The Influence of Utilitarianism on the Development of Economic Theory
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This research paper is a product of my intense curiosity for historical economics. In particular, how certain ideas developed over time and how ideas, such as those of Utilitarians, influenced the development of economic theory. The deepest concern of the research paper is to show that economics truly does owe a great debt to the Utilitarians. The Utilitarians provided the psychological framework that economists, even today, seem reluctant to move away from. They also inspired many ideas in economics, such as welfare economics. Of no less importance is the contribution that Utilitarians gave to the philosophy of morality. The underlying attitude that Utilitarians had about the purpose of government may have been their most important contribution. Their opinion was that government policy is supposed to be directed so as to increase the well-being of society. There are many definitions of what the well-being of society is; nonetheless, the idea in the early 19th century that governments existed for the betterment of the population was a radical one and one that has influenced the development of the economics profession and the general approach of many governments to statecraft. In sum, it is my goal to show this debt that economics owes to the Utilitarians, despite their many failures. In the attempt to show the influence of Utilitarians ideas, the research paper flows from author to author. It was done in such a manner for two reasons. The first to show the historical development of the ideas. The second is that the ideas seemed to be developed author by author and not in an entirely continuous manner. The research paper is indebted to two books listed in the bibliography under general ideas, which gave the idea for the paper's format and the authors to be included. There could have been literally hundreds of authors included, as so many where mentioned as being critical to the development of Utilitarian ideas or economic theory based on Utilitarian precepts. The ones who were included are those whom it seemed were the most important. The conclusion section is basically my comments about and insights into the developments of the theory. The organization of the conclusion in contrast to the main body of the paper is idea by idea and is not set in a historical context. The comments and insights are my thoughts about what has been presented. It is hoped that the conclusions section can give the preceding discussion some relevance and possibly a different view of what has come before. Also, the conclusions will offer a new twist of utility approximation.