Moral Science:

Economics and the Theory of Ends

By Alec Rawls ©1998/99

Welcome to my magnum opus. It is divided into four volumes:


Non-ideal Theory
The decentralized coordination of intelligence


Combining economics (the theory of means) with moral theory (in particular, a Millian theory of ends) yields a comprehensive analysis of value that turns on the lights in what had been dark rooms of unresolved and unconsidered problems in economics and moral theory. My discoveries in this area are the subject of the economics Ph.D. I am writing entitled "Economics and the Theory of Ends." Along the way I have also taken the opportunity to publish many bits of my magnum opus in short essay form, primarily in The Stanford Review. I have learned to appreciate the essay form. When ways are found to separate out parts of a whole into essays it demonstrates how each part is capable of standing on its own, so that when they all fit together the result is not just a single whole that might stand or fall together but a single whole that can only stand because no part can fall. Plus, essays are fun, the better to reach enough people to win the political battles that must be won to secure these advances for posterity. The dissertation I write for Stanford university. The following compilation of essays is what I write for We the People. It is my Federalist Papers, ultimately advocating a small series of amendments to the U.S. Constitution that will make us a much richer, freer, safer country, with greatly increased opportunity for all.

The essays fall into four volumes: Liberty, Utilitarianism, Non-ideal Theory and The Decentralized Coordination of Intelligence. To explain this structure requires some introduction to ends and means, starting with economics.

Economics has been developed almost entirely as a theory of means. Given a set of ends, optimal pursuit of these ends (as studied by the economic theory of means) yields behavior. The behavior of multiple agents can then be combined to yield markets and other social behavior. Notice that this theory of behavior depends, not just on the theory of how optimally to pursue given ends, but also on the ends pursued. How then could it even be possible for economics to develop primarily as a theory of means, while neglecting ends, as I am claiming? How have economists been able to separate the theory of means from the theory of ends while still generating a theory of behavior? The answer is: by a remarkable bit of serendipity.

It is possible to use all-purpose means, like money and leisure, as proxies for ultimate ends without having to say anything about ultimate ends themselves. In particular, market behavior can largely be described in terms of the pursuit of all purpose means. That is what markets and the division of labor are about after all. We pursue many of our ultimate ends indirectly, by producing things that are of value to others and then trading, and this is enabled and mediated by the liquidity that money and trade provide. Thus the subject matter of economics narrowly defined -- participation in markets -- can largely be studied without needing to develop a theory of ends, and this is what has been done.

This is only a small part, however, of what the economic theory of means is needed for. There are many spheres where ultimate ends are pursued directly rather than through the proximate goal of all purpose means. Most importantly, the proper sphere of government is delimited as just those areas where markets are not able to efficiently coordinate private interests. Here the economic theory of means is more needed than anywhere else, precisely because we cannot turn the job over to markets. We must figure out for ourselves how to efficiently pursue ends in these areas. But until we make progress in articulating ends, especially public ends, the theory of means cannot be applied. Economic science sits idly by its most important task because we have failed to tackle the other half of the analysis of value: the theory of ends.

As it turns out it is possible to develop the theory of ends and make it every bit as rigorous as the mathematics of constrained optimization employed by the theory of means. John Stuart Mill blazed the trail 150 years ago, only to be systematically misunderstood ever since. Mill's idea (from his Art of Life, the last book of his System of Logic) was that, just a there is a science of the nature of things, so too there is a science of the value of things, and both proceed by following the implications of reason for how to follow and marshall evidence. So long as we husband (properly account and follow) all information we discover about what there is to value in the world, we can make progress in discovering the value of things just as we can make progress in discovering the nature of things. Following the Millian idea that there is a science of following evidence of value, one discovers some conclusions about value that anyone who follows the implications of reason for how to follow evidence must arrive at. These fundamental conclusions about where value lies and what matters more than what then allow us to apply the theory of means to arrive at some basic principles that people who follow right reason must want to obey. We get a foundation for principles of liberty (volume I) and for embracing a particular concept of Millian utilitarianism (volume II) which encompasses interpersonal tradeoffs and hence the questions of justice which matters of policy and law necessarily involve.

