Earlier in 2014, the Legatum Institute published the final results of their Commission on Wellbeing and Policy. I don’t know much about this think tank – it seems to lean rightwards, claims to be non-partisan, and is probably funded with oil cash, but they put together an all-star cast to advise this report:
- Sir Gus O’Donnell (former head of the UK civil service)
- Prof Richard Layard (a leading author in the field, wrote the book on ‘Happiness‘)
- Prof Angus Deayton (economics prof at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Service at Princeton)
- Martine Durand (Head of Stats for the OECD)
- David Halpern (ex-academic, now running the quasi-governmental Behavioural Insights Team (their ownership structure is worth a blog of its own))
It is a superb piece of work. If you’re interested in the role of government, public services, evaluation, economics, life, the universe, or indeed anything, you should read it. Lots of golden nuggets and summaries of vast amounts of academic research. It should be shaping the way governments work, everywhere.
Its main conclusion is a call for the greater use of subjective wellbeing data in policy making. It argues that we need to stop using money as a proxy for wellbeing in basic cost-benefit analyses. The logical second conclusion of the report is that we need better data. It’s not impossible – wellbeing really can be measured. And we’re getting better and better at it. As we get better data, governments will be able to take far, far better policy decisions, which in turn should increase our wellbeing. It’s fairly intuitive, but could be revolutionary.