Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Some thoughts on: Libertarianism and Utilitarianism

Throughout time philosophers have arduously endeavored to formulate a comprehensive theory of justice that includes and explains the proper relationship between the individuals and society, as well as individuals among each other. Practical application of such an endeavor may seem futile, however certain happenings in the recent past may suggest otherwise. Although the 20th century has proven to be the most brutal and inhuman page in history of the modern world, we owe our greatest scientific achievement to his time. Perhaps the greatest epitaph to describe this time was said by Chinese dictator Mao Zedong, “justice come form the barrel of a gun.”

The philosophical consequences that have occurred may have sent the ideas of justice asunder. Many forgot that any society that hopes to survive must form coherent policy and law that is in accordance with the theory of justice that reflects on humans as rational beings of freewill.

Many have advocated the Utilitarian approach of Jeremy Bentham. A student of Hume’s empiricism, he wrote “utilitarianism rested their entire social theory on one basic principle that they believed was the subject to empirical proof.” Many versions of the teachings were developed over time and it has since undergone a certain level of inception. The deep contrasts to the libertarian philosophy start here.

Bentham’s formulations that the greatest happiness principle basically says, “the end and aim of a legislator should be the happiness of the people.” However, the main difficulty with utilitarianism is its inability to adequately respect the dignity of the human person. The idea of liberty, right, and justice are posed as a durative and a contingent status. They seem to only be valued for there believe that there implementation yield greater overall utility. Such derivative treatment with these principles fails to respect or consider their true force.

Robert Nozick, tries to offer a workable solution by “incorporating rights into the end state to be achieved, one might place them as side constraints upon the action to be done.” Unlike utilitarianism, Nozick proposes that rights of others are “moral constraints.” That serves to limit actions that would otherwise be permissible. After all, we are only limited by what nature allows.

Both utilitarianism and libertarianism come to the same conclusion (although the rational is different). “Mindful human beings require freedom and personal responsibility to live satisfying lives.” Unlike Nozick, J.S Mills defends his argument for liberty by saying that freedom and individuality are required on the grounds that it leads to greater social utility.

To libertarians the right to property is so fundamental that all other rights presuppose it. So the ideal libertarian regime would therefore allow the individual to engage in any voluntary dispensation so long as he is informed and does not alienate his right to make choices. Despite the preminiscence of the right to property to all other rights, libertarians does allow for narrow exceptions.

1 comment:

Brainpolice said...

Utilitarianism is anathema to the libertarian cause because it doesn't start with the concept of natural rights. That's the vital difference between a natural rights libertarian and a utilitarian. A utilitarian is too results-based, while the consistant libertarian advocates their goal while purposefully being blind to such value judgements. The utilitarian is likely to stop advocating their goal once it "conflicts" with their personal value judgements. The constant libertarian is most concerned with the ethics, while a utilitarian is willing to violate the ethics in the name of concern for results.