Utilitarianism, Economics and Ethics

1747 Words7 Pages
Imagine a child living in a hot, government owned apartment in Chicago. He has no father. With his single, jobless mother he struggles to the words of the founding fathers: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness...” (The Declaration of Independence). This is one of the most famous phrases in the US Declaration of Independence and has become the underpinning of the dreams of millions of people around the world. Although the words are different, these sentiments are reflected in the political and economical policies of many democracies. While the notion of ‘happiness for all’ seems like the obvious solution to many of our persistent problems, we inevitably encounter conflicts between our actions and our morals. “The state is based on……the contradiction between public and private life, between universal and particular interests. For this reason, the state must confine itself to formal, negative activities.”(Marx, 1992). This essay focuses on the issues of a prominent theory, Utilitarianism as it blends and encompasses both areas of Economics and Ethics which have become the basis of our governmental bodies.

In Utilitarianism the aim of our actions is to achieve happiness for the greatest number of people. “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” (Mill, 1971). Utilitarianism directly appeals to human emotions and our reactions to different events. Emotions are a fundamental Way of Knowing and influence both ethical and economical theories. In most cultures there are fundame...

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...eories to stay stagnant and restrictive at the same time as our economies, ethical systems and societies are changing so dramatically right in front of us?

Works Cited

Brannigan, Jack. The Purpose of Life & the General Theory of Ethics. Nebraska, USA: iUniverse, 2005.

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription. Web. 14 June 2015.


Jenkins, Author Joe. Ethics and Religion. Oxford, UK: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 2003.

Lagemaat, Richard van de. Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Marx, Karl. Early Writings. London, UK: Penguin Classics, 1992.

Rothbard, Murray N. Ethics of Liberty. New York, USA: New York University Press, 1998.

Sen, Amartya. On Ethics and Economics. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 1988.
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