Utility, the Good and Civic Happiness: A Catholic Critique of Law and Economics

24 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2005

See all articles by Mark Sargent

Mark Sargent

Villanova University School of Law


This paper contrasts the value maximization norm of welfare economics that is central to law and economics in its prescriptive mode to the Aristotelian/Aquinian principles of Catholic social thought. The reluctance (or inability) of welfare economics and law and economics to make judgments about about utilities (or preferences) differs profoundly from the Catholic tradition (rooted in Aristotle as well as religious faith) of contemplation of the nature of the good. This paper also critiques the interesting argument by Stephen Bainbridge that homo economicus bears a certain affinity to fallen man, and that law and economics thus provides appropriate rules for a fallen world. From a Catholic perspective, the social vision of neo-classical economics and its progeny (welfare economics and law and economics) rests on a concept of human autonomy and a utilitarian concept of pleasure inconsistent with the Aristotelian and Aquinean concept of virtue and the conception of civic happiness articulated by Antonio Genovesi and other Catholic economists.

Keywords: Catholic Social Thought, Catholic Tradition, Antonio Genovesi, law and economics, Stephen Bainbridge

Suggested Citation

Sargent, Mark A., Utility, the Good and Civic Happiness: A Catholic Critique of Law and Economics. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=700684

Mark A. Sargent (Contact Author)

Villanova University School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

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