The Utilitarian Conception of Justice and Its Critics (Bentham to Hayek)
The important contributors to Utilitarianism—pleasure or general happiness as the objective of a moral life—are Bentham, Mill, and Sidgwick. Utilitarianism holds that all actions are moral and just when they contribute to achieving general happiness. Bentham, while embracing the philosophical contributions of the Enlightenment, was not directly concerned with private property, exchange, and transactions as was Adam Smith. He saw such preoccupations as natural fallout of his approach to morals and the nature of the human being. Bentham was filled with the optimism of the Enlightenment. His supporters were so encouraged to talk of the welfare state and access to publicly funded healthcare and education. And given the diminishing marginal utility of income for most goods, supporters of utilitarianism were early supporters of income redistribution and increasing equality.