What would make a happier society?

Richard Layard is the author of the excellent book Happiness, in which he argues, that most countries today overfcous on economic issues, and that it would be better to focus on what makes people happy. And what makes us happy is not increased spending but rather simple things like famliy, friends, health and values. There’s a review of the book here.

Here are some notes from a lecture Layard gave called “What would make a happier society?”. A teaser:

Not long ago I was asked to speak at a seminar in the Treasury and to answer the following question, “What difference would it make if we really tried to make people happier?” To my mind that is exactly the right question, so let me share with you my rather inadequate answer. In particular I want to bring out where it differs from the normal answers given by economists, especially from bodies like the OECD.
My main message will be that happiness depends on a lot more than your purchasing power. It depends on your tastes, which you acquire from your environment – and on the whole social context in which you live. So, when we evaluate policies which increase purchasing power, we absolutely must take those other effects into account.

Good stuff! Is there a single western politician who subscribes to this philosophy and puts happiness above economic growth? Drop a comment if you know any…

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