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Economy More Important Than Happiness, Says Institute of Economic Affairs

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The government should not attempt to measure or maximise happiness as a specific policy, a think-tank claimed today.

The free market Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said that there was no evidence that more equal societies lead to increased happiness.

It even found that increasing government spending by one-third would reduce happiness by up to 6%.

Today, the third Monday in January, is often referred to as the most depressing day of the year due to the weather, debt and time passed since Christmas.

IEA director general Mark Littlewood said: "Governments have shown how hopeless and inefficient they are at attempting to run the basics of our economy.

"They seem to find it nearly impossible, for example, to resist racking up colossal debts. To trust them with something far more intimate, complicated and confusing as happiness would be inviting disaster."

Report editor Professor Philip Booth added: "The nation's wellbeing will be improved if the government cuts back its activity and allows the economy, employment and families to flourish.

"The government should not be trying to increase aggregate happiness as a specific policy goal, nor should it be wasting money collecting data on the subject."

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The government's most urgent priority is to get the economy moving, to create jobs and to spread opportunity.

"However, we're also clear that we want to make sure we're properly focused on quality of life as well as economic growth.

"Finding out what will really improve lives and acting on it is important and having evidence will help us to find the best ways of doing so."

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