There is a common presumption, especially in economics, that people are better off when they can satisfy their preferences and desires. Thus, it is concluded that it is possible to measure people's well-being by measuring how well they satisfy their preferences and what they are willing to pay in order to do so. But is this reasonable?

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You raise an interesting question. I don't have any empirical data at my disposal, but I would hazard that there is indeed some connection between the ability to obtain what one wants and one's overall well-being. Clearly, however, there are many exceptions to this rule. The problem--and it's a problem endemic to economics as a discipline--is that what people want is not always rational even to the people themselves. Economists operate on the assumption that people act rationally, or at least according to self-interest, but that premise is demonstrably false in many cases. Witness the raft of working-class Americans who vote Republican. Indeed, many voters who pulled the lever for Bush in 2004 regretted their decision a short while later.
The U.S. is willing to pay double what the rest of the world pays for health care so we've gotta be pretty damn happy with it. Twice as happy!

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