Ethics, Economics and Politics: Principles of Public Policy
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In Ethics, Economics, and Politics Ian Little returns to offer a new defence of a rule-based utilitarianism as a basis for assessing the role of the State. Lucidly and elegantly he explains how the three disciplines of philosophy, economics and politics can be integrated to provide guidance on issues of public policy.
judgement. Some feel that economics becomes unscientiﬁc if value judgements are admitted: they are trying to ﬂy without wings. Others, more reasonably, argue that these interpersonal judgements require a lot of research as to who gains and loses and by how much, and that mostly those who lose on the swings will anyway gain on the roundabouts. Moreover, where public projects are in question, distributional considerations may come to the fore to an undesirable extent, especially as the political
foreign policy. Numbers are very important. A few people can often reach a cooperative arrangement to produce something. But when the number is large, the problem of free-riders cannot be overcome without an authority with powers of compulsion. There are other candidates. Although in theory money could be competitively supplied by private ﬁnancial institutions, I think that almost all economists would include the provision of a stable currency as a public good which should ultimately be the
different factions. Thus economic circumstances—the relations of production as Marxists would say—are most likely to be major determinants of economic policies when the electorate is relatively homogeneous. When it is heterogeneous, factional interests tend to cut across narrower economic interests. Most of the older industrialized countries of North America and Western Europe, but also Japan, are relatively homogeneous. They are also democracies, and have been so for many years. It is no
share of national income. The formation of such groups is not easy, because of the free-rider problem. Thus 148 Usher (1981) 149 Mancur Olson (1965, 1982). NORMATIVE POLITICAL ECONOMY 125 a worker can enjoy any beneﬁts a trade union might gain without paying dues, hence the demand for ‘closed shops’. The larger the group the more difﬁcult it is to form. Olson believed that ‘selective incentives’ have been successfully used to overcome the free-rider problem. Nevertheless, the formation of
often be debatable. THE PHILOSOPHICAL FRAMEWORK Discussion of many of the problems considered in Parts I to III can be closed only with a value judgement. In some cases I have not effected any closure, and have remained sitting on the fence. However, a deﬁnite position has sometimes been taken, which may have seemed arbitrary. Further explanation is warranted. My general position is anti-metaphysical. I do not believe that there are recognizable moral characteristics, such as goodness or 140