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The Tyranny of UtilityBehavioral Social Science and the Rise of Paternalism$
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Gilles Saint-Paul

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691128177

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691128177.001.0001

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The Role of Science

The Role of Science

(p.123) 10 The Role of Science
The Tyranny of Utility

Gilles Saint-Paul

Princeton University Press

This chapter describes the social sciences. Unlike the natural sciences, the social sciences are inevitably statistical. When documenting human behavior, for example, they can at most claim that a trait is present in a certain fraction of the population. However, the social engineer of the paternalistic state must take into account that the “science of happiness” that is being implemented does not apply uniformly to all individuals. A policy that benefits some by preventing mistakes or removing their biases harms those who are immune to these issues. This difficulty, however, entirely disappears as long as the state is utilitarian or, more generally, pursues any objective that aggregates welfare between individuals, for the statistics are the only thing the utilitarian needs to know. Once the population distribution of the relevant effects and mechanisms is known, the social planner can safely use it to balance gains and losses across incarnations and perform the cost-benefit analysis of its policies.

Keywords:   social sciences, social engineer, paternalistic state, happiness, utilitarian state, statistics, population distribution, social planner

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