Will Wilkinson (born 1973) is an American writer who currently serves as Vice President of Policy at the Niskanen Center.[2] Until August 2010, he was a research fellow at the Cato Institute where he worked on a variety of issues including Social Security privatization and, most notably, the policy implications of happiness research. Wilkinson was also the managing editor of the Cato Institute's monthly web magazine, Cato Unbound. Previously, he was Academic Coordinator of the Social Change Project and the Global Prosperity Initiative at The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and, before that, he ran the Social Change Workshop for Graduate Students for The Institute for Humane Studies. His political philosophy is described by The American Conservative magazine as "Rawlsekian"; that is, a mixture of John Rawls's principles and Friedrich von Hayek's methods.[3] Wilkinson formerly described his political views as libertarian, but he now rejects that label.[4]


Wilkinson was born in Independence, Missouri, and grew up in Marshalltown, Iowa. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1995, received his M.A. in Philosophy from the Northern Illinois University in 1998 and did work toward a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. In 2009 Wilkinson gained Canadian citizenship via his father, a Canadian American expatriate whose Canadian citizenship was reinstated following a change in Canadian emigration law.[5] As of 2013, Wilkinson is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Houston.

Writing and Commentary

His writing has appeared in Slate,[6]Reason,[7]TCS Daily,[8]National Review,[9] the FoxNews website,[10] and on The Economist's Free Exchange economics blog,[11] where he has been a regular contributor from 2007 onwards. As of 2010, he is one of the contributors of The Economist's Democracy in America blog under the pseudonym W.W.

Journalist Ryan Blitstein regards Wilkinson as an expert in the relationship of happiness research to public policy.[12] He has been cited on happiness and public policy in articles in Forbes,[13]The Los Angeles Times,[14] and The Washington Post.[15]

Wilkinson has appeared a regular commentator on American Public Media's widely syndicated radio show Marketplace. He is the host of a weekly show, Free Will, on the current affairs diavlog site Bloggingheads TV. The show features discussions of new books and ideas with writers and intellectuals.

Wilkinson frequently appears in public forums and debates with leading intellectuals. In November 2007, Wilkinson, teamed with George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen, was pitted against Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs and University of Pennsylvania economist Betsey Stevenson in a highly publicized public debate on the economic and politics of happiness sponsored by The Economist newspaper.[16] Wilkinson has recently appeared with University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein and Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at Cato Institute book forums where he offered critical comments on their recent books.[17][18]