Each of these volumes begins with the theory of ends, deducing some spartan conclusions about ends to which the theory of means is then applied. The bulk of each volume is devoted to developing these applications. The purpose of having separate volumes is to keep track of what implications from the theory of means depend on what conclusions from the theory of ends. The argument for utilitarianism rests on more extensive conclusions from the theory of ends than the arguments for liberty do so it comes second. Both of these volumes fall under the heading of ideal theory. They trace the implications of right reason for ends and means. The Non-ideal Theory volume (perhaps I should call it error theory) uses these implications of right reason as a benchmark for tracing the consequences of violating right reason in archetypical ways. An analysis of value that proceeds from error follows a path that can be compared to a correct analysis. At each point the errant analysis of value generates its own directives for how to proceed which may send those who follow this path either farther away from what a correct analysis would urge, or back towards a correct analysis. Some divergences from correct analysis are self-reinforcing, achieving a perverse stability--a double bind of error. Some are innocuous. One fatal error turns out to be equalitarianism: treating equality as an end (which is equivalent to embracing envy). This should not be too surprising, after a century that has seen communism ravage half the world and unlimited government debilitate the rest. Yet even these burdens were not enough to keep the power of liberty from pulling the world into a whole new age of invention and prosperity. It is right that has the might, but no one should underestimate the harm that wrong reason can produce or the havoc it is still wreaking today. Understanding the anatomy of error is an important key to combatting it and it turns out that we can make a science of divergences from right reason, just as we can make a science of the implications of right reason.

The last volume, The Decentralized Coordination of Intelligence, takes up an invention which I was elated to think was my own, until I discovered that others have been working on it for twenty years, which makes me even happier, because puts it that much closer to fruition. The invention is a scheme for mediating the decentralized coordination of intelligence, analagous to the decentralized coordination of productive activity mediated by markets. It is a calculational scheme for extracting the pattern of overlap between different people's judgements of value, then projecting this pattern of overlap to predict how any one person will rate or value any item based on how others have valued it. This ratintg engine or prediction engine, developed as an interned utility, will allow all to act as each other's eyes and ears while empowering individual judgement. Nothing is more valuable than accurate guidance about where, according to one's own judgement, one's time and other resources would best be spent. The rating engine will be the mechanism through which the information revolution's flood of information is directed. The technology is already in use, but it is a critical mass technology that is being tried in lots of separate non-communicating niches, keeping it from catching fire. I'm predicting that in ten more years we'll all be acting as each other's eyes and ears. The technological possibility of a decentralized coordination of intelligence is a powerful complement to the mechanisms of policy and law discussed in the preceeding volumes. Where law can only attack monopoly in its grossest manifestations and with the brutal club of regulation, the decentralized coordination of intelligence will smash the information assymetries upon which countless small bastions of monopoly power depend. The rating engine, as an engine for collecting and disseminating judgements of value, will also serve as an engine of justice, directing credit (and remuneration) where credit is due.

You can continue from here to read the volume introductions below, or you can click directly to the articles.

Moral Science Volume I:


Utilitarianism and Slavery

Reframing our System of Liberty (five articles)

How to Safely Decimate Crime

The Priority of Liberty

Monopoly Capital

A Tenable Concept of "Substantive Due Process"

Disarm Criminals, not Law Abiding Citizens

Limited Government

The Answer to Racism is Liberty, not Socialist Affirmative Action

Stop Calling Illiberalism "Liberal"

The Bible is a Liberal Document

Moral Science, Utilitarianism, Non-ideal Theory, The Decentralized Coordination of Intelligence, Home Page


Introduction to the Liberty volume

Agency requires liberty. Only through liberty can people follow their evidence of value so as to make progress in the discovery and pursuit of valued ends. Thus all value necessarily flows through liberty. Whether the ultimate source of value be religious or mundane, it is only meaningful if embraced through liberty of conscience and can only be empowered by liberty of action. This is the founding understanding of what has come to be called liberal political and moral philosophy: the philosophies that guided the rise of liberty and democracy in western civilization.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution were radical partisans of liberty. They saw all all good flowing from liberty and uncoerced private agreement and they saw government, the embodiment of force, as a sometimes necessary evil, to be empowered only where necessary. To a man they were what today would be called "gun nuts." If they were alive now we would almost certainly have to restrain them from trying to "water the tree of liberty with blood" when they saw how their carefully crafted system of limited government has been turned into a system of unlimited government through FDR's perversion of the commerce clause (in direct violation of the clear language of the Constitution). After sixty years of unlimited government we have become oblivious to the priority of liberty -- our founding understanding. We not only violate the necessity test for government, we have turned our government over to people who presumptively detest liberty and trust government, who believe that our economic system of liberty (capitalism) is fundementally corrupt and government is the fount of value and morality.

We need a rebirth of radical belief in liberty. We need to understand what was once understood and we need to go forward, to understand better than the founders did how we can make liberty work for us. This volume of essays first lays the groundwork for this progress by developing the arguments for liberty from within the theory of ends. From there, the implications of liberty can be systematically spun out through the theory of means.

