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The Tyranny of UtilityBehavioral Social Science and the Rise of Paternalism$
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Gilles Saint-Paul

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691128177

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691128177.001.0001

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From Utility to Happiness

From Utility to Happiness

Chapter:
(p.51) 5 From Utility to Happiness
Source:
The Tyranny of Utility
Author(s):

Gilles Saint-Paul

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691128177.003.0006

This chapter suggests using some direct measure of individual well-being, such as happiness, as the basis of a theory of individual welfare. The recent literature on behavioral economics includes a growing research on its determinants. In general, proponents of this approach claim that they are measuring the relevant utility, that is, the flow of an individual's well-being, in a direct way. Some authors see a superiority over revealed preferences even independently of the psychological phenomena discussed in the preceding chapter, in that revealed preferences measure well-being only if the assumption of a rational utility-maximizing individual is correct, whereas measures of happiness would, by definition, directly measure utility. However, measures of self-reported happiness can be problematic. The answers can reflect what people think they are supposed to say, rather than their true feelings. These expectations can vary across people, cultures, and economic circumstances. As such, this can generate all sorts of biases.

Keywords:   individual well-being, happiness, individual welfare, behavioral economics, utility, revealed preferences, self-reported happiness

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