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  • last time we argued about

  • the case of the Queen verses Dudley and Stephens

  • the lifeboat case, the case of cannibalism at sea

  • and with the arguments about

  • the lifeboat

  • in mind the arguments for and against what Dudley and Stephens did in mind,

  • let's turn back to the

  • philosophy

  • the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham

  • Bentham was born in England in 1748, at the age of twelve

  • he went to Oxford, at fifteen he went to law school

  • he was admitted to the bar at age nineteen but he never practiced law,

  • instead he devoted his life

  • to jurisprudence and moral

  • philosophy.

  • last time we began to consider Bentham's version of utilitarianism

  • the main idea

  • is simply stated and it's this,

  • the highest principle of morality

  • whether personal or political morality

  • is

  • to maximize

  • the general welfare

  • or the collective happiness

  • or the overall balance of pleasure over pain

  • in a phrase

  • maximize

  • utility

  • Bentham arrives at this principle by the following line of reasoning

  • we're all governed by pain and pleasure

  • they are our sovereign masters and so any moral system has to take account of them.

  • How best to take account?

  • By maximizing

  • and this leads to the principle

  • of the greatest good for the greatest number

  • what exactly should we maximize?

  • Bentham tells us

  • happiness

  • or more precisely

  • utility.

  • Maximizing utility is a principal not only for individuals but also for communities and

  • for legislators

  • what after all is a community

  • Bentham asks,

  • it's the sum of the individuals who comprise it

  • and that's why

  • in deciding the best policy, in deciding what the law should be, in deciding what's just,

  • citizens and legislators should ask themselves the question if we add up,

  • all of the benefits of this policy

  • and subtract

  • all of the costs,

  • the right thing to do

  • is the one

  • that maximizes

  • the balance

  • of happiness

  • over suffering.

  • that's what it means to maximize utility

  • now, today

  • I want to see

  • whether you agree or disagree with it,

  • and it often goes, this utilitarian logic, under the name of cost-benefit analysis

  • which is used by companies

  • and by

  • governments

  • all the time

  • and what it involves

  • is placing a value usually a dollar value to stand for utility

  • on the costs and the benefits

  • of various proposals.

  • recently in the Czech Republic

  • there was a proposal to increases the excise tax on smoking

  • Philip Morris,

  • the tobacco company,

  • does huge business

  • in the Czech Republic. They commissioned

  • a study of cost-benefit analysis

  • of smoking

  • in the Czech Republic

  • and what their cost benefit

  • analysis found

  • was

  • the government gains

  • by

  • having Czech citizens smoke.

  • Now, how do they gain?

  • It's true that there are negative effects

  • to the public finance of the Czech government

  • because there are increased health care costs for people who develop smoking-related

  • diseases

  • on the other hand there were positive effects

  • and those were

  • added up

  • on the other side of the ledger

  • the positive effects included, for the most part, various tax revenues that the government

  • derives from the sale of cigarette products but it also included health care savings to

  • the government when people die early

  • pensions savings, you don't have to pay pensions for as long,

  • and also savings

  • in housing costs for the elderly

  • and when all of the costs and benefits were added up

  • the Philip Morris

  • study found

  • that there is a net public finance gain in the Czech Republic

  • of a hundred and forty seven million dollars

  • and given the savings

  • in housing and health care and pension costs

  • the government enjoys the saving of savings of over twelve hundred dollars

  • for each person who dies prematurely due to smoking.

  • cost-benefit analysis

  • now, those among you who are defenders utilitarianism may think that this is a unfair

  • test

  • Philip Morris was pilloried in the press and they issued an apology for this heartless

  • calculation

  • you may say

  • that what's missing here is something that the utilitarian can be easily incorporate

  • mainly

  • the value to the person and to the families of those who die

  • from lung cancer.

  • what about the value of life?

  • Some cost-benefit analyses incorporate

  • a measure

  • for the value of life.

  • One of the most famous of these involved the Ford Pinto case

  • did any of you read about that? this was back in the 1970's, you remember that

  • the Ford Pinto was, a kind of car?

  • anybody?

  • it was a small car, subcompact car, very popular

  • but it had one

  • problem which is the fuel tank was at the back of the car

  • and in rear collisions the fuel tank exploded

  • and some people were killed

  • and some severely injured.

  • victims of these injuries took Ford to court to sue

  • and in the court case it turned out

  • that Ford had long

  • since known

  • about the vulnerable fuel tank

  • and had done a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it would be worth it

  • to put in a special shield

  • that would protect the fuel tank and prevent it from exploding.

  • They did a cost benefit analysis

  • the cost per part

  • to increase the safety

  • of the Pinto,

  • they calculated at eleven dollars per part

  • and here's,

  • this was the cost benefit analysis that emerged

  • in the trial,

  • eleven dollars per part

  • at 12.5 million cars and trucks

  • came to a total cost of

  • 137 million dollars to improve the safety

  • but then they calculated

  • the benefits

  • of spending all this money on a safer car

  • and they counted 180 deaths

  • and they assigned a dollar value

  • 200 thousand dollars

  • per death

  • 180 injuries

  • 67 thousand

  • and then the cost to repair

  • the replacement cost for two thousand vehicles that would be destroyed without the

  • safety device

  • 700 dollars per vehicle,

  • so the benefits

  • turned out to be only 49.5 million,

  • and so they

  • didn't install

  • the device

  • needless to say

  • when this memo

  • of the Ford Motor Company's cost-benefit analysis came out in the trial

  • it appalled the jurors

  • who awarded a huge settlement

  • is this a counter example to the utilitarian idea of calculating

  • because Ford included a

  • measure of the value life.