Very briefly, the argument for liberty from within the theory of ends runs as follows. Efficient pursuit of ends is for naught if ends are not worth pursuing, and progress in discovering what ends are worth pursuing depends on being free to follow and marshall evidence of value. Liberty, both for discovering and pursuing ends, is the great engine of value in the world. It takes quite a few pages to pin down exactly what priority of liberty can be deduced as a matter of right -- as a priority that everyone who obeys the requirements of reason for how to follow and marshall evidence of value will necessarily come to embrace -- but it can indeed be done, and it turns out to establish a particular articulation of J. S. Mill's principle of liberty, employing many of Mill's arguments and clarifying some things that have often been thought to be problematic about Mill's formulation.

My deduction of John Stuart Mill's principle of liberty from within the theory of ends is contained in the Utilitarianism and Slavery article. Where most of the articles in these volumes are short journalistic pieces, Utilitarianism and Slavery is a lengthier academic article, written for a compilation of perspectives on slavery that a friend of mine (Tommy Lott) was editing. I am unsure of the status of the collection at present but this is an excellent article. It is relevant both to the argument for liberty and to the argument for utilitarianism in the next volume. The following is the abstract I suggested for the volume's introductory essay:

Alec Rawls's Utilitarianism and Slavery uses the issue of slavery to resolve the seeming incompatibility between utilitarianism and indefeasible rights. The key is to couple utilitarianism with a theory of ends, an innovation pioneered by John Stuart Mill. The earlier, Benthamite, version of utilitarianism, since it places no restrictions on ends, cannot deduce any restrictions on means. That is, no limits can be placed on what such a utilitarianism would call for. In particular, it might call for any proposed right to be violated. But as soon as something can be said about what there is to value or what matters more than what, as a Millian theory of ends is able to do, that places restrictions on what can possibly be a part of a maximizing pursuit of ends. We might be able to assert, given what we can say about value, that violation of certain principles will always decrease the sum of utilities. These principles could be rights, which would then be indefeasible under Millian utilitarianism.

Rawls uses this method to construct an argument for basic liberty rights. He gives a modern interpretation of Mill's theory of ends in terms of rationality then shows how the arguments Mill made for his principle of liberty can be seen to derive directly from his theory of ends. Thus if a person accepts priorities which, according to the theory of ends, every rational person must accept, he will want to abide by Mill's principle of liberty. From there it is trivial to deduce that, under Millian utilitarianism, Mill's principle of liberty articulates indefeasible liberty rights, since anything that maximizes each person's utility must maximize the sum of utilities.

Unfortunately, Mill's principle of liberty is very limited in scope. It only addresses cases where there is conflict between what Mill called "direct" and "indirect" interests. If there are direct interests on both sides then Mill's principle places no restrictions on what outcomes will maximize the sum of utilities. Since slaves and slaveowners have conflicting direct interests in whether slavery is allowed, Mill's principle establishes no right not to be enslaved. This is a glaring lack. Rawls shows how it can be remedied by extending the conclusions that can be reached through the theory of ends about what rational people must value more than what. On the basis of these conclusions it can then be deduced that slavery must reduce the sum of utilities, implying that under utilitarianism there is an indefeasible right not to be enslaved. The conclusions that must be accepted about what rational people must value more than what in order to reach this utilitarian conclusion are suprisingly undemanding: people must only reject the anti-social sentiments (envy and spite).

The argument for a right not to be enslaved is the first step in establishing economic liberty rights more generally. The most general statement would be that the priority of liberty applies the same to economic liberty as to other liberties. That is, in order to satisfy the Millian utilitarian public interest test (which understands that all value flows through liberty) infringments of liberty must first of all aim at making liberty work (effectively increasing the sum of liberty), or else they must be necessary to the achievement of what can be clearly established to be greater utilitarian concerns (a very high hurdle).

With an articulated ideal of liberty in hand and its priority established we can turn to the question of means. What does the priority of liberty imply about how we should act? For one, it turns out that the ability to articulate the ideal of liberty is just what is needed to enable efficient protection of liberty. Notice that liberty can be protected in one of two ways: either directly, by articulating the full scope of what is not to be criminalized, or indirectly, by designing restrictions on law enforcement that try to impede the prosecution of certain sorts of behaviors. Our own system of liberty is primarily indirect. Only the first two amendments articulate any protected activities. The rest of the bill of rights imposes procedural restrictions on the police and the courts.

