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photo: Singer Professor Peter Singer
Professor of Philosophy at Princeton

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
Anything that reduces human suffering will increase national wellbeing. So providing a decent social welfare safety net for the poorest members of society is important. That includes universal health coverage, education, housing and at least a minimal level of income. In addition, we know that fostering cooperation, generosity, and altruism increases national wellbeing. 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
We do need some randomised controlled trials, for example of basic minimum income schemes, of the kind that Give Directly is now doing in Kenya. But "thousands" seems an exaggeration.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
Donating gametes as anonymous donors is likely to increase overall wellbeing, and for sperm donors, the effort is minimal, but for egg donors it is more significant, and I don't think anyone could say that the return-to-effort matches, for example, donating $50 to the Fred Hollows Foundation to prevent someone going blind. No doubt the effort involved in making a donation depends on one's economic situation, but for most people in affluent societies, there are many highly effective charities that offer a better return-to-effort ratio than being an egg donor offers a woman. 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 don't know enough about the impact of giving 18 year olds the right to know is on reducing the number of donor-conceived children, but if it is significant, then one must balance the possible distress of not knowing who one's father is against the happiness of parents in being able to have a child, plus the future well-being of the child who would not otherwise have existed.Disagree

Organisational structures on workers' wellbeing

January 2017
Employees in more hierarchical organisations have higher levels of wellbeing than those of flatter organisations.Response
This is contrary to my understanding of the research, but it is outside my area of expertise.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 is contrary to my understanding of the relevant research, but this is not my area of expertise.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 suggest three reasons: Festivals provide a break from routine, and the break is perceived positively, so that typically leads to higher wellbeing. Festivals are a time for people to be with friends and family, and that too usually leads to higher wellbeing. There is good research showing that thinking of others, and giving to others, leads to higher wellbeing, and many festivals involve that.Agree

Do you think on balance that average wellbeing would rise if there were more mandatory public holidays in your country?Response
There could be too many public holidays, because they need to be something special, but yes, there could be more than there are in the US at present.Agree