Altruism and Welfare

David Miller

in Market, State, and Community

Published in print December 1990 | ISBN: 9780198278641
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599903 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

 Altruism and Welfare

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Libertarians argue that altruistic concern for the poor should be channelled through private charity rather than through a (compulsory) welfare state. Altruism, however, is a complex idea. Should it be directed at satisfying preferences or at meeting needs? We also need to distinguish between calculating altruists, who are concerned only about collective outcomes and would prefer not to contribute themselves; reciprocal altruists, who are willing to contribute so long as others do too; and conscientious altruists, who are willing to contribute their share regardless of how other people behave. Both calculating and reciprocal altruists have good reason to prefer the welfare state to private charity as a way of meeting their concern for the badly off.

Keywords: altruism; charity; conscience; game theory; libertarianism; needs; preferences; reciprocity; welfare state

Chapter.  11170 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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