Indirect protection of liberty is clearly less efficient than direct protection. It necessarily casts too large a net, impeding the prosecution of all criminal behaviors, instead of just those that are not properly punishable. Also, activities that ought to be protected are left vulnerable to prosecution, in those instances where the impediments to investigation do not block the activity from view. Indirect protection of liberty is not good for liberty or for crime control. But direct protection of liberty was not an option in 1786. Direct protection requires an articulation of the full ideal of liberty -- something the founders did not possess. Mill's On Liberty was not published until 1859, and clarification and proof of Mill's principle of liberty has not been available until now. With an articulated full ideal of liberty in hand, we can switch from indirect to direct protection of liberty. On the one hand, this would give us much better protection of liberty. At the same time, many restrictions on the courts and the police could be eliminated, giving us much better protection from crime.

In 1991 I wrote a series of Stanford Review articles on the relaxations of restrictions on crime control would be enabled by direct protection of liberty. Here I have collected them under the heading Reframing our System of Liberty.

How to Safely Decimate Crime offers a whole other scheme for reducing the conflict between liberty and crime control, this time by correcting a problem with the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of guilt used in criminal cases. This article could also be logically placed in the Non-ideal Theory volume, since it looks at how forcing people to employ a standard that violates the requirements of moral reason causes the system to malfunction. Modifying the system so that jurors hand down two verdicts--guilty or not guilty according to a certainty standard and guilty or not guilty according to a less than certainty standard--allows us to much more effectively catch and punish the guilty while presenting much less risk to the innocent. If residual doubt about guilt is so important that we are willing to compromise our entire system of criminal law to defend against it, we should obviously be distinguishing between cases where it is and is not present!

The next couple of essays in this volume are occasional pieces that help flesh out the case for economic liberty. The Priority of Liberty is a rabble rousing essay on liberty in general and economic liberty in particular that I wrote for for one of the Review's yearly curriculum issues. What the left denigrates as rule by capital (capitalism) is properly understood as our economic system of liberty. Contempt for capitalism is contempt for liberty. Put it on a bumper-sticker: "Every violation of the priority of liberty is an increment of communism."

Monopoly Capital offers an etiology of the counter-culture's ironic embrace of unlimited government. Pervasive government regulation of the economy raises serious barriers to entry in every industry that can only be overcome with serious economic backing. Government has become the great source of monopoly power in America, greatly favoring the haves over the have nots. How did this come about? Through the counter-culture's perverted view of economic liberty. The illiberalism that calls itself liberal believes that economic liberty must have its power controlled and siphoned off by government if it is to become a force for good. Thus have the illiberals become the architects of their original bogeyman: monopoly capital.

One of the keys to protecting the priority of liberty is to recognize that the Ninth Amendment, with its declaration of "unenumerated rights retained by The People," inevitably calls for protection of the "inalienable rights" of the Declaration of Independence, which call for a general protection of liberty. It is an outrage that the self-proclaimed "sweet land of liberty" has tolerated an egregious history of Supreme Court interpretation devoid of any general protection of for liberty whatsoever. Hand in hand with a general protection of liberty under the Ninth Amendment the Court should wake up to the fact that the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment calls for a general prohibition on prior-restraint. In cowardly evasion of the Ninth Amendment the Court has used the due process clause to improperly ground its unguided stabs at unenumerated rights, doing great damage to both unenumerated rights and the due process clause. In the name of liberty, we need to get these constitutional protections right. A Tenable Concept of Substantive Due Process shows how.

One of the outstanding examples of the priority of liberty in action is gun rights. One of the egregious examples of prior-restraint is gun control. The question isn't what kind of guns are good or bad, it is who should have them, and the answer is easy: Disarm Criminals, not Law Abiding Citizens.All criminalogical logic and evidence supports gun rights, as does the Constitution. Another example where the Constitution gets the priority of liberty right while those illiberals who call themselves "liberal" get it wrong.

For a historical account of how far we have betrayed our Constitution, see Limited Government.Written on the eve of the '96 presidential elections, it traces how the system of limited government was overthrown by FDR's perversion of the commerce clause and identifies the more than half of modern government that is clearly unconstitutional, the huge error that this overthrow consitutes, and the partisanship of the candidates on this issue. "If fifty million of us pull the same trigger this Tuesday, we can kill the blob."

