Greatest Good

An intro to business class in 1977 presented the ideas of economics and production in “modern markets.”  The foundations of every scheme began with the notion that all policies must begin with the concept of “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Jeremy Bentham, around 1820, first refered to society’s goal in this way.  He wrote, “The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.”  Mill echoed the concept, now called “Utilitarianism.”  It has become a kind of “premise” for most pragmatic and socialist positions, but can it ever really work?  No.  Especially not with the “foundation of morals” part.  At best, the greatest good for the greatest number is a hollow ambition, ignoring each of its potential consequences.

“Greatest” is always the core of the problem.  Greatest is not an absolute, but a relative ambition, necessarily meaning “not the best.”  The idea of “greatest good for the greatest number” multiplies that relativity, leaving a theoretically acceptable “improvement” of 1% while benefiting only 51% of the whole.

Pragmatists may laugh and argue that that  would never be enough of a goal to implement such a plan, but it has been demonstrated in Bolshevik and Maoist revolutions, Cambodia’s killing fields, and America’s newly implemented health insurance plan.

America’s foundation took the opposite approach.  We built a great nation on the concept of “Great good and goodness for all who desire and work for them without restraint.”  The concept is readily applicable without killing, crushing, or repressing any percentage, without theft or denial, and with malice toward none.

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