ABSTRACT

One of the arguments used to suggest that Bentham's thought played little or no part in the revolution in government is that his general aim was to remove restrictions, not to create new ones; to reduce state interference, not to increase it. Thus Bentham might characterize government as a choice of evils, and explain that coercion by government was an undeniable evil; but he held that so long as such evil was employed 'for the production of more than equivalent good', then it was acceptable. To understand more fully Bentham's belief in the need for watchful and interested government, ready and willing to act wherever and whenever necessary, the authors must briefly consider his views on the nature of political society and the role of legislation. Moving from general principles to particular proposals, they can see that Bentham anticipated many of the features that were to characterize mid-nineteenth-century government.