The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950

Barry Schwartz writes:

Suppose you believe that a central aim of public policy in a democratic society should be improving the welfare of its citizens. Even when resources are plentiful, this is a challenging task because of the difficulty of determining what ‘welfare’ consists in. Beyond basic necessities, there is great variation in what people want out of life. This is true with respect to material goods, and also true with respect to what people want from their work, their medical care, their educational opportunities, their relationships with others, their public institutions, the arts and just about everything else. So any specific commitment of public resources is likely to please some people and displease others.

(LRB 8 March 2007)

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