Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Jeremy Bentham and David Hume on Health Care?

There's an interesting opinion piece in today edition of The New York Times. (HT to Greg Mankiw.)

Columnist David Brooks introduces us to two early thinkers in the realm of economics and philosophy: David Hume and Jeremy Bentham. His purpose in trying to give us an idea about these thinkers is to frame the health-care debate in what he sees as their terms. I can only presume that Mr. Brooks has read on both of these far more extensively than I have. What little I do know would question some of his characterization of Hume.

I do question his portraits, only because he seems to be taking liberties on how they both might have researched and arrived at their views. He aseems to presume that each was more representative of a given way of looking at a problem. He is certainly more comfortable in his portrayal than I would be, not having met either. I'm certain Mr. Bentham would do a thorough and detailed search of the issue. But I suspect Mr. Hume would not be as haphazard and prone to give up as Brooks portrays him. That seems counter to what I have learned about Hume.

As I said earlier, while I've not read extensively on either of these figures; I think I will try to learn more. I know Hume was a great influence on Adam Smith, and Bentham was a fried of David Ricardo and a mentor to John Stuart Mill. If you're interested in learning more, I can suggest two sites to use as starting points:

Concise Encyclopedia of Economics

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

And, as always, I welcome any insights you may have.

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