Should the State Cultivate Cost-Efficient Tastes?

Tor Otterholt
Foto: Hæge Håtveit

My Ph. D. dissertation uses the following observation as its point of departure: Well-being can be promoted in two ways; firstly, by exercising influence on the resources that people value and benefit from (1), and secondly, by exercising influence on the way in which people value and benefit from the resources that they dispose (2).

A person who needs fewer resources than others in order to reach some level of well-being has, according to my formal definition of the costs of tastes, more cost-efficient tastes than others. By enhancing the well-being amongst the citizens of a society by employing method (2) stated above, the state cultivates cost-efficient tastes.

Under which conditions and to what extent should the idea the state could cultivate cost-efficient tastes, serve as a guideline for policy making and design of institution? These questions require, on the hand, empirical examination concerning the practical feasibility of this approach to politics, and on the other hand, normative discussion concerning political legitimacy and moral desirability and acceptability of the proposal.

My research project is primarily concerned with examining the normative aspects of the question of whether the state should cultivate cost-efficient tastes. In approaching this issue, I single out three distinct questions:

  1. First, which values are being promoted and which are being violated when the state cultivates cost-efficient tastes?
  2. Second, what is the relationship and moral order between these values? 
  3. Third, how and to what extent do institutions in current society promote values, such as well-being, in the way we prefer?

The last of these three questions I consider in light of recent development within fields such as Happiness Economics and Evolutionary Economics. Furthermore, I consider ways in which the cultivation of cost-efficient tastes could take place in practice, and discuss the ethical dimension of the concrete policy proposals within areas such as health, environment and social policy.



Tor otTerholt

Master of Philosophy in Political Theory, Oxford University

Cand. Mag., Economics (University of Oslo) and Russian language and literature (University of Bergen)

Doctoral candidate at The Ethics Program and Department of Political Science, University of Oslo 2008-2012

Affiliate Member of Centre of the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN)

Supervisor: Professor Raino Malnes

Address: Inst. for statsvitenskap
Postboks 1097 Blindern
0317 OSLO

Telephone: +47 99158588
Fax: +47-22854411
E-mail: tor.otterholt@stv.uio.no