative policy perspectivesAvailable open access From LSE Press – editors Timothy Beasley And the Erin Boselli Bringing contributors together to explore how different disciplinary approaches can contribute to the study of well-being and shape policy priorities. Andrew Oswald Recommend this excellent size.

Welfare: alternative policy perspectives. Timothy Beasley and Erin Boselli (Editors). LSE Press. 2022.

luxury coverWelfare: alternative policy perspectives Value book. It has contributions from a number of distinguished researchers. The chapters are compelling and easy to read. If you come back from lunch to find your desk on fire and you only have time to grab one book, you might want to take this one.

One of the reasons is that the theme of the book is so central to everything we see around us. It was a paradox, and I still cannot fully explain it, that all economists want their children to be happy and their spouses happy and their nations happy, but have been reluctant for eons to measure the damned thing. As many researchers in the field are aware, the title of this edited book really should have “happiness” in its title, but instead we have the word “well-being,” which I ultimately agree with.

Richard Layard begins the thematic chapters. He is the eminent and natural person to do this because he has probably done more than any other academic in the world to push, in a practical way, through the use of welfare data as central to national policy-making. I hope a lot of open minded economists and government ministers will read his chapter. Its message on a broad level is simple. We want policies that help our citizens lead happy and fulfilling lives. So let’s think about this by planning a policy initiative, and then measure happiness and life satisfaction before and after the policy change.

Two balloons with smiling faces on a gray background

Image from photography Tim Mussolder on me unsplash

Floating at the back of it all, like a delightfully ethereal celestial grouse, is a scientist named Richard Easterlin. He’s still a professor of economics at the University of Southern California, though he no longer lectures, and it’s not too far from his 100th birthday. He began studying luxury, as an approximation – but strangely enough, his name is not mentioned anywhere in the 200 pages of this collection.

I mention all of this because policy makers were not confronted Easter paradox. This is the truth, first shown by Easterlin in 1974, that over the past decades the United States has had higher and higher GDPs, but ironically the happiness numbers in frequent surveys show almost no improvement (there is similar evidence for other countries). In fact, in the past decade or two, the level of happiness has been at United States General Social Survey In a clear downtrend. This finding so undermines most politicians’ discourses about the economy that, as far as I know, almost no politician is willing to ponder the inconvenient realities of the data. I do not expect to see unwillingness undergo any change in my life, but some day it will have to be changed, I suspect.

The closest I have come to a good speech on such issues was recently given in Oxford by the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jacobsdottir. She explained that people spend too much of their money on topical goods, which simply fail to raise the happiness of society. It’s a kind of “pollution” (in Layard’s words, at the same conference) because Gary’s shiny new car is subconsciously designed to make me and others feel like we’re living lives less worthy. There is only so much mode – a fixed amount – to get around. Thus, we would have a happier country if resources were instead devoted to green spaces, clean air, strong welfare safety nets in society, and so on.

At the time of this writing, two of my country’s politicians, Liz Truss and Kwasi Quarting, believe that the way to have a happy country is to let people “Keep more of their own money”, to be spent, probably, on more topical goods. They are entitled to their belief, though a look at the evidence would reveal that the happiest states are in World Happiness Report It has large public sectors and high tax rates. I imagine that reckoning will arrive one day and that 200 years from now, the views held by most politicians in 2022 will seem muddled and archaic.

Next in line is Paul Dolan’s class. It seeks to explore the consequences of adopting well-being as the single dominant metric for evaluating policy interventions. calls to use “Luxury Adjusted Life Year” (WELLBY) Concept for making cost-benefit decisions in policy options. There is a fair amount that can be said about that. However, I still have one concern. It’s philosophical, I think, and definitely takes me back to an undergraduate course I had to do in moral philosophy and foundations of religion.

Let’s say the policy increases one person’s life by one year. Is this good? Maybe that person thinks. And there is an argument for saying that it is a really good thing. But we soon ran into philosophical eddies. Let’s imagine, to try and think about this, that the UK has a population of 65 million. Then imagine it being raised by one additional citizen. Would you say that happiness/well-being has gone up in the UK? This is the problem with putting years of life into the criteria. A year of life like an extra person. I prefer measuring average feelings, not weighting by years of life (but some of us may have done too much moral philosophy for our own good).

I will end by saying that I see luxury As a truly remarkable contribution, editors Tim Beasley and Erin Boselli deserve our congratulations and thanks and all chapters an impressive job. I recommend this premium size.


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