Good Example Of Utilitarianism Research Paper
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that defines the method that one uses to decide whether an action is morally right depending on the consequences of choosing one action over the others. To decide what to do in any situation, a person must first identify all the different actions they could perform. A person then proceeds to determine the benefits and harms that would arise as a result of choosing one action and the people who would be affected by taking that action. Utilitarianism is said to have been developed by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill and over the years it has become a theory that most people consider when making ethical decisions. Bentham developed the principle of utility where he explained that an action should be approved or disapproved based on the amount of pleasure or pain it brings. John Mill adjusted the principle of utility by emphasizing that an action should not only be judged by the quantity of pleasure it causes but the quality of that pleasure or pain (Andre and Velasquez 1).
Utilitarianism is said to be of two forms namely act-utilitarianism and rule-utilitarianism; based on whether one applies the principle of utility on general rules or particular actions. Act-utilitarianism defines the right action as the one that brings the best results or the least bad results. People, who have criticized this view, explain that it is not possible to completely know with certainty the consequences of an action. In Rule-utilitarianism, the principle of utility is used to determine how valid moral principles are. In this case, whether an action is right or wrong is determined by whether those rules are followed (Cavalier 1).
Although utilitarianism has become a popular ethical theory, there are difficulties of relying on it solely when making a moral decision. In order to perform a utilitarian calculation, one requires assigning values to the benefits and harm that might result after taking a certain action. However challenging it is to quantify and compare the value of these benefits or harm. For instance, how can one assign value to life and how can the value of life be compared to that of money or time. It is also impossible to be completely aware of the resulting consequences from a course of action. Utilitarianism also does not consider justice in some accounts. For example, if an action is of great benefit to the society but it is also unjust. If one considers justice when making a moral decision, they will not rely solely on utilitarianism to make that decision. The principle of utilitarianism helps people to consider the immediate and less immediate consequences of their actions. People also tend to look beyond their self-interest and consider interests of other people affected by the action (Andre and Velasquez 1).
Over the years, utilitarianism has influenced various aspects of intellectual life including law, politics, and economics. In the matter of justification or punishment, the utilitarian theory tends to oppose the retributive theory which supports that a criminal should pay for their crime. According to the theory of utilitarian, punishment should inhibit the criminal repeating the crime either by reforming or protecting the society from them. In matters of politics, this theory defines the best government as the one that has the best consequences. In matters of economics, economic value is defined in terms of the cost of labor production and not the value of its use or utility of the commodities (West 1).
Blood for Sale
Plasma International did extensive research and found out that blood from the West African tribes was more ideal for commercialization than from others. In the United States, blood is bought and sold just like any other commodity in the market. Research shows that people voluntarily donate less blood if they know it is meant to be sold. Critics claim that blood having a price value in the market makes its importance vary with the wealth of the recipient. When compared to the British system where blood is not sold, its importance in this case depends on the patient’s need. Some people claim that the commercialization of blood makes the act of donating lose meaning to some people. In this case, people give not because of their self-will but the fact that they get paid to do so.
The commercialization of blood can be viewed under the ethical principle of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism defines an action should be said to be wrong or right depending on its consequences. The donation of blood is meant to ensure that hospitals do not run out of blood and fail to save lives because of this reason. Commercialization of blood can be said to be wrong only if people no longer want to donate due to having a market price value associated with blood. In other cases where blood is bought and sold and still meets the great purpose of saving lives, then this action cannot be said to be wrong.
The commercialization of blood might give people who would otherwise not volunteer to donate a reason to do so. Some people would view this as the wrong reason to do it, and that people should only donate because they feel the moral obligation to do so. The ultimate goal is to have blood in the hospital to ensure that people’s lives are not lost due to its unavailability. The attainment of this goal should not be questioned if by giving blood a market price more people donate or people, who would have never donated voluntarily, are now motivated to do so.
The Challenger Disaster
The Challenger disaster is one of the worst disasters in the national space program; it resulted in the death of seven astronauts. The explosion was a result of the failure of O-rings that might have been triggered by the low temperatures that day. Some of the employees of Morton Thiokol Inc., the most notable one being Roger Boisjoly had voiced their concerns before the launch, but they were ignored by the management. Questions arise as to whether the Thiokol engineers gave their all to prevent the accident from happening knowing what was at stake including people’s lives.
Critics claim that the employees did not do everything and that they should have had the moral responsibility to do more. For instance, if the employees had gone public with their concerns, for example to a news reporter, the story would have probably resulted in the delaying of the launch awaiting further investigations. The employees had much more options they would have considered even after approaching the management without any luck. The reporting of this story to the media might have resulted in the drop of the company’s stock prices especially if the claim’s validity got confirmed. Some critics claimed that the employees would have done more even if it meant being deceptive just to prevent that accident from occurring.
Based on the ethical principle of utilitarianism to make this decision, it was not possible for the employees to determine the extent of harm that would have resulted because of the launch. Had they been able to make an estimation, they would have tried harder including some of the options that critics proposed. Had they chosen to take these actions, for instance by being whistleblowers or being deceptive, their actions would have been justified. Their moral obligation was to do anything to prevent the Challenger launch and probably also prevent the accident. It is impossible to determine how far they should have gone. Especially considering that one of the challenges of this moral principle is the failure to know completely and with certainty the consequences of a certain action.
