From the perfect life we don’t have to the good life we could: Paul Dolan


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In this episode of the Decision Corner, Brooke speaks with Paul Dolan, Professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics. Paul is globally recognised for his work on the measurement of happiness, its causes and consequences, and its implications for public policy. His experience includes working with the British Office for National Statistics and the government's Behavioural Insights Team – also known as the 'nudge' unit. He is the author of two bestselling books, and has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles. In his conversation with Brooke, Paul discusses some of his most influential work on the topic of well-being and public policy. He gives his view on what’s needed to address some of the burning policy issues facing governments all around the world today.

Some of the topics discussed include:

  • Measuring well-being through a WELLBY - what it is, and how it can be used to help craft good policy.
  • Why the idea of a universal ‘perfect life’ is a myth, and how we need to find our individual balance of purpose and pleasure, based on our own experiences.
  • The difference between equity and equality. How inequality can be fair in some instances, but too much inequality is unjust, and the need for a general consensus around that point.
  • An appeal for diversity in policymaking - how policy makers are generally from a specific age group or demographic, and why having a broader range of input into policies and decisions could help inspire greater public confidence.
  • The different lenses through which people of different cultures and demographics see the world, and the need to accept and include diverse perspectives.
  • The impossibility of certainty when it comes to policy making, taking the pandemic response as a real-time example. Why we should be wary of individuals who display blind certainty, and fail to accept uncertainty in decision-making.