Chapter Ten of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Utility discusses policies at the national and international level that might increase welfare, dignity and contentment. The chapter suggests that:
The ‘self evident truth’ contained in the US Declaration of Independence that all men have the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is perhaps as good a guide to the role of the state as any. The state has a primary duty to ensure that absolutely necessary to life (peace, shelter, food, sufficient measures for public health), it has a secondary duty to ensure freedom from captivity and extortion as well as sufficient means to be free to take part in society as an equal and, as a tertiary responsibility, it should put in place other conditions that allow all the possibility for achieving individual happiness (broadly defined).
Given the limited role for GDP growth in furthering welfare, dignity and contentment in most countries, the justification for corporate welfare programs including subsidies, tax breaks and defense of private monopoly is even weaker than usually assumed. Furthermore, actions which redistribute a fixed stock of prestige while creating significant negative externalities should be taxed. Robert Frank provides the example of large houses sitting on larger plots which increase commute times for all. A declining marginal utility of income suggests progressive taxation can increase average contentment as well as providing resources for improved levels of welfare and dignity. The general finding that non-rival goods such as insurance and time off may be under-supplied compared to rival goods suggests a further rationale for state sponsorship of insurance mechanisms covering events such as unemployment and health. Regarding dignity:
Because the evidence is against a strong tradeoff between basic human rights and economic growth or welfare there is no justification for such a tradeoff (even were it a good one to make). Indeed, because what evidence we have points the other way—civil rights improving the state’s provision of welfare—we should encourage development of such rights most particularly in the poorest countriesBecause of the importance of institutions in determining levels welfare, dignity and contentment, the role for international support might appear limited. Having said that, we broadly accept Pogge's argument for a globalization of Rawls' difference principle (that to the extent social institutions create social or economic inequalities, they should be designed to the maximum benefit to those at the bottom of these inequalities). Our moral obligation to individuals in the developing world is to promote some basic, sustainable, minimum level of well-being. his suggests a role for reduced barriers to trade and migration, but also increased, and far better designed, aid flows.