Re: Is vs. Ought

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Tue, 23 Nov 1999 20:43:29 -0800 (PST)

> > 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.

That's a feature, not a bug. While we may want human beings to make ethical judgments, science by definition cannot. But it can tell us what actions are likely to support out ethical choices.

The most accessible coverage of this topic is David Friedman's "Law's Order", much of which is available on his web site at <>. Here's an excerpt from the intro:

" many, although probably not all, cases, it turns out that the rules we thought we supported because they were just are in fact efficient. To make that clearer, I have chosen to ignore entirely issues of justice going into the analysis. In measuring the degree to which legal rules succeed in giving everyone what he wants, and judging them accordingly, I treat on an exactly equal plane my desire to keep my property and a thief's desire to take it. Despite that, as you will see, quite a lot of what looks like justice--for example, laws against theft and the requirement that people who make messes should clean them up--comes out the other end. That, I think, is interesting."

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
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