ABSTRACT

Utilitarian economics reached its highest, most complex, and most esthetically elegant state in the neoclassical ideological defense of laissez-faire capitalism. The three principal ideological elements of neoclassical utilitarianism were: (1) the marginal productivity theory of distribution, which pictured competitive capitalism as an ideal of distributive justice; (2) the “invisible hand” argument, which pictured capitalism as an ideal of rationality and efficiency; and (3) the faith in the automatic, self-adjusting nature of the market, which demonstrated that the principal functions of government should be to enforce contracts and to defend the powers and privileges of private property.