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photo: Alexandrova Dr Anna Alexandrova
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge

Closing the border can do more harm than good to national wellbeing.

April 2017
Wellbeing of EU citizens increases on average with free movement within the EU.Response
I believe different senses of wellbeing likely respond differently to free movement. Wellbeing in the sense of accomplishment of personal priorities and goals surely increases with fewer obstacles and free movement removes these obstacles. However wellbeing in the sense of emotional state may well be affected negatively by even the mere awareness that moving to a 'better place' is the right way to improve life. This ideology likely undermines sense of community and people's commitment to their kin, all important elements of wellbeing themselves. There could also be opposing effects (emotional state suffering from lack of options) and frankly I don't think we know enough to conclude which effect is stronger. This is why freedom of movement is a value that will need to be defended on additional grounds such as justice and solidarity, not only wellbeing.Agree

The UK closing its borders for EU nationals who want to work in the UK after Brexit would harm both UK wellbeing and that of the rest of the EU.Response
It's hard to imagine that it wouldn't, now that we've tasted free movement of labour. The direction of change matters in this case.Agree strongly

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
There are legitimate concerns about uncertainties in implementation of wellbeing policies but the existing evidence base is nonetheless in places respectable.Disagree

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
RCTs are neither necessary nor sufficient nor always ethical.Disagree strongly

Organisational structures on workers' wellbeing

January 2017
Employees in more hierarchical organisations have higher levels of wellbeing than those of flatter organisations.Response
Autonomy and control over one's work are crucial for well-being on any definition.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 would only be true if these hierarchical organizations were extraordinarily successful on other measures, I cannot think of any such cases.Disagree

Wellbeing and Public Holidays

December 2016
Do you think that populations on average have higher wellbeing during major festive periods like Christmas?Response
I chose 'neither agree nor disagree' because i have not done the surveying myself, nor seen the data of others on this question. But on the basis of what we know already I would expect several effects working at the same time: on the positive side holidays is the time when people engage in communal activities generally with people from their preferred social circle and family, perhaps increased perception of meaningfulness for religious people or for those who engage in seasonal charity and volunteering; but on the negative side there are heightened social comparisons brought about by increased consumption. I don't believe we know know enough to say which effect is stronger and the experience of the holiday season is likely to vary a great deal among different groups.Neither agree nor disagree

Do you think on balance that average wellbeing would rise if there were more mandatory public holidays in your country?Response
I would expect yes, the loss of productivity is unlikely to outweigh the positive effect of greater leisure time.Agree