Tag Archives: Utilitarianism

Principled politics: a paradox

If you are voting out of principle, you may, paradoxically, find that you have a greater duty to be pragmatic.

Let’s imagine (for the sake of argument) that all voters only voted out of self-interest. If that were the case, the government they elect should end up offering a compromise package that does enough to offer the largest electoral minority (depending on the electoral system) the least-worst electoral option.

It should be a much bigger deal, though, if you say that your personal views are largely driven by altruism and you (and lots of other voters that share your views) believe that your votes are being cast in the interests of the less-fortunate-than-you. In that case, you also have quite a strong moral duty to accept something instead of nothing.

A lot more of a moral duty than the purely self-interested voter. Continue reading


So far, I’ve posted three things here intended to build a wider case. I hope I’ve made them to a ‘for the sake of argument’ standard, and I think I’ve established a passable case that a sensible politician can only come out as a supporter of a cause once it is one that has a reasonable level of support. They actually do more harm than good by wearing their convictions on their sleeve.

I think I’ve established that voters are a lot less easy to read than most people think they are. Even if we could identify policies that we think are going to appeal to sensible utilitarian voters, calculating their own interests, seasoning them with a bit of altruism and morality, we are going to be wrong about that because voters don’t respond in any kind of utilitarian way. Continue reading

Voting wisely?

obamacare-logo-150x150“My father was a very unorthodox Jew. He was a Nazi.”*

Why can’t people vote sensibly? Here’s a brief illustration of that point, yesterday, about how difficult it is to predict how people will direct their efforts or vote depending on their interests.

I think that we have a (reasonable) ideal that, in the best of all worlds, people would understand what their own interests are, and they’d act accordingly. They wouldn’t allow themselves to be easily duped into supporting someone else’s self interest, and they wouldn’t be so daft as to do it by mistake – especially in the very dramatic manner of our Jewish Nazi.
Continue reading