Hello Fellow Hedonists,
Drawing on a range of empirical evidence, this essay argues that the failure to include, and to give sufficient weight to, fairness preferences undermines legal economists' policy recommendations. The authors argue that given the growing body of research revealing that individuals value fairness over their own rational self-interests, it is incumbent on legal economists to take preferences for fairness into account. This claim is problematic from the get go. After all, what we value (or what we prefer) isn't necessarily good for us. I think the authors are on to something, nonetheless.
Often, when simple utilitarians calculate the happiness/welfare/well-being of an individual or group, they pretend that people don't care about things such as fairness. When utilitarians, such as Peter Singer, recommend a counterintuitive social policy, they pretend that ignoring our intuitions (of the deontic variety) doesn't have a negative influence on our subjective well-being, but it wouldn't be entirely surprising if people were upset by non-utilitarian considerations even if they shouldn't be. If utilitarians were to take the influence our ineliminable (moral) judgments of right and wrong have on our subjective well-being into account, they might be forced to concede that non-utilitarian concerns (such as justice and fairness) must be respected.
Shouldn't utilitarians simply attempt to accommodate deontic considerations? I don't think so. My deontic judgments are the evolutionary by-product of morally irrelevant processes that were conducive to my fitness. Fitness, from my point of view, is morally irrelevant. Thus, it seems to me that I should ignore my deontic judgments when I try to figure out what I ought to do. However, whether or not I should ignore these judgments depends on whether or not I can. On one hand, it might turn out that I can simply dismiss my own judgments and values as systematic biases that undermine my well-being and be done with it.
On the other hand, it might turn out I can't ignore these judgments, even if I am able to recognize they are biases upon reflection. Ignoring these biases could make me miserable, even if I don't identify with them. If this turns out to be the case, it might be a good idea to chemically or surgically alter my brain to relieve myself of these harmful biases. It might also be a good (and less difficult) idea to trick myself by creating situations in which acting in accordance with these illusions doesn't undermine my well-being (intentionally damaging my brain might not work). Either way, reasoning away my conscience might not be a viable option.