Happiness Economics professor Veenhoven: “government quality key condition for ensuring happiness”
Dubai-UAE: 11 February, 2018 – Recent experience shows that governments can ‘nudge' citizens towards a greater level of civic engagement and happiness, said Cass Sunstein, a leading advocate of behavioral economics, during the Global Dialogue for Happiness at the 6th World Government Summit in Dubai.
In his session entitled ‘A Nudge Towards Wellbeing', which was part of the How Governments Can Design for Happiness and Wellbeing series, Sunstein highlighted the success of such units tasked with improving the lives of its citizens, saying, “If you tell people how their energy usage compares to that of their neighbors, then they are more likely to use less energy. Nudges preserve freedom of choice, whilst pointing people into a specific direction and helping them avoid bad long-term choices.”
Mr. Sunstein is Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard University, and Founder and Director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School. Previously, he served as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He co-wrote the book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness with Richard Thaler.
In a similar session titled ‘What Makes People Happy?', Paul Dolan, Head of Department and Professor of Behavioral Science in Psychological and Behavioral Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science, offered an alternative explanation to the meaning of happiness. Dolan maintained that simple lifestyle changes can have a big impact on peoples' happiness. Studies have shown that increased happiness coincides with increases in wealth and productivity. He identified different aspects of happiness that can be measured and monitored. Emotional happiness, moral happiness, and evaluative happiness, in addition to happiness that is related to the environment, education, healthcare, society, government services, and infrastructure, are some of them.
In yet another session entitled “Can Society Measure Happiness?”, Rotterdam Emeritus Professor, Erasmus University Prof. Ruut Veenhoven, said the best way to maximize happiness in a society is to ensure government quality as the key condition for ensuring happiness for individuals. He added that the quality of the government is not related to whether it is democratic or not, but to its “technical quality”, and whether government employees are qualified, well trained, have sufficient knowledge of their duties, and are proficient in what they do. He further said that studies showed surprisingly, that despite the increase in income disparities between societies, the differences in happiness are decreasing around the world, while at the same time the average happiness is raising.
The Global Dialogue for Happiness serves as a curtain raiser to the World Government Summit 2018. The platform has happiness experts, government officials and representatives of international organizations examining ways to help governments ensure the happiness of their people. The event features workshops and sessions on topics related to happiness and well-being. The outcomes of these workshops and sessions will be compiled in a manual that will help governments raise the level of happiness across nations.
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the World Government Summit 2018 runs from February 11 to 13 at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. The landmark event convenes more than 4,000 participants from 140 countries, including heads of state and governments, as well as top-tier representatives of 16 international organizations.
Hosting more than 130 speakers across 120 interactive sessions, WGS 2018 features five distinct forums that examine the challenges of vital sectors for the future with a view to finding the best resolutions for the greater global good. Furthermore, over 20 specialized global reports spanning key sectors and topics of the summit are being launched during the event.