"Give us a guide," cry men to the philosopher. "We would escape from these miseries in which we are entangled. A better state is ever present to our imaginations, and we yearn after it; but all our efforts to realize it are fruitless. We are weary of perpetual failures; tell us by what rule we may attain our desire."Read on...
"Whatever is expedient is right;" is one of the last of the many replies to this appeal.
"True," rejoin some of the applicants. "With the Deity right and expedient are doubtless convertible terms. For us, however, there remains the question – which is the antecedent, and which is the consequent? Granting your assumption that right is the unknown quantity and expediency the known one, your formula may be serviceable. But we deny your premises; a painful experience has proved the two to be equally indeterminate. Nay, we begin to suspect that the right is the more easily ascertained of the two; and that your maxim would be better if transposed into – whatever is right is expedient."
Thursday, 31 March 2011
In the course of Murray Rothbard's scathing critique of Jeremy Bentham and utilitarianism (found here, chapter 2), my attention is drawn to Herbert Spencer's comments on the same subject, found in 'Social Statics':