ETHICS
Chapter 6. Teleological Theories : Utilitarianism
Section 6. Democratic Impartiality

A democratic ethical theory

Impartiality, Moral equality, and Democracy
According to utilitarianism, the only relevant thing to consider is pleasure and pain, right? Well, it doesn't matter whose pleasure and pain it is. Utilitarian endorse the view that "all persons are moral equals and should be treated impartially. They treat persons impartially because identical benefits count the same no matter who is the beneficiary: a benefit to a stranger counts as much as a benefit to a family member, or even to you.

This suggests that utilitarianism is NOT a theory of selfishness. It does NOT claim that every person ought to maximize their OWN happiness, or maximize their OWN pleasure.

For this reason, utilitarianism is well suited for the establishment of public policy (see other sections in this chapter). In other words, it is precisely what we elect our public officials to think through for us. We don't want them to be establishing policy so as to benefit themselves, right? In fact, one of the greatest sources of disappointment and frustration we currently have in this country is that the political system is inundated with politicians who are "in bed with" corporations who donate huge sums to their campaigns, in turn for political favors. The point here is that we are greatly disappointed that our politicians aren't being utilitarian enough. They appear to many of us to be maximizing the utility not of the maximum number of people, but of small groups of people -- what pundits and ideologues call "special interests."

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Copyright Stephen O Sullivan and Philip A. Pecorino  2002. All Rights reserved.

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