Re: Is vs. Ought

Robin Hanson (
Wed, 24 Nov 1999 09:17:34 -0500

Dan Fabulich wrote:
> > So law can be understood as "scientifically" as any area of economics.
>But, of course, all economics can tell you is what sort of laws would have
>the most economically efficient results. They can tell you what the
>consequences would be, not what they ought to be.

As I tried to explain in several recent posts under this subject line, I think knowing the consequences fully enough tells you everything worth knowing about what law or anything "ought" to be.

An ethicial/moral rule/system is not interesting unless some creatures (or creature parts) feel inclined to some degree to at some level want them followed. But if some creatures are so inclined, it is enough to know what choices they (or their parts) are or would be inclined to want or approve of (and at what level). And which creatures approve of a choice is part of the consequences of that choice.

Thus knowing the approval/wanting consequences of a choice, such as a choice of law, tells you everything worth knowing about what that choice "ought" to be.

Robin Hanson Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323