The Instigator
lewis20
Pro (for)
Losing
8 Points
The Contender
bluesteel
Con (against)
Winning
25 Points

Libertarianism is better than Utilitarianism

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
bluesteel
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/20/2010 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,536 times Debate No: 13423
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (8)
Votes (6)

 

lewis20

Pro

What I see as the basic ethical argument of modern times. Is the sacrifice of one member of society, in order to benefit the whole justified? Or as I see it, is the only fair world one in which people are allowed to own themselves, thus their labor, time and money?

I see this as being the underlying differing of philosophies in modern issues, including redistribution of wealth through government programs.
bluesteel

Con

I thank my opponent for crafting such an interesting topic.

I proceed with some definitions:

Libertarianism: a value system that deems anything moral as long as it does not violates people's property rights, including their ownership of their own bodies (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). [1]

Utilitarianism: a value system that seeks to maximize utility (achieving the greatest good for the greatest number)

Burden of proof:
My opponent, as the instigator, must prove that pure libertarianism is a superior moral system to utilitarianism.

Libertarianism may be a great political philosophy, but if fails as a complete moral system. For that reason, it is possible to be a utilitarian libertarian. [2]

Beginning with my case:

1. "He would die anyway"

The following situation is based upon a moral dilemma posed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University: You are walking through a conflict zone and encounter a rebel commander who is about to order his men to slaughter a village of innocent people. For his amusement, the rebel commander stops you, hands you a gun, and says that if you kill one villager, he will spare the rest of the village. Utilitarianism instructs you to kill one villager to save the rest; libertarianism tells you to refuse to violate the villager's right to life, and, in refusing to get your hands dirty, allow the rebel commander to murder the entire village.

2. Violate property rights to save the world

Another moral dilemma: Someone finds and thus owns ("finders keepers") a meteor rock. Aliens come to Earth, threatening to destroy the planet if the meteor is not returned to them. The owner refuses to give up the rock. Libertarianism says that it is immoral to violate the person's property rights, and all of Earth should perish. Utilitarianism instructs us to seize the rock and return it to the aliens, thus saving the world. [3]

3. Collective action problems

A collective action problem is "a situation in which everyone (in a given group) has a choice between two alternatives and where, if everyone involved chooses the alternative act that is Individualistically Rational (IR), the outcome will be worse for everyone involved, in their own estimation, than it would be if they were all to choose the other alternative." [4]

An example of a collective action problem is: 25 small businesses align one street. The storefronts all have graffiti on them. It costs an individual storeowner $10 to hire someone to clean his storefront. If he does, every single business gets $5 more in sales because people prefer to shop in "nice neighborhoods." However, the storeowners individualistically ration (IR) decision is not to clean his storefront, since if everyone else cleans theirs, he gets all the extra business for free, and it costs more to clean his own store ($10) than the additional business he gets from his own cleaning ($5). Because each storeowner thinks like this, no stores will be cleaned. All the storeowners are worse off because of this collective action problem.

Utilitarianism can solve collective action problems: pass a city ordinance requiring storefronts to be kept clean (or face a $30 fine, for example). Then each storeowner will clean his storefront and they will all be better off in terms of sales.

Libertarianism says that such an ordinance is "immoral" because it violates the storeowners' property rights (such as forcing them to pay a fine). Libertarianism does not allow solutions to collective action problems, which makes society worse off.

Moving to my opponent's case.

1. Utilitarianism does not allow the wanton sacrificing of member's of society.

2. Utilitarianism can also be used to oppose wealth redistribution.

/Out of characters.

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com...
[3] Ibid
[4] http://faculty.washington.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
lewis20

Pro

I was not planning on bringing up specific cases as both sides have equally strong arguments from the standpoint that both can put forward a case seems to disprove the opposite philosophy, having said that let me put forward a common case.

In a hospital 4 patients come in, all with different organs failing and all need transplants. Meanwhile the guy in the room next door came in for a check up, with all healthy organs. The doctor realizes by taking 4 organs from the healthy man he could save the 4 patients in need of transplant. Is the sacrifice of one justified in saving the 4 others? ( http://www.justiceharvard.org... )

The argument I mean to make is not that utilitarianism has no merit and that libertarianism is far superior, but to try to prove it makes a better governing philosophy of human beings, that is that man is entitled to himself, his work and his time. By the same token man is responsible for these things and no one should be in more control of them than himself.

This line of reasoning is present when talking about the redistribution of wealth. That is to take from those who have and give to those that have not.

In nearly all cases of someone attaining massive wealth, its justified. Mark Zuckerberg and Lebron James make up that top 1% of Americans whose fortunes I believe are justified. As in any free market, the money they make is no more than the money we as consumers are willing to pay for that service. If anyone is to blame its the people on Facebook buying Nike's. They're wealth was come by in a justified fashion.

Allowing people to keep what they earn encourages self reliance and hard work.

