The economics of happiness is an influential research programme, the aim of which is to change welfare economics radically. In this paper I set out to show that its foundations are unreliable. I shall maintain two basic theses: (a) the economics of happiness shows inconsistencies with the first person standpoint, contrary claims on the part of the economists of happiness notwithstanding, and (b) happiness is a dubious concept if it is understood as the goal of welfare policies. These two theses are closely related and lead to a third thesis: (c) happiness should be replaced by autonomy as the fundamental goal of welfare economics. To defend my claims I shall show that a hedonic approach to happiness leads to an awkward trilemma. Furthermore, I shall clarify the meaning of “happiness” and “autonomy”, along with their conceptual relationships.
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