Public Policy and Social Good: Theory, Practice and Beyond
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In this paper I argue that the most fundamental goal of any public policy is to assist the realization of social good. I take it that the idea of social good has developed differently in different political and moral traditions, and focus my analysis on the interplay of liberalism, virtue ethics and the Capability Approach. I argue that the liberal conception of social good, as espoused by its leading exponents, is somewhat problematic, and that it fails to account for meaningful civic associations. Even though liberal thinkers often prioritize an individual’s freedom and autonomy, they do not provide us with concreto principles that can facilitate the realization of these goals. I draw upon the practical functioning of leading liberal democracies, including the United States, Canada and India, emphasizing the role of normative political constraints in policy making. I conclude that the liberal conception of social good stands in an acute need of a fresh principle that can rectify the above anomalies and reinvigorate its moral force, and that such a principle can probably be constructed with the help of Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach and Aristotle’s Virtue Theory.
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