The link between Utilitarianism and Democracy

Essay by seren1516High School, 11th gradeA-, September 2008

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What is the link between Utilitarianism and Democracy?

Utilitarianism (from the Latin utilis, useful) is a theory of ethics based on quantitative maximization of some good for society or humanity. It is a form of consequentialism. This good is often happiness or pleasure, though some utilitarian theories might seek to maximize other consequences. Utilitarianism is sometimes summarized as "The greatest happiness for the greatest number." Although it is a standalone theory of ethics, it bares a many similarities to the controversial an extremely popular concept of Democracy.

The literal meaning of the word "democracy" is "power of the people". In practice it usually means a method of decision making by a majority vote. In a democracy it is the will of the majority of the people that is supreme above the will of various minorities. Thus, for instance, if Jack and Jill are two prospective candidates for the Presidency, and 10 people take part in the elections, then, if 4 people vote for Jack and 6 for Jill, Jill will be elected President.

Although many people regard the two ideas as completely unrelated and independent concepts, it is not difficult to see the parallelism between them. For example, much like utilitarianism, democracy is a majority rule theorem. Also, when either of these philosophical ideas are put into practice upon making a decision, the outcome conclusion is the same.

For instance, in a democratic country, the country's leader is elected by a majority vote of that country's public. A utilitarianist would agree with and be in favor of this system, as the leader brings happiness to the larger number of/majority of people in the said country.

Hence, in a basic sense, both Utilitarianism and Democracy are mathematical conjectures. It may also even be said that one could not even really exist...