Mark Fabian's picture

Mark Fabian



BA (philosophy), hons. (ANU); MIDEC (ANU, with distinction)

Contact details

Phone: 6125 6409

Room: Old Canberra House (OCH) 3.72

Google Site (most up to date):

I recently tendered my doctoral dissertation and am now lecturing at the Crawford School of Public Policy on contract for a semester. I will move to the Brookings Institution in Washington DC in September to commence a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship. My PhD was in economics but my research is interdisciplinary, combining economics, philosophy, psychology and public policy.
I have two principle research interests. The first is wellbeing and how to adapt policy thinking and design to better serve it as an end. I am currently completing a book that seeks to define wellbeing in terms of whether life is pleasant, fulfilling and valuable. It is written mostly for a philosophical audience, and builds on my two working papers - “The Coalescence of Being: Solving the problem of despair with insights from modern psychology” (R&R at Journal of Happiness Studies) and “Insights from Taking an Integrative Approach to Wellbeing Theories”. The final chapter of the book reflects on the challenges associated with measuring wellbeing in a policy context (c.f. my working-paper “Scale-recalibration is a challenge for subjective wellbeing research: theory and some preliminary evidence”).

My second principle research interest is hybrid policy design. The term “Hybrids” was coined by Professor Robert Breunig and I to describe policies that combine government, market and community tools to arrive at bipartisan outcomes. An example is the Danish flexicurity system of industrial relations. The market is left deregulated to ensure the efficient allocation of labour, but the government operates around the market to ensure income security by providing unemployment insurance and financing for retraining. Corporatist cooperation between government, employers, unions and education institutions provides outcomes typically associated with community-based delivery of policy, notably a sense of agency and good-faith negotiation. Such sophisticated policy designs can promote equity and efficiency without requiring major trade-offs to be made. Our edited volume - Hybrid Public Policy Innovations: Contemporary policy beyond ideology - was published by Routledge in April of 2018. I am presently working on adapting ideas from the volume for journal publication.

I am a development economist by training and maintain a side interest in the subject, especially in industrial policy, the political economy of structural reform, and the middle-income trap. I also maintain a side interest in areas of economics related to gender. I have worked for the East Asia Forum since 2011, which has given me an expertise in Asian economics, politics and development.

At the Crawford School I teach basic economics to policy students, development economics to economists, the school’s flagship course “Governments, markets and global change”, which is an interdisciplinary course in applied policy, and a new course on the nature and politics of evidence in public policy. I have excellent student satisfaction scores (averaging above 4.5/5) and I was nominated for a teaching award in 2017. I care deeply about pedagogy and take most opportunities to improve my teaching skills and learn from leaders in the field. I find the lack of attention to pedagogy at most top universities deplorable and consider it a real threat to the long-term financial sustainability of the sector.

PhD programme


Supervisor(s) and panel members

Topic title

A Theory of Subjective Wellbeing

Topic description

I argue that subjective well-being scholarship (SWB) has opened valuable new vistas in wellbeing research over the past four decades or so. However, owing to its operationalist epistemology, it cannot effectively advance into areas it now wants to influence, notably welfare economics and public policy. It must first adopt a more realist epistemology, which begins with a deep theory of wellbeing, including its causal structure. I provide this theory—the production function model of wellbeing—drawing on ideas in clinical, hedonic, moral, behavioural and developmental psychology, and both analytical and continental philosophy. The individual components of this theory have empirical backing, but the model of wellbeing that it gives rise to produces some inferences that are not verified by subjective well-being data. In particular, the model would suggest that people can experience sustained improvements in subjective wellbeing over the life course, but this is rarely what we see in life satisfaction data in advanced nations. This discrepancy motivates an investigation in the final chapters as to whether life satisfaction measures might suffer from issues of scale norming driven by ceiling effects. This would explain the discrepancy between the model’s inferences and what we see in the data. I provide theoretical arguments and empirical evidence from a novel life satisfaction plotting metric that lends credence to this hypothesis. This leads me to argue that the field should experiment with alternate metrics for measuring life satisfaction and evaluated wellbeing more generally. I discuss some possible options.



  • Fabian, M. and Breunig, R. (eds.) (2018). ‘Hybrid Public Policy Innovations: Contemporary Policy Beyond Ideology’, London, UK: Routledge

Book Chapters

  • Fabian, M. (2018). ‘The Ends and Means of Public Policy’ in Fabian, M. and Breunig, R. (eds.) (2018). ‘Hybrid Public Policy Innovations: Contemporary Policy Beyond Ideology’, London, UK: Routledge

Journal Articles

  • Fabian, M. and Breunig, R. (Forthcoming), ‘Long work-hours and job satisfaction: do overworkers get trapped in bad jobs?’, in Social Science Quarterly
  • Fabian, M. (forthcoming), ‘Racing from Subjective Well-Being to Public Policy: A Review of The Origins of Happiness’. Journal of Happiness Studies
  • ‘Paying overwork: What it’s worth’, in Solutions, vol. 6 No. 1, 2015
  • ‘What Asia’s experience can teach us about happiness’ in East Asia Forum Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 3

Working Papers


Book Reviews

  • ‘Happiness for all? Unequal hopes and lives in pursuit of the American dream, by Carol Graham, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2017), pp. xv + 192’, forthcoming in Economic Record
  • ‘Stability of Happiness: theories and evidence on whether happiness can change, by Kennon M. Sheldon and Richard E. Lucas eds. (Elsevier Academic Press, Oxford, UK, 2014) pp. xvi + 317’, in Economic Record, Vol. 92, no. 297, June 2016
  • ‘Happiness and Economic Growth: Lessons from developing countries by Andrew E. Clark and Claudia Senik (Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, 2014), pp. xiv + 277’, in Economic Record, Vol. 92 No. 296, March 2016
  • ‘Why Gender Matters in Economics by Mukesh Eswaran (Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ), pp. xii + 392’, in Economic Record, Vol.91, No. 292, 2015
  • ‘Measuring Happiness: the economics of wellbeing’ ( by Joachim Weimann, Andreas Knabe and Ronnie Schob (MIT Press, Cambridge: MA, 2015) pp. x + 212 in Economic Record, Vol. 91 no. 294, 2015

Radio and television

Scholarships and fellowships

Australian Postgraduate Award

EABER PhD top-up Scholarship

National Parliamentary Fellowship Program - India

Employment history

2018: Lecturer and convenor - Pre-sessional program in economics 2018: Tutor for Australian Awards Scholars (by request) 2015-2017: Tutor - Governments, Markets and Global Change 2015-2017: Tutor - Issues in Development Policy 2016-2017: Tutor - The Economic Way of Thinking

2011-2017: East Asia Forum (General Manager and other roles)

2016: Policy Adviser, Office of Baijayant Panda MP Lok Sabha, India

2012: Tutor - Fundamentals of Political Theory

2011-2013: Tutor - Tjabal Centre for Indigenous Students

2010-2012: General Manager, Centre for the Study of Australian Politics

2010: Academic Sub-Dean, Burton and Garran Hall

Personal links

Mailing address

Crawford School of Public Policy
ANU College of Asia & the Pacific
J.G. Crawford Building No. 132
Lennox Crossing
The Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200 Australia

Updated:  24 March 2017/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team