New Book Suggests Liberal Public Policy Makes People Happier

February 03, 2010Shannon Chapla

Happiness book cover

Liberal public policies, such as a state’s level of spending on social programs and the degree to which its economy is subject to political regulation, have strong positive effects on life satisfaction, according to a new book edited by Amitava Dutt and Benjamin Radcliff, professors of economics and political science, respectively, at the University of Notre Dame.

Happiness, Economics and Politics: Towards a Multi-Disciplinary Approach, recently released by Edward Elgar Publishing, presents a unique study of happiness from both economic and political perspectives and suggests that progressive, rather than conservative governments, best contribute to human happiness. The book offers an overview of contemporary research on the emergent field of happiness studies and contains contributions by some of the leading scholars in the field, including Dutt and Radcliff.

The book begins by exploring general issues such as the history and conceptualization of happiness and analyzing underpinning theories and empirics. Its main purpose is to describe ways in which economic and political factors—both separately and interactively—affect the quality of human life, illustrating the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to the field.

Specifically, the book examines the effects of economic “consumption,” income growth, inequality, discrimination, the existence of democratic institutions, the ideological content of public policies (such as the size of the welfare state or the degree of economic regulation), and the role of organized labor in determining how satisfying people find their lives. The book includes suggestions for what should be done at individual and societal levels to improve human well-being.

Dutt specializes in macroeconomic theory, development and international economics and political economy. He has published several articles on happiness and economics and currently is writing a book on consumption and happiness. Dutt is the author or editor of several books, including Growth, Distribution and Uneven Development and the author of more than 125 published articles.

Radcliff, who specializes in comparative and American politics, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the study of politics and happiness. He has published articles on the topic in scholarly journals including the American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, Social Forces, and, most recently, the Journal of Politics.

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Originally published at newsinfo.nd.edu on February 02, 2010.