The enemies of liberty are always looking for any way to attack economic liberty as unjust, providing them a populist means to impose an increment of communist dictatorship via tyranny of the majority. Affirmative action is a perfect example. But The Answer to Racism is Liberty, not Socialist Affirmative Action. Affirmative action, by burdening hiring and promotion processes with racial liability, makes it more costly for employers to take a chance on an employee and thus increases the incentives for employers to prejudge candidates, exactly the conditions under which group differences can lead to individual injustice. Anti-discrimination law exacerbates race based injustice. Liberty solves it.

I have written a host of other articles on "victim studies" and the politics of group identity. Since analysis of these movements involves dissecting violations of moral reason, these articles appear in the Non-ideal Theory volume.

The triumph of the Democrats in 98 mid-term elections calls for a post-mortem. On virtually every issue it is the Republicans who are defending the priority of liberty and the Democrats who are attacking it (except where they are both attacking it). The winning Republican campaign would be to expose Democrat illiberalism but the Republicans cannot do this when they are busy charging the Democrats with being "too liberal." Hamstrung by language they instead try to avoid the issues, like Dole in '96, and lose, even though the issues are squarely on their side. The solution is easy: Stop Calling Illiberalism "Liberal."

Using words properly would also foster a recognition that on most issues religous conservatives are definitively liberal partisans of limited government. On those issues where religous conservatives are not liberal they really ought to be because, on close inspection, The Bible is a Liberal Document, clearly articulating the principles of limited government, including in reference to the unborn.


Moral Science Volume II:


Billing Aid to Account

Reconciling Consequentialism with Deontology

The Argument for Utilitarianism

The Argument for Utilitarianism, Some Addenda

Balanced Budget Amendment

Institutions of Liberty Require Immigration Crackdown

Exploit Endangered Species

Are Feminists Pro-Choice?

Wrongful Death

Socialized Medicine Still Looms

File Unions in the Dustbin of History

Ideal Democracy and the Mountain Bike
Moral Science, Liberty, Non-ideal Theory, The Decentralized Coordination of Intelligence, Home Page


Introduction to the Utilitarianism volume

The logical progression from ends to means suggests that this volume should begin with some further deductions about the implications of right reason for ends, followed by some implications that this content to higher ends has for the effective pursuit of ends. But there is an opportunity here to employ the advantages of the essay form. While information about ends generally will imply restrictions on what can possibly be a part of optimal means, the theory of effective means can also have implications all on its own. In Billing Aid to Account a policy of billing aid to the account of the recipient is seen to yield the most bang (amount of aid afforded) per buck spent. Whatever kind or amount of aid a fully grounded analysis says that society should give, this is the way it should be given. Standing alone, it is a piece of the puzzle. Ultimately one wants to put all the pieces together, but the pieces are often coherent before being placed into the whole. Putting things "out of order" sometimes reveals more by clarifying this independence.

The simple device of billing aid to account (instead of giving it away) offers vast benefits. It eliminates what has been thought to be an insurmountable conflict between the liberal goal of giving aid and the conservative goal of not creating dependence, offering a way to keep incentives for such private behavior as childbearing fully in line with social costs without denying aid or infringing on liberty. Further, it provides a general scheme for automatically eliminating inefficient government spending. Those who would be the beneficiaries of government largess would now get billed for it, and since government is inherently inefficient, the value of the services rendered would generally be less than the cost to the recipient, except in those rare cases that define the proper role of government (where for some reason private agreements are not able to reap an efficiency that collective action can). Instead of clamoring for government largess, constituents would clamor to be unburdened of it.

Returning to the logical progression from ends to means, a next deduction that can be drawn from the theory of ends is a value or priority of mutuality. As people see things to value in the world, reason requires that they account each discovery of value wherever it is at stake. In particular, when people who are fully rational (who abide by the requirements of reason and evidence in arriving at ends as well as means) see things to value in other people and in the world outside of themselves, they will henceforth account that value. Reason requires both that people look for value (that they follow evidence of value), and that they conserve it when they find it: that they love everything there is to love in the world. It is these implications of moral reason (or full rationality) that lead to the embrace of mutuality. We saw above that the priority of liberty is grounded in process (people need liberty to discover and pursue value). The value of mutuality, on the other hand, is primarily a matter of substance, of what people who follow evidence of value find that there is to value in the world. What they find is that most of what there is to value lies outside of themselves. Thus, turning to the theory of means, they find that the way to pursue the most value is by pursuing cooperation, where they can get rewarded for making a contribution to the people and purposes they can see to care about. Only in this way can they reconcile their deepest goals: to secure their own lives, and to devote their lives to what they have found that is worth living for. Thus fully rational people will necessarily want to interact with others on terms that are mutually productive and abide by the obligations that they enter into. Violating mutuality requires betraying what one can see to value. One would be, in one's own eyes, a force of evil, which a person who sees a world full of things to value cannot abide.

