Discussion paper

The quest for the good society: economics, ethics and public policy

Community development Economics New Zealand
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In this paper presented to the NZ Treasury, Jonathan Boston asks how governments can build good societies—specifically, what kind of public and economic policies should be pursued to reach this goal.

Introduction: Public policy is an inherently ethical undertaking. It poses fundamental questions about how we ought to live and how we should order our collective affairs. For instance, what is the nature of the good life for human beings and what constitutes a good society? Or to put it differently, what should be the goals of public policy, what kind of society should we endeavour to build, what institutions are most likely to enable human beings to flourish, what principles of justice should inform governmental decision-making and how should the non-human world be accommodated within our conceptions of the good? Further, by what means should any specific policy ends be pursued? And in situations where certain goals are in conflict, how should priorities be determined and what decision rules should be employed? This paper endeavours to cast light on such questions.

Paper prepared for a Treasury seminar, Wellington, 12 July 2013

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