Complications with Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism cares only about the consequences of institutions, not the intentions of their designers and participants. If a law intended to help the poor actually harms them, utilitarianism would oppose it. On the other hand, if self-interested activity serves the public interest via the invisible hand of the market, utilitarianism would support it.

— Chris Freiman, “Bleeding Heart Utilitarian Libertarianism

On the surface this seems sound, but even if utility were countable (and it’s not), who would be doing the counting? And while the counting is taking place, should people’s intentions presumed to be correct? Someone might say that a certain policy like immigration controls (perhaps because relevant circumstances have changed) will yield the greatest utility over the span of the next decade, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to in principle oppose it in the interim.

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