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Working paper

Respecting the subject in subjective wellbeing public policy: moving beyond the social planner paradigm

Public interest Policy analysis Subjective wellbeing Social issues

There is a rising tide of advocacy for public policy to be made on the basis of ‘subjective wellbeing’. The authors argue that the vast majority of the associated policy proposals adopt the same ‘social planner perspective’ that undergirds conventional economic policy analysis. This perspective is broadly technocratic, emphasising scientific standards for what constitutes good policy and empowering ‘dispassionate’ experts. They argue that Wellbeing Public Policy (WPP) could and should lend itself to a more transformative agenda, one that embraces the value-laden nature of ‘wellbeing’ as a concept. This would see WPP relinquish the social planner perspective’s arguably naïve ideal of objective analysis by technical experts and instead give a greater role to participatory and deliberative modes of policymaking to define, analyse, and measure wellbeing and ultimately make policy decisions. The authors call this the ‘citizen perspective’.

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