Hayekian vs Keynesian happiness

Posting has been very light this last week because I have been at the Sydney meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international (36 countries represented at this meeting) organisation of classical liberals started by Hayek and Friedman in the late 1940s.

I was a discussant on Jason Potts‘ paper on happiness economics. Jason’s paper was on an aspect of what I see as the conflict between the classical liberal and social democratic views on happiness research.

Social democrats (eg Richard Layard) look for statistical associations between happiness levels and social or economic conditions, with the hope that by manipulating those conditions they can increase happiness. In Jason’s perspective, this is happiness Keynesianism – a confidence in the ability of government to identify and manipulate macro social and economic indicators to maximise gross national happiness.

Jason took what might be called a Hayekian view of happiness – that knowledge of what makes people happy in specific social circumstances is highly decentralised. We receive information from our own feelings and from observing those around us – information not readily available to the happiness central planners. Adaptation of attitudes and behaviour at this micro level is the key to achieving individual happiness. Continue reading “Hayekian vs Keynesian happiness”