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Politics, Markets, and Life Satisfaction: The Political Economy of Human Happiness

Benjamin Radcliff
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 95, No. 4 (Dec., 2001), pp. 939-952
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3117723
Page Count: 14
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Politics, Markets, and Life Satisfaction: The Political Economy of Human Happiness
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Abstract

Little is known about the political determinants of subjective well-being across nations. The dominant theoretical approaches, comparison and trait theory, suggest that cross-national differences will be either nonexistent or largely independent of political conditions. I argue instead that although culture does appear to play a significant role, the results of democratic competition have even more dramatic effects upon national levels of life satisfaction. Specifically, I demonstrate that subjective appreciation of life is positively affected by the ideological complexion of governments and by qualitative features of the welfare state. The implications for social policy, electoral politics, and our theoretical understanding of life satisfaction are discussed.

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