Bad Argument Against Utilitarianism

I saw this Freddie deBoer article My Brief Brief Against Utilitarianism

This is a pretty bad article, which is unfortunate because most of his articles are good. It’s like he didn’t even bother to try to entertain the pro-utilitarianism view beyond either stawmans or dismissing it outright. His argument is effectively a reductio to absurdum, which is that Utilitarianism is bad because utilitarianism when taken to its logical extreme produces or justifies behavior that would be deemed morally or ethically reprehensible by society. A related article by Nathan J. Robinson article makes a similar argument, that utilitarianism justifies rape of disabled people.

So by this logic, Freddie should be opposed to democracy, because people may elect someone who is opposed to democratic values, like a dictator. This actually happened: Hitler was elected. Many countries which are otherwise undemocratic, like Russia, do have elections. Any system when taken to its logical extreme can produce undesirable or absurd outcomes, not just utilitarianism.

When people talk about utilitarianism from a policy standpoint, it typically pertains to common issues such as healthcare or education, not condoning rape or anything like that. Second, utilitarianism is about government policy, like who gets what and how much, not a mother being forced to allow her children to starve. For example, 20% of people account for 80% of healthcare spending, primarily end of life care and people with costly diseases. This is possibly a waste or misallocation of resources from a utilitarianism standpoint. Either that 80% should be cut to a smaller ratio, or allocated to people who have more productive years ahead of them, so possibly replacing Medicare/eldercare with universal or single-payer care for young and middle-aged people, and replacing Social Security with something like a UBI.

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