Tim Besley's picture
Affiliation: 
London School of Economics
Credentials: 
Professor of economics and political science

Voting history

Happiness and well-being as objectives of macro policy

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Question 1: Do you agree that subjective well-being measures, or at least some of the subindices from the typical survey measures, are now reliable enough to give useful insights when used in macroeconomic empirical analysis?

 
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Answer:
Agree
Confidence level:
Very confident
Comment:
Give useful insights "yes", determine the answer "no". Anyone who looks at these issues could learn a lot from Angus Deaton's Hicks Lecture first: http://scholar.princeton.edu/deaton/publications/financial-crisis-and-well-being-americans

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Question 2: Do you agree that quantitative well-being analysis should play an important role in guiding policy makers in determining macroeconomic policies?

 
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Answer:
Agree
Confidence level:
Very confident
Comment:
There is a case of using a range of data to evaluate policies but not one to the detriment/neglect of others and we need to use the data intelligently and cautiously. It is a case of discretion not rules in this case. Also happiness and well-being are not the same thing as the passage above seems to suggest. Moreover, let's not pretend that there is any single metric that trumps all others. We need to be pluralistic which, in many ways would be a break from the past. Amartya Sen has been arguing for a plural "capability approach" for years and I still think that his framework is the most persuasive overarching intellectual framework in the area.

Are academic economists ‘in touch’ with voters and politicians?

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Question 7: Voters did not know that there was near-unanimity among economists.

Do you agree that this was an important reason for a majority of UK voters going against the near unanimous advice of the economics profession?

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Answer:
Neither agree nor disagree
Confidence level:
Confident

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Question 6: Economists did not explain the reasons for this consensus in sufficiently clear language.

Do you agree this was an important reason for a majority of UK voters going against the near unanimous advice of the economics profession?

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Answer:
Strongly Disagree
Confidence level:
Confident

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Question 5: Voters think that the preferences of economists do not align with their own preferences. (This includes the possibility that they thought that the predicted negative economic consequences would not affect them personally).

Do you agree this was an important reason for a majority of UK voters going against the near unanimous advice of the economics profession?

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Answer:
Agree
Confidence level:
Confident
Comment:
There was an element of this. We are happy to trade-off costs and benefits to get an aggregate outcome. Anyone who has spent time involved in policy-making knows that these arguments tend to grate with people who see the issues much more in terms of the lives of affected people. There are many with more anecdotal views of the world who think that those who look at aggregate outcomes does not align well with their circumstances. It is hard to explain to painter-decorator who has struggled to put up prices for ten years, which he/she blames on migrants, that they should not care about this because the aggregate economic picture favours staying in. This is always a struggle in economic policy discussion where the criteria that economists use to look at benefits and costs are not see easy to communicate to the general public.

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