Philosopher, Economist, Sociologist (1748-1832)
Jeremy Bentham introduced the notion of utility, which still underpins microeconomic welfare models and applied policy evaluation to this day; he also wrote on many economic and social issues ranging from equality to the penitentiary system.
Bentham’s economic thinking primarily revolved around a model of welfare economics concerning the maxima and minima of pleasures and pains. The “fundamental axiom” of his philosophy was the principle that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” This set the foundations for contemporary models of welfare economics including the search for a social optimum.
He also wrote extensively on monetary economics, expressing opposing views to David Ricardo. He argued that monetary expansion was as a powerful policy tool in the aim to achieve full employment. Moreover, Bentham also stressed the importance of forced saving, the propensity to consume and the relationship between savings and investment.
Additionally, in the realm of sociology, Bentham advocated freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce and the separation of the Church from the state.
In 1832, Bentham died and, as per his instructions, his body was publicly dissected. Moreover, according to the terms of his will, Bentham’s skeleton was dressed and put on display as an ‘auto-icon’ (or self-image) in a glass cabinet in the South Cloisters of UCL.
“Every law is an infraction of liberty.”
– Jeremy Bentham