Looked at another way, securing one's own life is not an end in itself. The question is: since our lives will be spent, what is life worth spending on? One will not want to violate the purposes of life in order to secure life. It is not always efficient to pursue ultimate ends through the proximate goal of all purpose means. We must always look at the price. When should we be spending life instead of hoarding it? That dividing line is the principle of mutuality. A person who has learned to love what there is to love in the world insists on being a positive force, on making a contribution and getting rewarded for that, rather than seeking to steal, to take without giving. Of course, many people do seek to take without giving. They have no preference for making a contribution, but feel anything given to others as a loss to themselves. They are called criminals, and the criminally minded. They have not followed evidence of value to a discovery of what there is to value in the world, but those who are fully rational -- who do follow evidence of value and in this way abide by the implications of reason for ends as well as means -- do find a world outside of themselves of things to value and consequently embrace mutuality.

With this priority for mutuality in hand, the next question is what are its implications for means. There is a compelling line of analysis that leads from the priority of mutuality to the embrace of Millian utilitarianism (the greatest sum of attainment of progress in the discovery and pursuit of value) as a general criterion of right. Thus the implications of mutuality are vast. It implies everything that Millian utilitarianism implies.

The route from mutuality to Millian utilitarianism can be navigated by borrowing some elements from John Rawls's Theory of Justice , as discussed in The Argument for Utilitarianism (being revised and presently unavailable). Rawls's theory parlays a concept of "fairness" into a social decision mechanism for choosing principles of justice. His concept of fairness is pretty much exactly the concept of mutuality that can be deduced from the theory of ends. When fairness is grounded in the theory of ends the implications are for the most part identical to what Rawls arrives at. One significant difference, however, is that the criterion for choosing principles of justice becomes Millian utilitarianism. In other words, if this way of grounding Rawls's analytical construction makes for correct moral theory, then we have a proof that Millian utilitarianism is the correct criterion of right. Rawls saw himself as rejecting utilitarianism, but Millian utilitarianism is a very special animal which I believe avoids the criticisms that Rawls levels at utilitarianism more generally. Also, the theory would still be a contract theory, as Rawls's theory is, only with a reinterpretation of the criterion for arriving at an agreeable contract.

The Argument for Utilitarianism, Some Addenda is also under revision and presently unavailable.

Moving on to the implications of Millian utilitarianism, A Balanced Budget Amendment attempts to deduce a fully optimized tax structure. If we can determine what the tax structure should be we don't want to leave it in the hands of Congress, who can only do worse. We should put it into the Constitution, stripping Congress of all tax power, thereby stripping Congress of fully half of its opportunities for corruption.

This complements the billing of aid to account, which curtails corruption on the spending side by forcing recipients to pay for government largess, making it unattractive. This scheme of billing aid to account would be incorporated into the balanced budget amendment. Also on the spending side, there is another powerful step that can be taken to curtail corruption. We could require that all legislation be able to pass a public interest test. This was the dream of the English Radicals who founded utilitarianism: to establish a public interest test that can be used to eliminate corruption and stupidity from the law. With a secure foundation for Millian utilitarianism in place, this test is now within reach. Indeed, one might say it is already called for by the Constitution, where the tax power is stated pursuant to "the common defense and general welfare of the United States." All that remains is to specify a "general welfare" test. At the very least, we should want the courts to throw out any legislation that certainly flunks the Millian public interest test, which alone would eliminate half of our current federal government.

Stripping Congress of the bulk of its opportunities for corruption solves one of the most difficult conflicts that democracy faces: the irreducible conflict between free speech rights and political corruption. If money wins campaigns, then democracy is for sale, but campaign finance laws, by restricting how people are allowed to spend money on campaign related speech, by their nature restrict speech. Europe has chosen the path of socialized speech, but as Richard Epstein has noted (Utah Law Review, V.95, #3), the best way to resolve this conflict is to minimize it, by taking opportunities for corruption away from Congress. The most important step here is what Epstein describes: giving over to individual liberty what liberty can do better than the state. That still leaves us with a sizable government, but billing aid to account, imposing a public interest test and putting the tax structure in the Constitution would eliminate most remaining opportunities for corruption. Those with corrupt tendencies would find little in politics to attract them and we might actually get good government.

