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Normative Foundations for Well-Being Policy

Daniel M. Haybron and Valerie Tiberius

Papers on Economics and Evolution from Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography

Abstract: This paper examines the normative principles that should guide policies aimed at promoting happiness or, more broadly, well-being. After arguing that well-being policy is both legitimate and necessary, we lay out a case for "pragmatic subjectivism": given widely accepted principles of respect for persons, well-being policy may not assume any view of well-being, subjectivist or objectivist. Rather it should promote what its intended beneficiaries see as good for them: pleasure for hedonists, excellence for Aristotelians, etc. Specifically, well-being policy should promote citizens’ "personal welfare values": those values—and not mere preferences—that individuals' see as bearing on their well-being. We suggest a variety of means for determining what people value, but conclude that there is no canonical means of doing this: there will often be some indeterminacy about what people value. Finally, we consider how pragmatic subjectivism works in practice, arguing that headline measures of well-being should include subjective well-being—given that it is so widely and deeply valued—and perhaps other values as well.

Pages: 28 pages
Date: 2012-02-14
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