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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 106 of the 1998 Liberty Fund edition of Anthony de Jasay’s remarkable 1985 book, The State (original emphasis):

Many, if not most, liberals abjure interpersonal comparisons [of utility], yet advocate actions by the state on quintessentially interpersonal utility-maximizing grounds.

The uncompromising view of interpersonal comparisons that would deny the least place to political utilitarianism, is that to add one man’s quiet contentment to the exuberant joy of another, to deduct a woman’s tears from another woman’s smile, is a conceptual absurdity which will not bear examination but, once stated, collapses of its own.  When children learn that they must not try to add apples to pears, how can grown-ups believe that, if only they are performed carefully enough and buttressed by modern social research, such operations could serve as the guide to the desirable conduct of the state, to what is still fondly called social choice?