The Congruence of Rights and Utility

At this point in history, the purpose or goal of politics—and, theoretically, politicians—is ostensibly a balancing act: on one hand is the moral obligation to respect the inalienable rights of every individual, with the maintenance of a civilized, peaceful society on the other. Unfortunately, individual liberty is rapidly becoming a nuisance that stands in the way of “progress” and “social justice”, which are clever code words for democratic socialism: coercive redistribution of wealth with the blessing of the majority.

There are, no doubt, well-intentioned individuals who have a utilitarian bent; they simply prioritize differently (incorrectly, in my view), with regard to positive vs. negative freedoms. For instance, take Joe Miller’s argument:

When I say, “Of course redistribution is consistent with autonomy”, I mean that it’s consistent with a notion of positive freedom. Forcing you to give your money to someone else is no different from forcing you to stop hitting the person. Failure to provide certain of his basic needs is exactly as wrong as clubbing him online pharmacy over the head. Both violate his While organizations see the potential for leveraging big to solve many previously unsolvable problems, the process comes at a cost. autonomy.

I borrowed the title from an interesting Will Wilkinson post that begins with a lengthy quote of Herbert Spencer who—according to Wilkinson—was a pluralist utilitarian.

Assuming it to be in other respects satisfactory, a rule, principle, or axiom, is valuable only in so far as the words in which it is expressed have a definite meaning. The terms used must be universally accepted in the same

sense, otherwise the proposition will be liable to such various constructions, as to lose all claim to the title—a rule. We must therefore take it for granted that when he announced

“the greatest happiness to the greatest number” as the canon of social morality, its originator supposed mankind to be unanimous in their definition of “greatest happiness.”

This was a most unfortunate assumption, for no fact is more palpable than that the standard of happiness is infinitely variable. In all ages—amongst every people—by each class—do we find different notions of it entertained.

Giving leftists the benefit of the doubt (excluding those who, out of pure jealously and spite, want to punish the rich), it seems that their ultimate goal really is “the greatest happiness to the greatest number”; but the means that they prefer not only have failed—and are failing—miserably, those means (coercion, confiscatory taxation, etc.) are intrinsically immoral. So, how can society, via government and politics, achieve “the congruence of rights and utility” without violating the concepts of individual liberty or political and economic freedoms?

The best bet politically is a general, neutral framework of rights that enable harmonious social cooperation in pursuit of one’s good, however one conceives it.