By what criteria should public policy be evaluated? Fairness and
justice? Or the welfare of individuals? Debate over this
fundamental question has spanned the ages.
"Fairness versus Welfare" poses a bold challenge to contemporary
moral philosophy by showing that most moral principles conflict
more sharply with welfare than is generally recognized. In
particular, the authors demonstrate that all principles that are
not based exclusively on welfare will sometimes favor policies
under which literally everyone would be worse off. The book draws
on the work of moral philosophers, economists, evolutionary and
cognitive psychologists, and legal academics to scrutinize a number
of particular subjects that have engaged legal scholars and moral
How can the deeply problematic nature of all nonwelfarist
principles be reconciled with our moral instincts and intuitions
that support them? The authors offer a fascinating explanation of
the origins of our moral instincts and intuitions, developing ideas
originally advanced by Hume and Sidgwick and more recently explored
by psychologists and evolutionary theorists. Their analysis
indicates that most moral principles that seem appealing, upon
examination, have a functional explanation, one that does not
justify their being accorded independent weight in the assessment
of public policy.
"Fairness versus Welfare" has profound implications for the
theory and practice of policy analysis and has already generated
considerable debate in academia.
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