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The Ethics and the Economics of Minimalist Government
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The Ethics and the Economics of Minimalist Government

9781840646764 Edward Elgar Publishing
Timothy P. Roth, A.B. Templeton Professor and Chairman, Department of Economics and Finance, University of Texas, El Paso, US
Publication Date: 2002 ISBN: 978 1 84064 676 4 Extent: 144 pp
Because it is technically flawed and morally bankrupt, the author argues, the economist’s consequence-based, procedurally detached theory of the state has contributed to the growth of government. As part of the Kantian–Rawlsian contractarian project, this book seeks to return economics to its foundations in moral philosophy. Given the moral equivalence of persons, the greatest possible equal participation must be promoted, persons must be impartially treated and, because it is grounded in consequentialist social welfare theory (SWT), the economist’s theory of the state must be rejected. Ad hoc deployment of SWT has facilitated discriminatory rent seeking and contributed to larger government. In contrast, this book argues that equal political participation and a constitutional impartiality constraint minimize rent seeking, respect individual perceptions of the ‘public good’ and underwrite the legitimacy of government. Economists, moral philosophers and political scientists will find this book a unique contribution to the literature.

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Contents
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Because it is technically flawed and morally bankrupt, the author argues, the economist’s consequence-based, procedurally detached theory of the state has contributed to the growth of government. As part of the Kantian–Rawlsian contractarian project, this book seeks to return economics to its foundations in moral philosophy. Given the moral equivalence of persons, the greatest possible equal participation must be promoted, persons must be impartially treated and, because it is grounded in consequentialist social welfare theory (SWT), the economist’s theory of the state must be rejected. Ad hoc deployment of SWT has facilitated discriminatory rent seeking and contributed to larger government. In contrast, this book argues that equal political participation and a constitutional impartiality constraint minimize rent seeking, respect individual perceptions of the ‘public good’ and underwrite the legitimacy of government. Economists, moral philosophers and political scientists will find this book a unique contribution to the literature.
Critical Acclaim
‘. . . Roth’s book is useful and valuable. Using modern secular thought as his starting point, he reaches roughly the same conclusions that one would reach reasoning from the older Christian tradition. There is certainly much to like about that effort.’
– Paul A. Cleveland, Markets & Morality

‘This book is one of the best discussions of welfare economics since Murray Rothbard’s classic paper of 1956 “Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics”.’
– David Gordon, The Mises Review

‘Timothy Roth shows that social welfare theory, as currently defended by welfare economists and policymakers, is based on a confused and untenable moral theory, is incompatible with a rights-based legal order and is bound to promote unjust and arbitrary redistributions. By advocating a return to the Kantian conception of the moral agent, Roth shows the way to a normative economics that harmonizes with both intuitive morality and the American legal and constitutional tradition.’
– Roger Scruton, Writer and Philosopher, formerly University Professor and Professor of Philosophy at Boston University, US

‘The moral imperative of individual autonomy, embodied in the Kantian–Rawlsian perspective on social order, cannot be reconciled with the utilitarian presuppositions that inform normative applications of modern economics. This book exposes the contradictions that are present when the basic philosophical foundations are ignored, a stance that is, unfortunately, characteristic of much modern discourse as well as political practice.’
– James M. Buchanan, George Mason University, US and a Nobel Laureate

‘At a time when technical economics dominates the thinking of much of the profession, it is important to be reminded that economics has roots in moral philosophy. Certainly this book, which deftly explores the ethical prior commitments underlying economic analysis, succeeds in bringing philosophical issues to the forefront. But it does more. Roth’s closely reasoned study provides a clear exposition of the Kantian–Rawlsian approach to public policy, and thus is able to establish a convincing critique of orthodox welfare theory. In general, the book offers a valuable change of perspective on social questions.’
– Eirik G. Furubotn, Texas A&M University, US
Contents
Contents: Preface 1. A Prior Ethical Commitment 2. Ends vs. Means: Consequentialism vs. Contractarianism 3. The Consequentialist Approach to Government 4. Enter the Economists 5. The Efficiency Standard, Corruption and the Growth of Government 6. The Indeterminacy of Social Welfare Theory 7. The Contractarian Approach to Government 8. The Rules of the Political Game 9. Playing by the Generality Rule 10. Generality and Minimalist Government References Index
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