View Poll Results: Which should economists and policy-makers focus more on?

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  • Wealth / GDP

    4 40.00%
  • Well-being / Happiness

    6 60.00%
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Thread: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

  1. #11
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by TurtleDude View Post
    I don't think they really have the ability to control either. it seems rather haphazard
    Surely governments have the ability to control the overall level of wealth through government policies (see: North and South Korea). I think they probably have the ability to control the overall level of happiness to some extent as well; it just hasn't been studied and debated as much as how to maximize wealth.

    We know some things that cause happiness: Leisure time, successful marriages, giving to charity, etc. And we know some things that cause unhappiness: Unemployment, poverty, etc. It stands to reason that the government could affect at least some of these things through policy...for example, maybe they could help people have successful marriages by subsidizing or encouraging marriage counseling. Maybe they could encourage people to give to charity by giving people tax credits (instead of deductions) for charitable contributions. Maybe they could alleviate unemployment by abolishing the minimum wage, since a person's income doesn't affect happiness as much as having a job does. Maybe they could alleviate poverty through more anti-poverty programs and/or education reforms. Maybe they could affect leisure time (and unemployment) by offering tax breaks to businesses that have a 35-hour work week instead of a 40-hour work week.

    These are just some ideas. Maybe not all of them would have the desired effect, but I definitely think that since we know the variables that cause happiness, and that since the government can affect those variables, that therefore the government can affect happiness.
    Last edited by Kandahar; 10-09-10 at 08:57 PM.
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  2. #12
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    I tend to be happiest when the government is messing with my freedom and wealth the least



  3. #13
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by TurtleDude View Post
    I tend to be happiest when the government is messing with my freedom and wealth the least
    But while that's a nice talking point, is it actually true? I'm not talking about what policies you favor; is your happiness actually negatively affected when the government implements a policy you don't like? I find that I am about equally happy regardless of which party controls the government, or whether I'm in a blue state or a red state.
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  4. #14
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    But while that's a nice talking point, is it actually true? I'm not talking about what you WANT the government to do; is your happiness actually negatively affected when the government implements a policy you don't like? I find that I am about equally happy regardless of which party controls the government, or whether I'm in a blue state or a red state.
    We have way too much government. mainly becuase those who don't pay for it vote in those who want to spend other peoples' money



  5. #15
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by TurtleDude View Post
    We have way too much government. mainly becuase those who don't pay for it vote in those who want to spend other peoples' money
    Mmmk. Same talking point that you recite in every thread, regardless of the subject at hand. How thoughtful and original. Go post it in someone else's thread now.
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  6. #16
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    But while that's a nice talking point, is it actually true? I'm not talking about what policies you favor; is your happiness actually negatively affected when the government implements a policy you don't like? I find that I am about equally happy regardless of which party controls the government, or whether I'm in a blue state or a red state.
    It is necessarily so. Someone else can't possibly make transactions for you that would be as good for you as you yourself would make. It stands to reason that when government makes a decision for you (and it is different than the decision that you would make) that you are necessarily worse relative to how you would have been had you made the decision yourself.

    Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. Psalm 24
    "True law is right reason in agreement with nature . . . Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature [and] will suffer the worst penalties . . ." - Cicero

  7. #17
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by phattonez View Post
    It is necessarily so. Someone else can't possibly make transactions for you that would be as good for you as you yourself would make. It stands to reason that when government makes a decision for you (and it is different than the decision that you would make) that you are necessarily worse relative to how you would have been had you made the decision yourself.
    This is premised on the assumption that whatever decision a person makes for themselves is necessarily the decision that makes them the best off. I question this assumption. There are times when people are not the best decision-makers for their own lives. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely says, people behave in predictably irrational ways...even when the "correct decision" (i.e. the one that makes them better off) is well-known to them. That's why people tend to procrastinate and exercise less than they should, for example. This isn't because they think that not exercising will make them better off; they know perfectly well that the opposite course of action is better, but just don't do it. The underlying assumption that people are always rational actors in their own affairs is faulty.

    Second of all, I question your assumption that economic efficiency actually results in well-being. Even if your previous premise (that no one can make decisions for people as well as they themselves can) was correct, it does not logically follow that the increased economic efficiency would result in increased well-being. That pattern only seems to hold up until people have enough to meet their basic needs. Once a person has moved out of poverty, money doesn't really buy happiness. Other variables - family, charitable giving, leisure time, employment - play a much larger role than does wealth.
    Last edited by Kandahar; 10-10-10 at 05:33 PM.
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  8. #18
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    Re: Should economists and policy-makers focus on our wealth or well-being?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kandahar View Post
    This is premised on the assumption that whatever decision a person makes for themselves is necessarily the decision that makes them the best off. I question this assumption. There are times when people are not the best decision-makers for their own lives. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely says, people behave in predictably irrational ways...even when the "correct decision" (i.e. the one that makes them better off) is well-known to them. That's why people tend to procrastinate and exercise less than they should, for example. This isn't because they think that not exercising will make them better off; they know perfectly well that the opposite course of action is better, but just don't do it. The underlying assumption that people are always rational actors in their own affairs is faulty.
    That's a value judgment. They make that decision because of their time preference (they'd rather do the work later than do it now, it's like spending money now rather than saving it). Besides, people will get 'punished' if the 'correct' decision is not made, which means that the the more it happens, the less inclined they will be to make the same mistake.

    Second of all, I question your assumption that economic efficiency actually results in well-being. Even if your previous premise (that no one can make decisions for people as well as they themselves can) was correct, it does not logically follow that the increased economic efficiency would result in increased well-being. That pattern only seems to hold up until people have enough to meet their basic needs. Once a person has moved out of poverty, money doesn't really buy happiness. Other variables - family, charitable giving, leisure time, employment - play a much larger role than does wealth.
    I never said that money buys happiness. In fact, I don't think I claimed any of the things that you are saying here. Forcing people to save more would mean greater production, but I wouldn't support such a scheme because people may see the utility of spending money now greater than the utility of saving money for the future. You can't decide how much we should save for the future at the expense of the present. Only individual actors with their respective time preferences can do that.

    Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. Psalm 24
    "True law is right reason in agreement with nature . . . Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature [and] will suffer the worst penalties . . ." - Cicero

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