“For the greater good”:
the phrase that always precedes
the greatest evil.”
― Jakub Bożydar Wiśniewski
We must try to understand where the Left derives its leverage to “have its way” with America. If we cannot break this stranglehold the Left maintains because of it…we can never save America. Their method is quite simple, but deadly effective. They present their approaches as offering the “greater good” …or, more comprehensively, “the greater good for the greatest number.” Even as I offer this as a corrupting influence, you can still feel the persuasive influence of that idea. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about that powerful manipulator.
I have been “teaching” Ethics for the past thirty years. Perhaps the most distinct part of my course is my creating a significant difference between ethics and morality. I think that noting this difference is critical if ethics is to have a valuable implication for their lives. To state it simply: Morality is merely a “popularity” contest in a given culture. While that may sound too flippant, it exposes the major issue as we deal with morality…that is, anything can be moral if a given culture says it is.
We’ve seen that most recently, as s*xual mores have shifted so dramatically that “almost anything goes” is the accepted morality. If you are among the wise, then you are perhaps saying that those extreme hedonistic s*xual positions are not moral, even if commonly accepted. However, by saying that, you’ve now entered the realm of ethics. You are suggesting, whether it was your intent or not, that it doesn’t matter how many people accept s*xual hedonism, it was not moral. NO…it was never ethical…it was, however, very moral. The culture had spoken. I’ve probably not convinced many of you of my position but, for now, accept it as my essential “teaching” platform.
But I’m going someplace else in this essay. I’ll start this with a true anecdote that might help get us there. The other day I noticed an ant, almost microscopically small, valiantly trying to negotiate the grout lines on my tiled floor. Oh, how I admired his courage in trying to get wherever he was going. He was truly an inspiration and I wished him well…what a valiant little fellow. I felt like Robert the Bruce watching a spider spin its web and learning to never give up.
A bit later, I found his destination was a Cheerio that I had carelessly dropped under my desk. Yes…he was there, as were hundreds, or thousands of his comrades. I immediately grabbed my ant spray and sent them all to ant heaven. As an individual I admired his “antness.” As a part of a “mob” of ants the “greater good” had to be served. That is, the appearance of cleanliness for my home took precedent over their already short lives. Of course, the translation of all this into a human environment suggests that once people are no longer seen as individuals, but only as part of a larger grouping without any individual identity, then all bets are off and the greater good will allow the most draconian of actions.
This brings us to Jeremy Bentham. He is regarded as the founder of classical Utilitarianism. This concept has many moving parts but, in its essence, it is built around, “the greatest good for the greatest number.” Famously, he rejected the idea of inalienable natural rights—rights that exist independent of their enforcement by any government. This rejection of rights must take place within this philosophy.
In its broader, and more frequent applications, it is an approach to ethics that is extremely dangerous in its provocations. “Utilitarianism,’ is the guiding philosophy behind almost all tyrannical governments. It is, in fact, a very seductive philosophy. If not fully explored what could be wrong with doing the greatest good for the greatest number? Let’s look at that approach as it’s made operational.
In the Soviet Union there was very little crime. Anyone who MIGHT commit a crime was thrown into a gulag. So, what if many innocents were sacrificed to this process? It produced the greatest good for the greatest number.
Utilitarianism also guided The Third Reich. Once Jews were defined as a destructive contaminant, then their elimination produced the greatest good for the greatest number of Germans…or so their barbarism would have suggested.
More to my immediate point, Utilitarianism has begun to dominate the deepening tyranny of our current government. The draconian imposition of COVID restrictions is an excellent example. In their warped approach, what difference did it make if they caused extensive damage, as long as they believed that the benefit for the larger number far exceeded the loss of personal freedoms and damage to economic stability?
We’ve seen this with almost all the policies surrounding climate change. Regardless of the extensive damage done by these policies, their position could always be “defended” by the greatest good for the greatest number. It is this same approach that is creating havoc over the entire European continent. It gives license to the most damaging of approaches.
It is not surprising, therefore, when most of my students favor the use of utilitarianism as their guiding ethical philosophy. When I give them 9 different approaches to use for ethical outcomes, and they are asked to choose and defend their favored choice, a huge percentage choose utilitarianism. Their hearts are good. They just don’t understand the underlying provocations that this approach will cause…has caused.
The same goodness of heart cannot be said of our current government. It constantly runs roughshod over many Americans, ignoring their inalienable rights, all done under the pretense of the greatest good for the greatest number. It is an approach that allows for the most devastating of impositions, all defended under the utilitarian banner. If we can’t learn how to defend ourselves against this philosophy, then all the absurd impositions on the citizens of this nation will continue. We will remain defenseless going into our future.
If we maintain an admiration and respect for one ant, we will not take actions that destroy all ants. As long as we maintain a collectivist mindset, we will have no future. If you accept that it may be necessary for one man to die to save a nation it is but a short journey into believing that it may be necessary for a million men to die to save a nation.
“Crimes for a greater good are still crimes.”
― Thomm Quackenbush, Flies to Wanton Boys