While there is a vast and contentious literature devoted to the debate over \"politics versus markets,\" scholars have devoted little empirical attention to the fundamental question of how the choice between these two approaches to public policy affects the overall quality of human life. Contending arguments make powerful claims for the superiority of each as the best mechanism for generating and distributing well-being. We attempt an empirical appraisal of this issue, using the extent to which individuals find their lives to be satisfying as an evaluative metric. Considering individual levels of life satisfaction in advanced industrial democracies using the most recent wave of survey data from the World Values Survey, we find that citizens are more satisfied with their lives as the level of state intervention into the market economy increases. © The Policy Studies Organization.