Hacking into Harvard
Some people claimed that Harvard had overreacted to the situation. Others claimed they should have evaluated the situation on a case by case basis. For instance, the hacking would have been done by the applicant’s spouse or anyone else who would have had access to their password and personal identification number. The Dean, however, responded by saying that each applicant should be responsible for their personal information. Other applicants said that they simply followed the hacker’s instructions out of curiosity, and they had no knowledge of the extent of damage of their actions.
I understand the applicant’s curiosity and the need to follow random instructions by an anonymous hacker. The applicants had no way of changing their application results; all, they did, was access them before everyone else. Based on the consequence of their action, hacking, there was no extensive damage caused. Hence, my opinion that Harvard and other universities that disqualified them being an overreaction. I also agree with claims of a generation gap. People, who are more familiar with the internet, know that if something is meant to be inaccessible then strict security measures should be in place. If someone does not want people to access their files and documents, they should put passwords and other security measures to make unauthorized access impossible. The universities would also have considered the different cases especially where other people had access to the applicant’s information and tried hacking on their behalf. However, on the basis that the universities made this decision in order to prevent other similar cases also justifies their overreaction; to some extent.
Walmart has become one of the most influential and largest retailers globally. The company is opening more stores and targeting to move into the urban America. It currently controls about 30 percent of household item sales and will soon control over 35 percent of food sales. It can afford low prices for its consumers since it can put pressure on its suppliers to lower their prices. The larger it gets, the more influence it can have on the reduction of prices for its consumers. Its influence is also a disadvantage to other people. Its buying power has forced out rivals out of the business. That injures the already established business districts. Its expansion does not do a lot in the increase of local tax revenues since the company insists on tax breaks even when it moves to a new community. The company is also anti-union, and it pays low wages to its employees. Its cost of labor is 20 percent lower than that of unionized supermarkets. Most of its employees require out of the company health insurance to survive. Since it can exert downward pressure on retail wages, it has forced most companies to move overseas. Most people today oppose the expansion of Walmart and economists refer to it as a barrier to growth.
The economic value of a commodity or company is in how much it benefits the society. The ability of Walmart to expand and force out its competitors out of business is only to its benefit. The company adds no value to the community’s local taxes and even though it creates employment it pays its employees very poorly and forces out its competitors who would offer more job opportunities with better wages and benefits. According to the principle of utilitarianism, it is my opinion that the expansion of Walmart is unfair to the market system. Being that actions should be done from their consequences and how they impact people involved, the expansion of Walmart does not have many benefits to the society.
Enron was able to hide its massive debt with the help of its investment bankers, accountants, and construction of off-the-book partnerships. Its executives handled these partnerships and would financially benefit from the deals. Its employees lost their 401(K) when the company’s stock prices fell, and others lost their retirement savings. The company’s executives tried to deny any trouble in the company for as long as they could. The downfall of the company would not only be attributed to the company itself but its board, auditors, lawyers, investment bankers and rating agencies. Investment bankers, for instance, developed a scheme that the company used to hide its obligations as the parent company in subsidiaries. The lawyers were paid large amounts of fees not to report the cases of fraud in the company. The analysts got paid to give false results on their research about the company and claimed Enron was worth it even after it had been declared bankrupt. Enron is just an example of what happens in investment banking. Investors focus on keeping their clients’ stock prices as high as possible and also serve those who want to buy stocks at very low prices. That illustrates their conflict of interest. In the case of Enron, investment bankers were paid to help structure the debt, and they also made money from the sale of Enron’s stock.
Such a case shows what happens in the investment world and how investors, who lack access to all the information, can make bad choices causing great losses in the end. In the case of Enron, all the involved parties went to great lengths to hide the company’s debt in order to keep the stock prices high. Their aim was selfish, and all their efforts were meant to help them gain financially from the company. The consequences of their actions were not good since they had negative impacts on their employees and investors. Such actions according to the principle of utilitarianism are wrong. The investment bankers and auditors, for example, all had a way to analyze the company’s data and see it was headed for a downfall. It was not difficult for them to predict the consequences of their actions. In this case, since it required economic analysis and they had the skills to do so, but they chose to hide the debt and continue to gain financially from the company.
Utilitarianism has become a principle that most people must consider when making any ethical decisions. It may not be sufficient in certain situations and may require people to rely on other principles to make such decisions as observed. The major problem of relying on this principle is the prediction inability of the consequences of an action and the inability to quantify the value of those consequences. In some cases, one can predict the consequences with more certainty but even then there are things that cannot be predicted.
Andre, Claire and Manuel Velasquez. Calculating Consequences: The Utilitarian Approach to Ethics, 2014. Web. 7 Jan 2015. Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v2n1/calculating.html
Cavalier, Robert. Utilitarian Theories, 2002. Web. 7 Jan 2015. Retrieved from http://caae.phil.cmu.edu/cavalier/80130/part2/sect9.html
West, Henry R. Utilitarianism, 2014. Web. 7 Jan 2015. Retrieved from http://www.utilitarianism.com/utilitarianism.html
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