Sandy Smith of Womble Carlyle is an attorney who has a business degree and is really interested in how economies work.

Economics assumes that people have free will and are fully rational beings that can make decisions on their own. Economists believe that the desire to be happy is the basic motivation that drives most decisions for most of the people. This assumption implies that people make decisions to maximize their happiness in the given circumstances. This leads to the necessity of being able to compare how much happiness a decision, a product, or a service can bring.

Sandy Smith of Womble Carlyle: Measuring Happiness

Utility is how economists measure happiness. If you like something a lot, that something has high utility. Things that you only care about a little have low or negative utility. This concept is very inclusive. Utility may be happiness from buying a new gadget and it also may describe happiness from the sense of moral satisfaction. The important thing about utility is that it allows comparing satisfaction levels from all kinds of otherwise incomparable activities. The view that people make decisions in order to maximize personal happiness usually gets an objection that points to people who are willing to take on enormous sufferings to help others.

Economists view the choice to help others as a personal preference. They assume that people donate money to charities or give their own food away because that’s what makes them happy. The science of economics doesn’t question the morality of people’s actions. It is interested in what people including Sandy Smith of Womble Carlyle do based on their preferences.