Utilitarianism, Economics And Ethics Essay

1751 words - 7 pages

Imagine a child living in a hot, government owned apartment in Chicago. He has no father. With his single, jobless mother he struggles to the words of the founding fathers: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness...” (The Declaration of Independence). This is one of the most famous phrases in the US Declaration of Independence and has become the underpinning of the dreams of millions of people around the world. Although the words are different, these sentiments are reflected in the political and economical policies of many democracies. While the notion of ‘happiness for all’ seems like the obvious solution to many of our persistent problems, we inevitably encounter conflicts between our actions and our morals. “The state is based on……the contradiction between public and private life, between universal and particular interests. For this reason, the state must confine itself to formal, negative activities.”(Marx, 1992). This essay focuses on the issues of a prominent theory, Utilitarianism as it blends and encompasses both areas of Economics and Ethics which have become the basis of our governmental bodies.

In Utilitarianism the aim of our actions is to achieve happiness for the greatest number of people. “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” (Mill, 1971). Utilitarianism directly appeals to human emotions and our reactions to different events. Emotions are a fundamental Way of Knowing and influence both ethical and economical theories. In most cultures there are fundamental codes or laws that are similar, determining what is right and wrong. In most cases, murder, rape, lying and theft are seen as bad because they have a negative effect on society, while generosity, healing, truthfulness and loyalty are seen as good. These basic, commonly held morals suggest that Utilitarianism is something biological and engrained in human beings. They also represent a very democratic and balanced way to approach ethics as they appeal to ‘common sense’ and present individuals as ethically equal.

However, for all its merits, Utilitarianism has many flaws and has proven to be unpractical in the real world. The following compares four areas of similarity between the Areas of Knowledge, Economic and Ethics and the weaknesses that emerge from applying Utilitarianism. The four similarities are the challenge of measuring happiness; the focus on outcomes versus intentions; the promotion of negative happiness; and the lack of data to support the Utilitarianism theory. Firstly, there is an issue with measurement, and the difficulties of evaluating the amount of ‘happiness’ that an individual or community is experiencing or needs. Happiness is an ever changing, indefinable objective that humans strive for...

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