SOCIAL UTILITY

According to this view, the lives of all presently existing and future human beings are equally morally valuable in that everyone’s happiness is equally morally important. Fair distribution strategies are ones that result in the best outcome for all. To allocate resources, we should look at all of the distribution patterns available to us, add up the good that results from each – where the consequences for each person are weighed and where every individual can get a maximum of one unit of good – subtract the harm that results from each, and then select the option that results in the most net good. The goal is to look for the strategy whose consequences allow for the greatest overall good for the greatest number. Note that it is often difficult to know in advance what the consequences of a given pattern of distribution will be, it is difficult to weigh the relative good and relative harm that results from saving the life of one person while allowing another to die, that good and harm are themselves value-laden notions such that it is difficult to make objective calculations as this approach requires, and finally that this approach is counter-intuitive in some respects – for example, if two patterns of distribution result in equal outcomes then there is no moral difference between the two on this approach, even if the most vulnerable in one arrangement are treated poorly, while in another their lot is significantly improved.

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