Discussion Paper

No. 2014-1 | January 09, 2014
Approaches to Well-Being, Use of Psychology and Paternalism in Economics
(Published in Special Issue Economics, Psychology and Choice Theory)


This paper discusses three approaches to well-being in economics which use insights from psychology to support their position: Scitovsky’s Joyless Economy, happiness economics, and the constitutional approach to happiness in economics. It shows that in the way these approaches make use of psychology, normative choice is involved, and there is room for personal judgement. First, an approach to well-being, as an approach to what is worth pursuing, is necessarily normative. The use of psychological theories to support an approach to well-being relies on a normative step, revealed by the choice of a psychological theory by the economist. Second, personal judgement is often needed to translate the findings of psychology to recommendations for practice. Both things have implications for those theories which define well-being as something different than the fulfillment of individual preferences whatever they are, and therefore yield potential for paternalism. The paternalistic recommendations derived by economists are not based on positive science only, but also rely on personal judgement and normative choice.

JEL Classification:

I31, D71, B21


  • Downloads: 1497


Cite As

Marion Collewet (2014). Approaches to Well-Being, Use of Psychology and Paternalism in Economics. Economics Discussion Papers, No 2014-1, Kiel Institute for the World Economy. http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2014-1

Comments and Questions

Abdul waheed - comment
January 10, 2014 - 13:32


Anonymous - Referee Report 1
January 30, 2014 - 08:33

see attached file

Anonymous - Invited Reader Comment
February 04, 2014 - 08:32

see attached file

Anonymous - Referee Report 2
February 20, 2014 - 08:25

see attached file

Marion Collewet - Reply to Referee Reports and Reader Comment
April 03, 2014 - 08:07

see attached file

Marion Collewet - Revised Version
September 08, 2014 - 10:23

see attached file

Anonymous - Referee Report 1 on Revised Version
September 08, 2014 - 10:27

see attached file

Anonymous - Referee Report 2 on Revised Version
September 08, 2014 - 10:29

The new version responds appropriately to the one relatively minor criticism that I made of the original. It also includes quite a few other changes in response to the other referee's comments. I think the revisions have improved the paper quite significantly. So I definitely recommend this paper for publication.

Editors - Decision
September 08, 2014 - 10:31

We have appreciated the well informed criticism coming from one of the two referees and we admit that Collewet's paper may not get to a definite verdict about welfare economics and paternalism. On the other hand, we share the other referee's opinion that the author has done a good job ...[more]

... in addressing the criticism raised in the two first reports.
Therefore, we have decided to accept the revised version for publication, being confident that the paper can foster further fruitful discussion about the important issue it deals with.