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  • Wellbeing as the Goal of Policy

    Richard Layard

    Chapter from the book: Besley T. & Bucelli I. 2022. Wellbeing: Alternative Policy Perspectives.

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    When policy-makers have multiple objectives, they still need an over-arching criterion which determines the importance of the different objectives. The most reasonable criterion is the wellbeing of the population. Fortunately, it turns out that this is also the outcome which most determines whether a government gets re-elected. We therefore argue that, wherever there is a fixed budget constraint, money should be allocated to those policies which give the greatest increase in wellbeing per pound of expenditure. If desired, now policies can focus especially on areas of life which cause the most misery. The new science of wellbeing provides evidence on which these are: especially mental and physical illness and poor relationships at work, at home or in the community. But, to approve a policy, there must be evidence of its effectiveness in dealing with the problem – preferably through controlled experiments. Where a policy increases the length of life, this counts as an addition to wellbeing, measured by Wellbeing-Years (or WELLBYs) per person born. Even policy-makers unmoved by wellbeing as an objective should promote it because of its large positive effects on productivity, academic learning and life-expectancy. If wellbeing is to play its proper role in decision-making, this will require a major re-organisation of Finance Ministries and other decision-making bodies.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Layard, R. 2022. Wellbeing as the Goal of Policy. In: Besley T. & Bucelli I (eds.), Wellbeing. London: LSE Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31389/lsepress.well.b

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on Aug. 30, 2022