Against Consequentialism: A thought experiment

Cast your mind forward to the 2016 Presidential Election. The Clooney-Gore Schiff ticket sweeps to an unprecedented landslide victory with 69% of the popular vote. The GOP, having been routed in 2008 and 2012, now lies humiliated. It’s LIKE the party was somehow made to field an incredibly weak ticket so that the Donkeys could ride to victory with one of the world’s most popular entertainers, and his backer, a relatively attractive woman (as far as politicians go) with important family ties and hidden connections. The public seems very happy.

Jump forward another three years. The public still seems happy.  The approval ratings of the Clooney-Gore Schiff administration (the first one in history that has traditionally continued to be called by both its constituent names) are higher than Bush in 2001. The work that has been done in those three years, aided by a Donkey majority in both the Senate and the House, has been fast-paced, extensive, and intensely transformative in ways that people really like. The new electronic currency with built-in algorithms that privilege or tax you according to your income is really well-received. People that were living off of foodstamps in 2010 are now able to walk into a deli and eat good food. Such people really feel like they are climbing the social ladder. The public seems happy.

Since the public seems happy, it goes to show that the 2016 election was one of the best things ever to happen to the USA. Right?

When making moral evaluations, if one focuses only results, here are some things one has to ignore about this scenario:

1. Even if it is a minority of people who have been affected badly by the policies implemented post-2016, any utilitarian approach will ignore analysis of these people purely on account of their minority. In this way, the practicalities of democracy (even assuming the voting was fair – i.e. no Diebold in sight) and the theories of utilitarianism conspire to reject the notion of the individual entirely and focus on a false referent object. The same results of ‘overall happiness’ can be claimed, even if some of those minority are being unjustly imprisoned, tortured or snuffed out for dissent. So ask yourself why you’d feel differently if you knew this kind of behaviour was going on (which it is in 2012)? Because of the effect on the individual? But the cult of consequentialism doesn’t care about them, right? Only methodological individualism can prevent this kind of nightmarish abandonment of principles. There “is” no ‘public’ to be happy.

2. If one focuses entirely on the outcomes of an action or series of actions (remember that the choice of every single person to vote or not is an action that has consequences), then one necessarily ignores the action itself; it is forgotten, irrelevant. Whatever action can produce the best results (or can be claimed to lead to those results, whether or not a causative link actually exists – something that even the best scientists in the world have a very poor understanding of) is deemed the best, regardless of what that action actually entails at the point the choice is made. Most people may not yet have had their souls so deformed that they agree with such statements as “the British Empire was good for the third-world colonies such as India” or “Operation Iraqi Freedom has led to a better life for Iraqis”, but they aren’t exactly leaping to immediately attack the twisted logic of the statements, either.

3. The most important way in which consequentialist logic can be seen to still hold sway over huge numbers of people, and the aspect of this disastrous approach to social relations we call ‘voting’ that most obviously has to be ignored for one to feel happy with our hypothetical 2019 scenario is this: all of those people that take part in elections, even those that vote for the side that lost, are, in the action of casting their vote, giving their permission for the winning faction to rob and oppress anyone that does not agree with the horrors of government and electoral politics – people that aren’t harming anyone. If you vote, you might as well point a gun at your neighbour’s head – or your child’s for that matter, since if they are under the ‘age of consent’ they won’t have a voice under the current set-up either. In fact, were you to point that gun, you would be less of a coward. You would be putting your metal where your mouth is. But you prefer to let someone else do the nasty side. You just want a share of the booty, don’t you?

What’s that? You don’t? You don’t see it like this at all?

Better think a lot more carefully next time you make a choice…that is, if you still think that choices matter at all.

May the Cult of Outcomes perish in a storm of geusive responsibility.

What do you think?

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