One question that Millian utilitarianism itself cannot solve is which form of Millian utilitarianism to employ, average utilitarianism or total utilitarianism. There is only a difference between these two on questions of population control. Luckily, it turns out that the question of how to set population policy can be answered through the theory of means. We want to set incentives for responsible childbearing by requiring those who choose to bear children to bear the full social costs. This can be accomplished by using microeconomic taxes to internalize externalities (part of the balanced budget proposal), billing aid to account, and then leaving parents free to choose. I mentioned this scheme in the earlier article Billing Aid to Account, and I elaborate it in the next couple of articles, starting with:

Institutions of Liberty Require Immigration Crackdown. A nation's population is determined both by its internal vital statistice and by its immigration policies. To be able to answer claims of need, a society must secure a basic level of prosperity, which requires attention to population. On the immigration side, this means focussing immigration on those that will lift society's production function more than they move us out along it into diminishing returns. Responsible population policy will allow us to bolster prosperity, especially at the bottom of the economic ladder. This is crucial because economic duress can constitute a kind of coercion, undermining the presumption of free choice that underpins instutions of liberty and individual responsibility. An example is occupational hazards. If choices are in a moral sense freely chosen, in that all have tenable minimum alternatives, then a person's choice of hazard for pay need not and should not be regulated, allowing OSHA and its ilk to be eliminated, or reduced to an informational role. We should be making it as easy as possible for people to get a leg up on life: to make their contribution and get rewarded for it. Liberty and responsibility (including reproductive responsibility) are the keys.

Unfortunately, those most concerned about population -- the environmentalists -- are dominated by irrational socialist ideologies and alarmism. Where we need to start pricing environmental damage correctly, bringing the environment into the price system, the environmentalists are strenously insisting that the environment cannot be priced at all. The consequence of this leftist foolishness is unheeded environmental destruction. The environmentalists have become like the Al Sharpton's and the Jesse Jackson's of the world who are constantly trying to inflame racial animosity in order to feed off of it. Getting population policy right will require overcoming the lunacy of the environmental left, epitomized by the frantic alarmism of Stanford Biology Professor Paul Ehrlich, which I dissect in an in a little piece of unexpected truth entitled: Exploit Endangered Species

To complete the structure of correct incentives for responsible childbearing it is necessary to account the fact that making a baby takes two people. How should incentives be divided between the mother and father? In answering this question one is forced to ask an unexpected question: Are Feminists Really Pro-Choice?

Any discussion of population policy must also come to grips with the contentious subject of abortion.The analysis of abortion rights can be sorted out by considering it in the context of other life and death questions. I develop the exercise in in Wrongful Death, an inquirey into the propriety of imposing the death penalty for infanticide, as was recently considered by the State of New Jersey.

Addressing population clears up the foundational questions but leaves a panopoly of various public policy questions still to address.

Socialized Medicine Still Looms was written on the eve of the '94 mid-term elections, when the Republicans had just by the skin of their teeth managed to beat back Hillary Clinton's attempt to socialize one seventh of the U.S. economy. This article describes how medical markets could work if we would only let them.

File Unions in the Dustbin of History. More about getting markets to work, in this case by banning collusion between sellers of labor.

Ideal Democracy and the Mountain Bike is a riff on how democracy is supposed to work. Regard for each others concerns (as exemplified by the embrace of mutuality that underlies principles of justice) leads automatically to limitation of government intrusiveness and heavy handedness.


Moral Science Volume III:
Non-ideal Theory


Libertarianism vs. Equalitarianism

Religion within the limits of reason

Christ and Antichrist

Are you a Churchill, or a Landrew?

Krugman Equalitarian

Contra "Victim Studies":



Racism as Stupidity

A Tenable Grounds for Affirmative Action



Political Correctness: the Bastard Child of Female Sexual Leverage

Disenfranchise Women?

Should we be Neutral Between Tannen Styles?



Our Homosexual Ideal of Female Beauty

Why Politically Correct Social Engineering Backfires

Is Conforming Non-conformism in Teenagers Nature's Backup Mechanism for Insuring Heterosexuality?

Moral Science, Liberty, Utilitarianism, The Decentralized Coordination of Intelligence, Home Page


Introduction to Non-ideal Theory volume

Liberal moral theory can be divided into two parts: ideal theory and non-ideal theory. "Ideal theory" is the study of how to correctly analyze the concepts of right, good and moral worth. (It is called "liberal" because the defining discoveries of enlightenment thought had to do with the priority that must be given to liberty if people, and the societies they constitute, are to advance in their discovery and pursuit of value.) Ideal theory is the substance of volumes one and two of this dissertation on moral science -- the volumes on Liberty and Utilitarianism.

