Utilitarianism And Libertarianism Views On Public Policy Issues Philosophy Essay

Modified: 1st Jan 2015
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Ideologies are a set of ideas, ways, thoughts, goals, expectations and actions that are shared within a community. It is made by a society that believes in the same goals, expectations, etc. Its purpose is to offer change in a society where the group belongs. It is a set of views that guides its members on how to see things. Literally, it means the science of ideas. Moreover, it is a set of ideas that characterize a certain group.

In this paper, two famous ideologies will be compared. The following topics will be covered in this discussion:

What is Utilitarianism?

What is Libertarianism?

How does Utilitarianism and Libertarianism view the public policy issues on economic inequality, homosexual conduct, and abortion?

Which of the two is a more convincing ideology?

What is Utilitarianism?

Utilitarianism is a theory in ethics that believes in the maximization of things for the benefit of the whole society. It is a form of consequentialism. The goal is commonly referred to as happiness or pleasure. It can be summed up to a general statement which states: “The promotion of the greater good for the greatest number”. But, there is an ambiguity in the words “greater good”. It means happiness or pleasure, not necessarily that it means the right thing or wrong thing. According to Bentham, it only means “the tendency to augment or diminish happiness or pleasure”. When talking about the number, one is equal to one vote; no one identity has a value of two.

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There are two types of Utilitarianism: Act Utilitarianism and Rule Utilitarianism. Act Utilitarianism believes that the best action is the one that can give the most happiness. It has no moral rules. It believes that for each individual situation, there is an individual action that is to be justified as best if it is for the greatest happiness. On the other hand, Rule Utilitarianism believes that there is a general act of greatest happiness for each situation. In general, it believes in a set of rules or laws that is perceived to be for the greatest happiness. Furthermore, a Rule Utilitarian will consult the rules instead of acting first.

What is Libertarianism?

Libertarianism is the belief in liberty. It is set of beliefs and ideas which advocates the maximization of an individual’s thinking and living by abolishing or minimizing the power of the state. It believes in a world that is free, peaceful and abundant. Also, they want to take control of their own lives without taking into consideration other ideas. Each individual has his own opinions; each individual may choose what to do with his life. Libertarians believe that each individual has his own life and that he has a freedom to choose and live his life. Their goal is to bring liberty into the world. They believe in the non-initiation of force.

How does Utilitarianism and Libertarianism view the public policy issues on economic inequality, homosexual conduct, and abortion?

First, the issue of economic inequality, the Utilitarians believe that if something is benefiting the whole of the population, it is considered good. For example, if the economic inequality is of benefit to the greater masses and that it brings the greatest happiness for the community, it is considered to be good. But the Act and Rule Utilitarians differ in how they view economic inequality – human rights. For an Act Utilitarian, if torture is benefiting the population, even though it is a violation of the human rights in general, it is still good for the Utilitarians. Their goal is just to achieve happiness for the greatest number. If the majority of the people achieve happiness in torturing, it is not wrong for them. Furthermore, for a Rule Utilitarian, human right is considered a moral rule. They follow their rules, whatever it takes. They will protect it whenever possible. Therefore, they believe that economic inequality is not right. On the contrary, for the Libertarians, economic inequality is a no-no. Libertarians believe in equality, that each individual is entitled to have a fair judgement in the law. Libertarians grant each individual freedom on what they want to do in their lives. They oppose every kind of unequal treatment such as racism, discrimination, etc.

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Second, the issue of homosexual conduct, for the Utilitarians, same as the one discussed before. They believe in the greater happiness of the greatest number. It does not matter if it is a wrong – ethically speaking – thing to do. Also, if homosexuality is benefitting the greatest number of the population, then it is still acceptable. If homosexuality brings happiness to the majority of the population, then it is considered a good thing. That is the general case. But like the previous discussion, the Act Utilitarians differ greatly from the Rule Utilitarians. For an Act Utilitarian, if it is not bringing the greatest number of population happiness, then it is considered bad. Even if the thing is right – ethically speaking – it is not favoured if it does not please the majority. But, for a Rule Utilitarian, human rights are considered a moral rule. That is why they respect these kinds of actions. On the other hand, Libertarians view homosexual conduct as a right to express one’s feelings. They are not against these kinds of act. As discussed earlier, the Libertarians view equality as an equal to freedom. They believe that each individual has the right to express his own individuality.

Third, the issue of abortion, for the Utilitarians, it is the same old story. The Act and Rule Utilitarians differ greatly on their way of accepting things. For an Act Utilitarian, it will do whatever that they believe is to be benefitting the greatest number of the population. If, for example, abortion is benefitting the society, it is believed to be a right thing to do. If abortion gives happiness to the majority of the community, it is considered to be a good thing. On the other hand, for a Rule Utilitarian, it believes that human right is a moral rule. Thus, abortion is opposed. Furthermore, for the Libertarians, it is very clear that equality and freedom is their goal. Thus, abortion is strongly approved in their ideologies. Their rights as individuals prevail. Although there are some Libertarians that oppose abortion, they have their own views. A view of an individual is respected in their community. Freedom in their thinking is what they advocate.

Which of the two is a more convincing ideology?

I believe that the points of the Libertarian are more convincing. People are born as free individuals, with human rights. As time goes by, certain rules were implemented as to make the community organized or follow a certain code. But I believe that these implemented rules and codes should not eradicate an individual’s human rights. As an individual, I also believe in equality. I believe that each person has a right to live his own life. On the other hand, on the case of abortion, I oppose it because I believe that it is murder. The tiny speckle in the womb of the mother is alive. I believe that it has also its own rights. But comparing Utilitarianism with Libertarianism, the latter is the more convincing ideology. I don’t believe that the Utilitarians’ view of imposing what is right and what is wrong in a society. I don’t believe in their labels of good things and bad things. Again, it is a violation of human rights. In the sense that if you are not a part of the majority, you cannot do what you want. You cannot do things that the majority thinks that is bad. This is stripping you of your freedom. That is why I believe in Libertarians better than the Utilitarians.


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