The Chronicle Review, By John Quiggin, May 22, 2011
For at least the past decade, there has been a boom in work on the economics of happiness. But recalling Tolstoy’s famous opening lines inAnna Karenina, I’ve always wondered why we don’t study the economics of unhappiness instead. After all, we have so much more data.
The American tradition is to enshrine economic activity as a central element of “the pursuit of happiness.” In reality, however, economic activity is largely concerned with the relief of unhappiness. At the subsistence level of economic activity that has prevailed through most of human history, people must work to eat and to be clothed and housed, not so that they can enjoy the happiness that these goods can bring but so that they can avoid the pain of hunger, cold, and exposure to the elements.
In developed economies, most of us can assuage these fundamental sources of unhappiness. But whether because of drives inherent in our nature or because of the constant efforts of advertisers and others, we seem destined to remain unhappy with our economic lot.
To read the whole article: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Economics-of-Unhappiness/127580/