Can We Be Happier? Evidence and Ethics
(PELICAN, 416 PP, £22)
Tablet bookshop price £20 • Tel 020 7799 4064
Richard Layard is an economist by training (he is the former director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics) but he has become best known for his work on happiness, especially in the corridors of Labour power. We might think of him as head boy of the new school of the world happiness movement. He was New Labour’s happiness tsar and is also co-editor of the annual World Happiness Report.
Fifteen years ago, he proposed the idea of happiness as a better indicator of success than GDP, and outlined how to measure it. His proposals were adopted as part of government aims in the UK. In addition, he persuaded New Labour to offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to depressed and anxious patients on the NHS.
His latest book builds on his Happiness: Lessons from a New Science published in 2005, and Thrive: The Power of Psychological Therapies, published in 2015. All three are directed at policymakers and politicians rather than individuals seeking the answer to their own psychological health.