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November 09, 2010


Luis Enrique

I've read your criticisms of 'technocratic utilitarianism' but it's still not clear to me what the better alternatives are. I think I'd still rather have decisions taken with the (ill defined and problematic) greater good as guiding principle than any other.

a small point: welfare wise, there's quite a difference between people not wanting to work, but first working to get themselves in a position where they can afford not to, and people not wanting to work who then require being housed and fed by the labour of others. It's not obvious to me where the utilitarian calculation comes out in the latter case.

Chris E

"German attitudes to the euro zone’s fiscal crisis owe more to Calvinism than to utilitarianism."

I'm not sure this is true - contrast and compare German and Scottish attitudes.

Tom Addison

I bought your book a month or two ago, so without me, who knows, it may have been negative.

Michael Fowke

And if people don't want to work, forcing them on employers won't do anybody any good.


The tension moral vs law seems to be at the very core of the liberal system, and it cannot be solved, because in that tension lies the very essence of it.


Surely Louis Enrique is wrong in his comment. If you are wealthy you are living on the Labour of others if you are not selling your Labour power, as you are consuming social output like the elderly living on a pension. All consumption of real goods comes from conteporaneous production employing someons Labour power today or relatively soon in the past.

The very rich often inherit wealth like the PM and deputy PM so live on others Labour at a greater distance!

Great wealth is often derived from imoral activity such as Imperialism or child Labour or employing workers in asbestos factories bringing about their death from cancer. Wealth confers no moral virtue in itself. Often it is a sign of mere greed and abuse of power or opportunities to exploit other people.

Chris is wrong about Utilitarianism also. Liberty is not a end of morals for Bentham as an example. Banning drugs can be the state acting in the properly understood interests of the potential drug user. You can make a Utilitarian case for banning anything if you want to. The Utility of Bentham can be interpreted as a form of Totalitarianism. With Mr. B sitting in his see all building bulllying the inmates, to want what he thinks is good for them in his opinion.

J S Mill tries to convince us that Liberty and Utility are not inconsistent ideas, but I have never been convinced by his argument On Liberty.

Niklas Smith

"I’m serious. If more people - not all, just more - wanted not to work, aggregate well-being would improve. The unemployed would be happier. And those who wanted to work would face less competition for jobs and hence have more chance of getting their wish."

Well, surely that depends on whether the unemployed can get a decent standard of living without working. If not, then all you'll get is a large number of people forced to work to get money for rent, food and clothes and jolly unhappy about it.

On the subject of your book, I think I might add to your royalties by finally getting a copy :)

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