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August 27, 2004

The Meaning of Life: The Peanut Goal


My wife summarizes the goal of the modern liberal's perfect society very well:


"You can eat peanuts when you want to eat peanuts"

That is-- God doesn't matter, justice doesn't matter, virtue doesn't matter-- the goal is to make sure that everyone can satisfy their bodily desires, regardless of whether they deserve to or not or the quality of those desires.

I am quite conscious that this is not a bad description of the standard welfare goal of the science of economics too. We don't question consumer preferences, or ask whether someone who gets higher utility deserves to or not, or whether utility is all that matters. For most things economists analyze, the Peanut Goal suffices, though. The problems come when we go to public policy more generally.

Posted by erasmuse at August 27, 2004 04:43 PM

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