We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Two noted economists, Kahneman and Krueger, think they can solve the "problem of human unhappiness" using their "U-index." Not only that, they believe policy-makers should listen to them.
If it were satire, it would be pretty funny. If they were psychologists, it would be ridiculous, because no psychologist or psychiatrist or psychoanalyst would claim to have the key to happiness, much less claim to be able to define the word - much less claim happiness to be the goal of human existence: defining the meaning of life is not their/our job. (Not to mention the fact that lots of folks are quite happy being grumpy and unhappy, while lots of others seem to be insatiable.)
And one secret known well by psychoanalysts is that the way folks feel has mainly to do with their relationship with themselves, not to their material or life circumstances - unless their circumstances are dire, which is rare in the Western world.
Thus, in the end, reading about these two guys feels a bit like reading a speech by Kim Il Sung, or something in Brave New World. Creepy. No-one wants government messing with our souls: we will deal with our own souls, thank you very much. Delivering the mail, killing terrorists, and leaving me alone are all that I ask of them.
A quote from Kling's usual fine essay at TCS:
My point is that -- with the exception of the Austrians -- economists have been going down a slippery slope of interventionism for a long time. Krueger and Kahneman are simply further down that slope.
Perhaps the original sin here is to think of the economist's role as that of policy advocate. The policy advocate combines the job of a technician with that of a preacher (Robin Hanson made this point to me during a discussion that we had after hearing a talk from the economist Deidre N. McCloskey). The technician predicts the consequences of a policy. The preacher argues for the policy.
With research into subjective well-being, economists are making statements about what constitutes the good life. In doing so, we are encroaching on territory once claimed by philosophers and theologians -- and, more recently, by self-help gurus. In the 70's, it was I'm OK, You're OK. Now, we are saying "I have positive net affect, you have positive net affect."
Someone should tell these arrogant jokers and closet utopian totalitarians to stick to their knitting: I don't trust people with power who obtain their happiness by figuring out how to make me happy. Read Kling's entire piece here.