Well-being and economics

Authored by: Erik Angner

The Routledge Handbook Of Philosophy Of Well-Being

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415714532
eBook ISBN: 9781315682266
Adobe ISBN: 9781317402657


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Since its early days as a science, economics has aimed not only to better understand the world, but also to improve it. The urge to change the world is perhaps most famously seen in the work of Karl Marx, who remarked: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it” (Marx 1998/1845: 571). But economists from the left to the right have shared the sentiment. In the words of Paul A. Samuelson: “Beginning as it did in the writings of philosophers, theologians, pamphleteers, special pleaders, and reformers, economics has always been concerned with problems of public policy and welfare” (Samuelson 1947: 203). Friedrich A. Hayek agreed:

It is probably true that economic analysis has never been the product of detached intellectual curiosity about the why of social phenomena, but of an intense urge to reconstruct a world which gives rise to profound dissatisfaction. This is as true of the phylogenesis of economics as the ontogenesis of probably every economist.

(Hayek 1933: 122–123)

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