The economist’s theory of the state is grounded in consequentialist, procedurally detached and intendedly value-free social welfare theory. Reduced to its essentials, the ‘omniscient economist’ deploys the ﬁrst and second fundamental welfare theorems in the service of a ‘benevolent despot’. The latter, in turn, is understood to be a ‘bifurcated man’; narrowly self-interested in his market behaviour, but attentive, in his public persona, to a supraindividual ‘public good’ (Chapters 3, 4 and 5). In their relentless pursuit of ﬁrst-best Pareto-efﬁcient outcomes economists seem to have ignored both an early admonition against ‘piecemeal’ welfare economics (Chapter 5), and a burgeoning literature which questions the empirical content and logical consistency of the neoclassical postulates which underlie their theory. As we shall see, once account is taken of some fundamental features of observable reality, the efﬁciency frontier and the social welfare function – whose ontological existence was questioned almost ﬁve decades ago – are indeterminate (Chapter 6). Granting this, the omniscient economist lacks the analytical tools by which, ‘scientiﬁcally’, to inform the policy deliberations of the benevolent despot who, ‘himself’, has no empirical counterpart. Inter alia, this admittedly convenient analytical ﬁction ignores the complexities of day-to-day, conﬂictual politics (Chapter 7). It follows that, while they proceed under the imprimatur of ‘positive’ or ‘scientiﬁc’ welfare economics, government interventions motivated by the fundamental welfare theorems must be regarded as ad hoc. Stated differently, neither ‘market imperfections’ nor presumed divergences between ‘competitive’ and ‘ethical’ equilibria can justify the implicit assumption that ‘government can...
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