Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Subjective Well-Being and the Law by Peter H. Huang

Subjective Well-Being and the Law by Peter H. Huang.

Handbook of Well-Being (Ed Diener, Shige Oishi, & Louis Tay eds., 2018) Noba Scholar Handbook series: Subjective well-being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF publishers.


This chapter analyzes legal implications of subjective well-being (SWB) research. Law can and should learn much from SWB research because the law can and should care about people’s SWB. An incomplete list of legal doctrinal and subject areas in which law professors have applied SWB research includes administrative law, alternative dispute resolution, business law, civil procedure, conflict resolution, contracts, constitutional law, corporate law, criminal law, development law, employment discrimination law, family law, immigration law, international law, negotiations, legal ethics, securities law, securities litigation and enforcement, tax law, tort law, and trusts and estates. Some legal scholars have repeated or contributed to existing concerns, debates, and disagreements among non-law scholars about how to measure SWB. For example, some law professors continue to assume that SWB is one-dimensional, despite the large amount of empirical psychological research finding that SWB is multi-dimensional and has distinct components. Some law professors also continue to ignore the conceptual difficulties with aggregation, interpersonal comparisons, and intertemporal comparisons of multi-dimensional SWB measures. In addition, law often requires societies to make contested normative value-judgments over which there lacks consensus. Some law professors and policy makers advocate using SWB metrics to evaluate legal policies, procedures, and regulations. Others argue that hedonic adaptation implies legal interventions have little, long-run SWB impact. This argument ignores short-run impacts which might be irreversible or have spillover effects, including changing individual preferences and social norms. The unique history and current sociology of the American legal academy has resulted in American legal scholarship applying SWB research focusing perhaps unexpectedly primarily on legal education and law practice. Perhaps quite surprisingly, at least to SWB researchers, is that law professors have applied SWB research most, and by a quite far margin, to analyze how to utilize SWB evidence-based research to sustainably improve the alarmingly, perennially, and persistently negative SWB of many law students and lawyers.

(Scott Fruehwald)


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