Chapter

Utilitarianism: Theory and Applications

Ian Malcolm David Little

in Ethics, Economics, and Politics

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780199257041
Published online August 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601293 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199257043.003.0005
 Utilitarianism: Theory and Applications

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Utilitarianism is a comprehensive doctrine claiming that the greatest amount of happiness is an end that should exclusively guide all actions of both government and individuals. The fact that people value the happiness of those close to them more than that of strangers makes utilitarianism personally unacceptable to many, but it may still be a proper principle for government, given some overriding respect for individual rights. There are, however, basic problems concerning the value of life, and the treatment of future people and foreigners. The conventional discounting of future incomes does not imply that the utility of future people is discounted. The state's primary responsibility is to its own citizens, but it should not treat aliens as mere instruments for the welfare of citizens.

Keywords: consequentialism; rights; side constraints; utilitarianism; value of life

Chapter.  5611 words. 

Subjects: Public Economics

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