Using ideal theory as a benchmark, it is possible to pursue "non-ideal theory," which follows the implications of various violations of the requirements of moral reason, tracing how the conclusions that stem from incorrect moral thinking progressively diverge from the conclusions of ideal theory.

In an ideal world, non-ideal theory would just be interesting esoterica. In our world, there are monstrous engines of error deeply entrenched throughout our culture, especially in academia. Exposing and neutralizing these engines of error is one of the great tasks now before mankind. It can be very difficult because mistakes about what is right can cause people to devote themselves tenaciously and often selflessly to error in the belief that they are doing good. The hope is that this conciet can be appealed to: "make it real, follow your proclaimed concern for right, and see the evil it shows you have embraced." If you like horror movies, this will be your favorite volume.

Libertarianism vs. Equalitarianism. The structure of non-ideal theory is revealed in the contrast between libertarianism and equalitarianism. These two systems of moral thinking make similar formal mistakes (both treat a means as an end), yet one turns out to be benign and the other malignant. The reason why takes us to the heart of moral understanding. We see what kind of strength morality has: what it can overcome, and what mortally wounds it. Knowing what kills, we know what must be stopped.

Some of the most systematic violations of the requirements of thinking straight occur in typical religious and anti-religious views. On the one hand, faith and belief violate honest reason, dismissing possibilities that one has not the grounds to dismiss (the possibility that what one takes on faith may not be true). On the other hand, the moral implications of the possibility of a God are independent of whether there really is a God. The possibility reveals things about where value lies, and value, however discovered, must be conserved. Religion is an important contemplation for everyone. Moral science says so. See Religion Within the Limits of Reason.

Interestingly, the life of Christ according to the gospels can be powerfully interpretted as strictly adherant to the requirements of honest reason. Christ and Antichrist shows how. Following the trail leads to an interpretation of original sin as biased reason, and an understanding that the proper place for faith is in honest reason, or truth.

Are you a Churchill, or a Landrew? A little riff that ties the pathologies of non-ideal theory together with contempt for the priority of liberty.

Krugman Equalitarian critiques a typical egregious example of biased reason in the service of moral error.

Ehrlich Equalitarian poses the question of why Paul Ehrlich remains wedded to his errant analysis of population control, urging exactly those people who should be having children not to. Is it because he has been seduced by equalitarianism, or is he is just another grim reaper like Jack Kevorkian (who at least has a legitimate cause, even if he is a ghoul).

Lastly is a series of articles analyzing the three great infestations of equalitarian error that constitute the politics of group identity: the victim approaches to race, feminism and homosexuality.

Racism as Stupidity. Racism needs to be understood as a failure to correctly distinguish between information about groups and information about individuals. Once this is straightened out, we can see that the way to minimize racism is to crush crime and trade in anti-discrimination law for freedom of contract.

A Tenable Grounds for Affirmative Action. The standard justification for affirmative action -- to redress the effects of negative racial expectations -- fails its own objective. In a strictly merit based system, race would carry no information so any tendency to conflate group and individual information would disappear. Affirmative action undoes that ideal and gives race a clear and unfortunate information content in the form of an expectation of inferior merit. But there is a tenable grounds for affirmative action in creating a cohort of accomplished blacks who correctly analyze value. This justification depends on ridding he university's curriculum of equalitarianism and the variety of archetypical violations of moral reason that dominate the academic left.

The last half dozen articles in this volume I don't have synopses for yet but their titles (in the button menu above) are suggestive.


Moral Science Volume IV:
The Decentralized Coordination of Intelligence



The Calculational Model

Liberty and Monopoly

Coordinating Sense and Reason

Capturing the Natural Monopoly

Justice and Desert

While the earlier volumes contain buttons to separate essays, readable in any order, the buttons here are to the sub-sections of a single essay. The introduction explains what the decentralized coordination of intelligence is and describes the content of the other sub-sections.

This essay was written before I discovered that others have also been working on the decentralized coordination of intelligence but under a different heading. What I have been calling a "rating engine" has apparently been under development for many years by computer scientists under the name of "collaborative filtering." Thus in addition to my calculational model, a variety of other calculational schemes for projecting each person's individual judgement are available. (Just net-search collaborative filtering.) Whether my scheme adds anything to what has been done before I can't say at this point. Likely not, since I only did the obvious, but I had pretty good success in putting together what seems to me to be a reasonably effective calculational scheme. The other parts of the essay are made more relevant by the fact that other research has already been done in the area. The decentralized coordination of intelligence will arrive sooner than I could have hoped and we can start putting it to the uses I advocate here.


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