Happiness: Lessons from a New Science

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Overview

"If we really want to be happier, what should we do differently? First we'd have to understand what conditions generate actual happiness, and then we would bend all our efforts to establish them. That is what this book is about - the causes of happiness and the means we have to affect it." Until recently there was too little evidence to give good answers on this essential issue, but now, thanks to the integrated insights of psychology, neuroscience, sociology and applied economics, the distinguished economist Richard Layard shows us that we can
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Happiness: Lessons from a New Science

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Overview

"If we really want to be happier, what should we do differently? First we'd have to understand what conditions generate actual happiness, and then we would bend all our efforts to establish them. That is what this book is about - the causes of happiness and the means we have to affect it." Until recently there was too little evidence to give good answers on this essential issue, but now, thanks to the integrated insights of psychology, neuroscience, sociology and applied economics, the distinguished economist Richard Layard shows us that we can reach some firm conclusions about the causes of happiness - conclusions that will surprise you. Happiness is an illuminating road map, grounded in hard research, pointing the way to a better, happier life for us all.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Layard, a leading British economist and member of the House of Lords, draws on research in economics, history, medicine, philosophy, psychology, and public life to answer the question of what happiness is, exactly, and how to get more of it. He offers insights into the roles of income, health, and values before concluding that happiness is worth pursuing on the personal and the global community level. To that end, suggestions are offered, e.g., introduce more family-friendly practices at work, eliminate high unemployment, and prohibit advertising to children. Concise and engaging, this makes an ideal purchase for both public and academic libraries. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641882098
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/28/2005
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Layard is one of Britain's best-known economists and a leading world expert on unemployment and inequality. He runs Europe's leading economics research center within the London School of Economics. He worked for the British government as an economic adviser from 1997 to 2001, and in 2000 he became a member of the House of Lords. He is the author of a number of academic books.

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Read an Excerpt

Nought’s had, all’s spent,
Where our desire is got without content.
—Lady Macbeth

There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Most people want more income and strive for it. And yet, as our societies become richer, people get no happier.

This is no old wives’ tale. It is a fact, proven by countless pieces of scientific research. We now have many good ways to measure how happy people are, as I’ll show, and all the evidence tells us that on average people have grown no happier over the last fifty years. At the same time, though, average incomes have more than doubled. This paradox is true for the United States, Britain and Japan.

But aren’t peoples’ lives infinitely more comfortable? Indeed: They have more food, more clothes, more cars, bigger houses, more central heating, more foreign holidays, a shorter working week, nicer work, and, above all, better health. And yet they are not happier. Despite all the efforts of governments, teachers, doctors, and businessmen, human welfare has not improved.

This devastating fact should be the starting point for all discussion of how to improve our lot. It should cause every government to reappraise its objectives and every individual to rethink his or her goals.

One thing is clear: Once subsistence income is guaranteed, making people happier is not easy. If we want people to be happier, we really have to know what conditions generate happiness and how to cultivate them. That is what this book is about—the causes of happiness and the means we have to effect it.

We do not know all the answers, or even half of them. But we have a lot of evidence—enough to rethink government policy and to reappraise our personal choices and philosophy of life.

The main evidence comes from the new psychology of happiness. But neuroscience, sociology, economics, and philosophy all play their part. By bringing them together, we can produce a new vision of how we can live better—both as social beings and in terms of our inner lives.

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Table of Contents

1 What's the problem? 3
2 What is happiness? 11
3 Are we getting happier? 29
4 If you're so rich, why aren't you happy? 41
5 So what does make us happy? 55
6 What's going wrong? 77
7 Can we pursue a common good? 95
8 The greatest happiness : is that the goal? 111
9 Does economics have a clue? 127
10 How can we tame the rat race? 149
11 Can we afford to be secure? 167
12 Can mind control mood? 187
13 Do drugs help? 205
14 Conclusions for today's world 223
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