A good way to begin is by studying a deep and well-worked-out ethical theory which has commanded wide assent, reached clear conclusions when tackling the philosophical problems thrown up by our political life and produced unambiguous policy directives to settle practical questions. I select utilitarianism because I believe it has these features (or, at least, makes these claims). This has been recognized by many of the most impressive recent contributors to political philosophy. Few endorse utilitarianism – but most of them see the need to define their position against the utilitarian salient.1 Utilitarianism should not be treated as a straw target; it has two great virtues which we should not lose sight of. First, it is based on a thought that ought to have universal appeal: when judging conduct, we should pay close attention to the consequences of human actions in respect of their contribution to the welfare of all those whom the actions affect. Second, (and this was a central preoccupation of the classical utilitarian thinkers, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill) that focus is particularly apt for fixing the purposes of government. We would do well to

recapture the revolutionary impact of the claim that government, in particular, is in business to promote the well-being and reduce the suffering of all of its subjects.2