Well-being and the role of government – can government policy make us happier?


  • 25/01/2012
The government recently decided to spend £2million on a project to consider how to measure national well-being. The Office for National Statistics is already including questions in its social trends surveys such as “How happy did you feel yesterday?” and “How anxious did you feel yesterday?” This is all part of a general government programme to move the focus, in David Cameron’s words, from gross domestic product to general well-being.

But, did the government ever try to maximise gross domestic product? Can the government effectively measure well-being? Can the government control economic and social life in order to make the population happier? Will its attempts to do so undermine economic freedom in a way that potentially damages well-being? Should we, instead, promote policies that give the maximum freedom to individuals, families and communities to order their lives in ways that lead them to promote their own well-being? In short, is the well-being agenda a radical new policy that will lead to a happier society or will it lead to increased government control of our lives and undesirable and unforeseen consequences?

Join us to discuss these important questions.

Panelists include:

  • Prof Philip Booth, Editorial Director, IEA (chair)

  • Jesse Norman, Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire

  • Prof J R Shackleton, Professor of Economics, University of Buckingham

  • Chris Snowdon, Author and Researcher

  • Jamie Whyte, Author and Journalist

A drink reception following the discussion will finish at 8.45pm.