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photo: Rojas Professor Mariano Rojas
Professor of Economics at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, México

Understanding the effect of policy on national wellbeing

March 2017
Despite dozens of years of research, we still know precious little about what policies increase national wellbeing.Response
I do believe we know important things about well-being and its drivers which are relevant for public policy and for development strategies. Among the many things we know: Economic growth has limited to nil impact on people's experience of being well while it has a high environmental cost that will impact future generations' well-being. Income in not the only driver of well-being and not necessarily the most important. Human relations are fundamental to people's well-being. Problems in the family may have a high impact on well-being. Leisure and how people use their free time are very important. Community-life matters. Work may by gratifying and job satisfaction depends on many factors beyond wages. There is heterogeneity across persons and along cultures in the importance some drivers have for people's well-being. I think these are very relevant findings from well-being research that completely change policy considerations.Disagree strongly

In order to find out what raises national wellbeing, we need to have thousands of randomised controlled trials in all major areas of national policy.Response
Causality issues are very difficult to address and most researchers tend to think in terms of simple direct causality (Event A implies event B; thus, intervention in A will have an impact on B). In practice, we are dealing with complex social issues which may depend on stochastic factors and on magnifying complexity emerging from social interactions within a social context. Thus, probably we need to avoid a social-engineering approach -which assumes that we can build the society we imagine in our mind- in order to foster a co-evolutionary and institutional view so that interventions focus on setting the the stage while recognizing that people act and interact.Neither agree nor disagree

Wellbeing Effects of Anonymous Donation of Eggs and Sperm

February 2017
Donating gametes (eggs, sperm) via clinics as anonymous donors is one of the highest return-to-effort things individuals can do to increase overall wellbeing.Response
I do believe there are many high return-to-effort things people can do to increase overall wellbeing; such as fostering gratifying interpersonal relations and practicing pro-social behavior. These things have greater impact on overall wellbeing.Disagree

The right of a child to know who their donor was when they turn 18 outweighs (in an overall wellbeing sense) the possibility that this right-to-know leads to a shortage of donors and reduces the number of donor-conceived children.Response
I would say that the right of the child should prevail over the impact this measure would have in the number of donor-conceived children. But, sincerely, I do not see this issue as a major theme in Latin America: the large number of adolescent -and single- pregnant women in Latin America seems to me a most relevant issue. In this part of the world the main issues do not revolve around a low fertility rate. Neither agree nor disagree

Organisational structures on workers' wellbeing

January 2017
Employees in more hierarchical organisations have higher levels of wellbeing than those of flatter organisations.Response
Job satisfaction does depend on the attributes of employment, hierarchical organizations may provide some certainty and some side benefits which flatter organizations may not provide. However, what is crucial for job satisfaction is for people to pursue their own passions; in other words: intrinsic motivation is fundamental for job satisfaction. It seems to me that hierarchical organizations are more likely to deter intrinsic motivation because bosses are inclined to command over workers rather than to leave them free to pursue their own interests. Some production processes may allow for having flatter organizations while others may require a more hierarchical organization; however, the key in those processes that require hierarchical organization is for bosses and Human-Resources Managers to hire people that have passion in doing what they are expected to do and then to coordinate them in such a way that their passion is not affected. We must also remember that many people are self-employed and small entrepreneurs out of choice.Disagree

Tilting the tax and subsidy mix in favour of more hierarchical organisations (in a revenue neutral manner) would probably improve the wellbeing of employees.Response
This statement could make some sense if we agree that employees are more satisfied in hierarchical organizations. However, I do disagree with that statement. Hence, I see no reasons for considering a tax/subsity scheme that favours more hierarchical organizations.Disagree strongly

Wellbeing and Public Holidays

December 2016
Do you think that populations on average have higher wellbeing during major festive periods like Christmas?Response
Christmas has become a time for shopping. Christmas presents provide a very short well-being impact -mostly an affective impact that lasts a few minutes, but the credit-card debts last for many months. A materialistic society is promoted during Christmas and the main end of advertising is estimulating people to spend in many things they may not need. Furthermore, the proliferation of gifts implies that people cannot enjoy everything they get. I have to remind readers to Linder's time-constraint problem: People have many gifts but no more time to enjoy them; thus, there is diminishing attention on these gifts and, as a consequence, less well-being from each product is attained. In addition, the focus on purchasing and on gifts deviates attention from important relational matters. Of course, there is always people who can attain high wellbeing in Christmas, but this happen because they do things that they can also do anytime of the year; such as relating with friends and family or using their free time to pursue their own hobbies and goals. There is nothing relevant in Christmas that makes me thing about a substantial increase in people's well-being.Disagree

Do you think on balance that average wellbeing would rise if there were more mandatory public holidays in your country?Response
Having more holidays does not reduces productivity, on the contrary, fresh and rested people who are happy can be more productive and generate the same production in less working hours. Furthermore, holidays allow people to spend more time with family and with friends as well as to pursue their own interests and hobbies.Agree strongly