We’ve heard these words so many times:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The idea of happiness plays a central role in our personal and public lives. But what does it mean? And what does it mean to have a right to it? And should we have such a right?

Questions like these are what you get when EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes philosopher Daniel Haybron to the show to talk about his new book, Happiness: A Very Short Introduction.

In this episode, Roberts and Haybron attempt to unpack this “suitcase word.”

We hope you’ll spend some more time thinking about this conversation with us. Use the prompts below to spark new thoughts, or better yet- a new conversation. As always, we love to hear from you.



1- Consider Haybron’s views on happiness survey research. To what extent it is possible to measure happiness? In doing so, should we focus on the (lack of) negatives or on the presence of positives?


2- How should research on happiness be used in the policy world? What does Haybron mean when he says, “The important thing for policy that science can do is just–really, for the public mind and for the culture–is help us change the lens through which we think about how our society is doing and where we want to go?”


3- What’s the difference between being a “consumer” and being an appreciator? Which one are you most often?  How can you make a culture “healthier,” allowing people to focus less on the material? (And again, should we?)


4- What does Haybron mean when he says, “What makes living with each other bearable, and civilization possible, is the willingness of all parties to limit the exercise of their rights.” What’s the appropriate relatonship between legality, morality, and happiness?


5- Roberts shares what he would tell his younger self today. What would you advise YOUR 21 year-old self with regard to the pursuit of happiness?