“It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong. The greatest happines of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.” Jeremy Bentham
Utilitarianism, a child of The Age of Enlightenment, is consequential ethics – it’s the greater good – the outcome matters, not the act, reflecting a philosophical response to the intellectual challenges posed by the rise of industrialization, individual self-determination, democratic self-government and the casting aside of tyrannical sovereignty. And among the progressive left who focus on outcomes, the utilitarians’ distinguishing belief is that we should pursue the greatest good for the greatest number regardless of the outcome. It’s a happiness calculation, a left-wing dream.
The Third Reich ,believing themselves to be a superior race, employed utilitarian theory as an excuse to first demonize and then destroy the severely handicapped, the mentally ill, handicapped children, the chronically ill, the useless eaters and the elderly, leading to the extermination of the Jews for the greater good. German Nazis were able, through their T4 program, to euthanize at least 5,000 physically and mentally disabled German children, children categorized as “life unworthy of life.” Sound familiar?
Pete Singer, a modern utilitarian, believes it is the right of the state to kill one person for the benefit of the many. He supports his view by arguing that there is no morally significant distinction between killing and letting die, euthanizing or starving. Singer holds that man is no different from other forms a life, and therefore man’s life is not worth more than, for example, a cow. He has said he’s kill 10 cows before killing one human, but not because they are of less value, only that humans would mourn.
The US government itself is guilty of secret experiments on veterans, the elderly, American citizens, active military personnel, and the poor of third world countries, all in the name of the greater good. Prophetically, in 1927, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendal Holmes invoked a “greater good” utilitarian decision to justify the sterilization of a young Virginia woman, Carrie Buck, who doctors and social workers incorrectly judged to be mentally retarded. In a chilling statement endorsing eugenices, Holmes revealed the morally corrupt core of utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is an discredited pseudo-ethic system that regards the individual as worthless except in so far as this individual can in some way contribute to Utilitarianism’s dystopian vision of the world. If the best way for an individual to contribute to utility is to die, then it is morally good to bring that about. Throwing overweight people under runaway trolleys; cutting up healthy people for their organs to save multiple recipients; letting the elderly die to cut the cost of ObamaCare; murdering babies in the womb to prevent overpopulation, etc.
Justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. There must be limits to the burdens individuals are asked to bear for the beneﬁt of others. If we are to respect people as equals we must protect each one with a scheme of rights and liberties that cannot be breached for the sake of any social ideal.
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny experienced for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may, at some point, be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for the they do so with the approval of their conscience.” C.S. Lewis