The Political Economy of Human Happiness: How Voters' Choices Determine the Quality of Life

The Political Economy of Human Happiness: How Voters' Choices Determine the Quality of Life

Language: English

Pages: 214

ISBN: 1107644429

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book is devoted to applying the data, methods, and theories of contemporary social science to the question of how political outcomes in democratic societies determine the quality of life that citizens experience. Benjamin Radcliff seeks to provide an objective answer to the perennial debate between Left and Right over what public policies best contribute to human beings leading positive and rewarding lives. The book thus offers an empirical answer to this perpetual question, relying on the same canons of reason and evidence required of any other issue amenable to study through social-scientific means. The analysis focuses on the consequences of three specific political issues: the welfare state and the general size of government, labor organization, and state efforts to protect workers and consumers through economic regulation. The results indicate that in each instance, the program of the Left best contributes to citizens leading more satisfying lives, and, critically, that the benefits of greater happiness accrue to everyone in society, rich and poor alike.

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their political struggle with capital, opening the prospect of enacting other public policies that may, in the view of the Left, further improve the quality of human life for the ordinary person. Chief among such policies are the expansion of political rights to include social rights, which ultimately involve the attempt to impose political, which is to say, democratic, regulation of economic activity in the public interest. 13 It is worth noting that although capital certainly shares in the tax

include such items, whereas the classical liberal or the modern conservative does not. For our purposes, the question might be put in this way: if we accept that we have “unalienable rights” that include not merely life and liberty but also the “pursuit of happiness,” might we not conclude that the last includes the right to medical care, education, housing, and so on, providing that society has the resources to make such available to all, in, again, the same way that society attempts to provide

(1990) for just one year, the decommodification score is now available in time serial form (courtesy of Scruggs, 2005). These data cover eighteen advanced industrial countries from 1971 to 2002, utilizing the same basic computational methods as Esping-Andersen (1990). Since our main dependent variable under investigation, subjective wellbeing, is available over time, such longitudinal data are ideal for our purposes. In a subsequent paper, Scruggs also offered a modification of the original

fashions: first 150 The Political Economy of Human Happiness using individuals as the units of analysis and then aggregating to the level of national means for the given country-year. In the first, I focus on the simple survey question on life satisfaction, treating the given individual’s level of satisfaction as the dependent variable. In the second, attention is moved to the average level of satisfaction within the given country at the particular year in question. Labor Market Regulation

Happiness table 6.2. Life Satisfaction and Labor Market Regulations: Aggregate-Level Data OECD Countries (1981−2007) Economic “Freedom” Employment Protection Legislation Social Capital Unemployment Real GDP Individualism Catholic Economic Growth Constant Observations R-squared (a) Economic “Freedom” (b) EPL –.041* (.027) n/a n/a .858** (.424) –.022** (.012) –.000 (.000) .538*** (.086) .250* (.163) .014 (.016) 9.619*** (.833) 72 0.7563 .169*** (.064) .813** (.404) –.028** (.013) –.000

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