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Happiness: The View from Economics 

25.06.2012 | 18:30

Bruno Frey, Professor, University of Zurich, Department of Economics


Based on recent research on happiness undertaken by psychologists and economists, several countries such as France and the United Kingdom have made the happiness of the population a major policy goal, thus following the lead of the Kingdom of Bhutan whose king invented the notion of Gross National Happiness decades ago.

This lecture will deal with two sets of questions:

  1. What do we know about the determinants of happiness? Is it true that an increase in income does not raise individual well-being? What are other significant factors? What open questions remain?
  2. Should governments strive to maximize people’s happiness or life satisfaction? At first sight this appears to be an attractive goal; however, I will argue that it is not. For the notion of a happiness maximizing government resembles that of a “benevolent dictator” which should not be pursued in a democracy.


Bruno S. Frey is Professor of Economics at UZH and Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School. His many publications include Happiness: A Revolution in Economics, MIT Press, 2008; Happiness & Economics, Princeton University Press, 2002; Inspiring Economics: Human Motivation in Political Economy, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2001.

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