EconPapers    
Economics at your fingertips  
 

Utilitarianism, Voting And The Redistribution Of Income

Dan Usher

No 1385, Working Paper from Economics Department, Queen's University

Abstract: Utilitarianism can be misplaced or ambiguous. As a prescription for individual behaviour, the injunction to seek the greatest good for the greatest number is misplaced because there remains a domain of life where, within the bounds of law and custom, one is free to act as selfishly or as altruistically as one pleases. As a criterion for responsible government, it is ambiguous because there is no universally-recognized perception of the greatest good; people have different perceptions which can only be reconciled by compromise or by voting. The greatest number must be of citizens alive today, but governments may be vicariously concerned about people in other countries or yet to be born, in so far as citizens today have such concerns and are prepared to sacrifice for the benefit of others. The greatest good for the greatest number has no rival as a criterion for government, but it is vague nonetheless. Utilitarian ambiguity is inherited in any attempt to combine the ordinary measure of economic growth with changes in the distribution of income on a common scale.

Keywords: utilitarianism; voting; redistribution (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E31 O40 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mac, nep-pol and nep-upt
Date: 2017-07
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link)
https://www.econ.queensu.ca/sites/econ.queensu.ca/files/qed_wp_1385.pdf First version 2017 (application/pdf)

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:qed:wpaper:1385

Access Statistics for this paper

More papers in Working Paper from Economics Department, Queen's University Contact information at EDIRC.
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Mark Babcock ().

 
Page updated 2019-10-14
Handle: RePEc:qed:wpaper:1385