Rationality, welfare and liberty : a philosophical reconciliation
This thesis attempts to amorally defend certain conceptions of rationality, welfare and liberty and to reconcile them in the sense of showing that they need not clash in practice. This is motivated by the social scientific work (particularly in economics) that indicates that liberty and welfare are best promoted by the free market. There is a cluster of reasons that this defence is needed: there is no clear account of liberty or what it entails; preference utilitarianism (as a theory of welfare) is often invalidly attacked, or misinterpreted in practice; some economist's conclusions that liberty and welfare do not diverge in the free market are often questioned because based on an instrumental rationality which is thought unrealistic or vacuous; the theories of liberty and welfare in this thesis also need the instrumental rationality assumption. Chapter 1: An Austrian economic interpretation of the instrumental rationality assumption of standard economics (that agents are self-interested utility-maximisers) can be defended as fruitful, compatible with moral values though implying none, and the fundamental tautology that standard economics presupposes. Chapter 2: The preference-utilitarian conception of welfare as achieving what is spontaneously desired (desired without the imposition of force or fraud), and maximising overall welfare, withstands criticism and is in practice compatible with the conceptions of liberty and rationality used in this thesis. In practice, preference utilitarianism entails side-constraint libertarianism, which the free market spontaneously provides. Chapter 3: The voluntarist conception of social liberty as the absence of costs imposed on people by people, and maximising overall liberty, withstands criticism and is in practice compatible with the conceptions of welfare and rationality used in this thesis. In practice, maximising voluntarist liberty entails side-constraint libertarianism, which the free market spontaneously provides. Coda: A criticism of the presuppositional dismissal of anarchy as a natural setting for liberty and pluralism.