Libertarianism does not oppose self sacrifice or charity, it opposes the theft of rightful ownership for the benefit of many. However as soon as people become reliant on anyone other than themselves (the government) they become less motivated to work hard or make their own lives.
bluesteel

Con

I thank my opponent for his prompt response.

My opponent brings up the classic "murdering doctor" critique of utilitarianism. However, utilitarianism in fact instructs the doctor NOT TO murder his healthy patient to save 4 others because utilitarianism looks at the effect on society, not just on the 5 patients.

The murdering doctor should not kill one patient to save 4 under utilitarianism because if society knew that doctors are willing to do such a thing, they would cease visiting doctors. The harms caused by all members of society refusing to visit doctors would outweigh the benefit of saving 4 lives. Thus, killing one person to save many can only be done under utilitarianism if society will be able to view the killing as an exception, rather than the rule. The harms of making murder "the norm" would clearly outweigh the benefits of saving a few lives in one case.

Mitigating circumstances, or "exceptions," could include "he would die anyway," "he asked me to," and "the exceptional magnitude made it necessary."

My opponent's only other argument in favor of libertarianism is that redistribution of wealth is bad. However, utilitarianism would allow us to argue against the redistribution of wealth.

First, I need to clear up a misconception about utilitarianism that my opponent seems to have. Utilitarianism judges actions on two axes, not one. Not only does utilitarianism look at how many people a policy will affect, but it also judges the degree of good or bad a policy does. For this reason, utilitarianism sees giving $100 to one person as morally equivalent to giving $1 to 100 people, since the $100 does 100 times "more good" than the $1. This proves that utilitarianism does not care about wealth distribution.

On the second axis ("degree of good"), tax cuts can be justified. Christina and David Romer, of UC Berkeley, calculate the "spending multiplier" of tax cuts at 3, meaning for every $1 given back to people in tax cuts, this dollar generates $3 in economic activity in the surrounding community because when people have more money, they buy more goods. As they buy more goods, businesses can afford to hire more workers; these new workers in turn buy more goods, and the cycle continues ad infinitum. Tax cuts could be said to do more good for more people than welfare programs, for example, because they create jobs. Utilitarianism could even be used to argue for the complete elimination of taxes.

Since all of the policies my opponent wants could be accomplished under utilitarianism, any advantage to a utilitarian moral system justifies a Con vote.

Sidenote: my opponent brings up Mark Zuckerburg, but his fortune violates libertarian ethics since he stole Facebook from his Harvard classmate Divya Narenda, thus violating his property rights. [1] Terrible example!

The NBA (Lebron) is also a terrible example: their anti-competitive practices, such as "restraints on player mobility, like the amateur player drafts, salary caps, and reserve clauses, and territorial restrictions on franchise location and broadcast rights" all impinge on people's right to property. But these are all justified for the "greater good" of the sport, i.e. utilitarianism. [2]

Extend all 3 of my unanswered examples of why utilitarianism is a superior system. It allows you to kill a villager (who would die anyway) to save a whole village. It allows you to violate property rights to save the world. And it overcomes collective action problems (for example, where each storeowner can gain $125 (25 stores x $5) in sales if they all clean their storefronts, but each individual refuses to act on his own and pay $10). Each storeowner is better off under utilitarianism (city ordinance) than libertarianism.

I thank my opponent for a great debate and urge a Con vote.

[1] http://video.foxbusiness.com...-/
[2] http://law.marquette.edu...
Debate Round No. 2
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by bluesteel 6 years ago
bluesteel
@lewis20

It's one of the focal points of the new movie about Zuckerberg: The Social Network. The movie is based on a book written about Zuckerberg, although I don't know the title off the top of my head.
Posted by lewis20 6 years ago
lewis20
Is there proof Zuckerberg stole facebook?
Posted by SuperRobotWars 6 years ago
SuperRobotWars
Tough Voting . . .
Posted by m93samman 6 years ago
m93samman
Pro simply wasn't convincing enough to win. Con- a minor spelling/grammar error here and there, but definitely won the sources points.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
Oh, oops, I hadn't read your round. I was just pointing out to Pro that the two concepts aren't mutually exclusive.
Posted by bluesteel 6 years ago
bluesteel
wow, consequentialist libertarian sounds so much better than utilitarian libertarian - don't know why I didn't think to search for that instead
Posted by LaissezFaire 6 years ago
LaissezFaire
I suppose Pro should have defined libertarianism.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by TheAtheistAllegiance 6 years ago
TheAtheistAllegiance
lewis20bluesteelTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:05 
Vote Placed by mcc1789 6 years ago
mcc1789
lewis20bluesteelTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:05 
Vote Placed by Zilla2112 6 years ago
Zilla2112
lewis20bluesteelTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:05 
Vote Placed by Thorae 6 years ago
Thorae
lewis20bluesteelTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Vote Placed by SuperRobotWars 6 years ago
SuperRobotWars
lewis20bluesteelTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:05 
Vote Placed by m93samman 6 years ago
m93samman
lewis20bluesteelTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:15