chapter  IX
27 Pages

The Benthamite State

Whether set up by fraud, force, persuasion, accident, or otherwise, there still remains the question of which particular laws and institutions would be adopted in a Benthamite state. The mark of such a state is that its laws and institutions are determined by the principle of utility, that is by consideration of what would lead to the greatest happiness of the greatest number. However, it has not yet been considered which laws and institutions would do this. Furthermore, although there has been continuous discussion of utilitarianism since the time at which Bentham wrote, there has not been a consensus about what exactly a utilitarian moral or political theory would prescribe; this can be seen from the fact that examples which some people urge as objections are incorporated by others into the theory. So the specific content of Bentham’s political thought cannot just be read off the fact that he is a utilitarian. Quite apart from his stand on particular issues, such as liberty, equality, justice, and so on, which will be considered in this chapter, it must also be determined how he lines up in terms of some of the traditional splits, or distinctions inside utilitarian theory, such as the conflict between act and rule utilitarianism.