Curiously, economists, whose discipline has much to do with
human well-being, have shied away from factoring the study of
happiness into their work. Happiness, they might say, is an
''unscientific'' concept. This is the first book to establish
empirically the link between happiness and economics--and between
happiness and democracy. Two respected economists, Bruno S. Frey
and Alois Stutzer, integrate insights and findings from psychology,
where attempts to measure quality of life are well-documented, as
well as from sociology and political science. They demonstrate how
micro- and macro-economic conditions in the form of income,
unemployment, and inflation affect happiness. The research is
centered on Switzerland, whose varying degrees of direct democracy
from one canton to another, all within a single economy, allow for
political effects to be isolated from economic effects.
Not surprisingly, the authors confirm that unemployment and
inflation nurture unhappiness. Their most striking revelation,
however, is that the more developed the democratic institutions and
the degree of local autonomy, the more satisfied people are with
their lives. While such factors as rising income increase personal
happiness only minimally, institutions that facilitate more
individual involvement in politics (such as referendums) have a
substantial effect. For countries such as the United States, where
disillusionment with politics seems to be on the rise, such
findings are especially significant. By applying econometrics to a
real-world issue of general concern and yielding surprising
results, Happiness and Economics promises to spark healthy debate
over a wide range of the social sciences.
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