Defining Well-Being

With the core ENL concepts established, it is possible to offer a formal definition of well-being in place of the conventional meaning of satisfactory conditions for human existence.

To fully capture human experience, the term must refer to a combination of health achievement and want satisfaction.

Unfortunately, this runs into the problem of incommensurability. Health is objective and directly measurable, whereas want satisfaction is subjective and measurable only in the indirect sense, through the expenditure of money. There is no generally valid way to combine these two discrete components into a single measure.

The solution to this quandary is two-fold.

First, ENL defines well-being not as a measure but as a goal:

The goal of well-being is the achievement of maximum health from consumption and production, plus the satisfaction of all sanctioned wants.

Thus, well-being means the maximization of effectual value from consumption, the minimization of input cost from production, and the satisfaction of all wants that have been socially approved.

This definition avoids the incommensurability issue while retaining the required combination of health and wants.

The second aspect of the solution is to acknowledge that a society can combine health and want satisfaction into a single measure according to its own criteria, just as discrete components are today combined by standard economists to form an index of stock prices. This would make well-being a fully quantifiable concept within a specific social context.

In ENL this formal definition is used, and well-being therefore refers to a goal rather than a quantifiable concept.


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