We often hear people say that the “greater good” is more important than protecting the individual. This line of thinking has been used to promote public policies that put the collective good ahead of individual needs.
Utilitarianism: A belief that any action is good so long as it helps the majority, or the most amount, of people
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Emma.
Emma: Hi, Brittany.
Brittany: Today I wanna talk about something that, you know, might sound good in theory when you hear it, might sound all fluffy and, you know, wonderful, kinda like quotes, like, all you need is Love and things like that. And then you realize that that’s not true at all. I mean, love’s great, but you know, World Peace is a lot harder than that as any of our foreign policy episodes will show. Oh, yes. but the thing I wanna talk about is actually a huge threat to the individual. and it’s this thing called The Greater Good, this concept called The Greater Good. So for starters, the greater good is this belief that what is best for, you know, the group is more important than what is best for the individual. And as you can probably guess from this description, this plays into the hands of, you know, this communist and socialist ideology and these beliefs that, you know, individuals don’t matter. That the individuals, not even that they don’t matter, but that an individual is a threat to this. And I’m saying this in scare court, it’s the greater good again. So this belief though, the problem with this is that it’s helped shape a lot of policies that are really harmful to individuals. And it’s not just like foreign, like when we think about communism, socialism, even though we’ve talked about AOC and, Bernie Sanders, and we know that these are threats here, you know when we hear a lot of these scary policies, we think maybe like Russia or the Soviet Union back when that was a thing or places like that. But the Greater Good has been used in a lot of really terrible ways here. So Emma, can you think of some ways this concept of the Greater Good has impacted public policies here in America?
Emma: Totally. So the first one that comes to mind is just taxes. Yeah. A lot of times the greater good is the reason that politicians give us when they levy taxes and force us to give them our money. And, you know, it sounds really nice, and a lot of times the things that they’re saying sound fine enough. But we know the government when you follow the money, a lot of the times the money that they take from you doesn’t even go to those things. Yep. Or they’ll go to things where, oh, they say this is for the greater good, but then it actually is something that violates people’s individual rights or it violates.
Brittany: Well, it kinda reminds me of, sorry, sorry. Real quick. No, that’s good. Department of Education, we give so much education and only 10 cents of every dollar that taxes give to like the federal Oh. It goes to pay people’s salaries. Like administrative fees.
Emma: Exactly. Crazy. And, the crazy thing is too, the, you know, the taxes, it’s, they don’t even tell us how much they want us to give them. And if you get the amount wrong, then you’re a criminal. And it’s crazy what they do in the name of the Greater Good. Healthcare is another really big one. Obamacare, Medicare, whatever you wanna call it. basically, this idea is that everybody should help pay for everybody else’s healthcare. And that had a ton of really bad backfiring effects. My own grandparent’s healthcare costs went up. They doubled basically. Oh, that’s terrible. Overnight when, when Obamacare went through. So there are real effects to these things. And it doesn’t matter what your intentions are with these policies, it’s all about the outcomes and it’s about what actually happens and what the facts are. And another one that comes to mind, the big thing when you’re talking about the greater good, and if anyone listening has started to study American history, you’ve probably heard about this here or there is the New Deal. And The New Deal is something that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR for short, he pushed through after the Great Depression. Yes. And basically, it was this giant government program. And the whole point of this thing was all about the greater good. It was all about let’s help people. He had his three R’s, they were relief and reform recovery, which actually sounds a lot like the COVID stimulus stuff that we’ve been seeing cuz it’s basically the same thing. But he came up with all these programs and we’re gonna have people build all these bridges and roads where no one’s driving just to have them there. And funny enough, I grew up in Oregon and there is a whole area where during the New Deal, people were building these roads through the mountains for no apparent reason.
Brittany: It is what anyone does now, I think.
Emma: Well they do now, but it’s, back then there was hardly anyone there. So there’s actually a town called Government Camp, and it’s still just this tiny, really tiny little town Yeah. At the base of Mount Hood. I just drove through it this weekend. But it’s, crazy the things that the government will push through in the name of the greater Good. And a lot of people when the government says that they’re, they’re like, well, yes, of course. Like, I’m happy to give you my money, go ahead and help people. But it’s not that simple because there’s not a lot of accountability with where our taxes go, how they’re spent. And again, you know, the New Deal basically set up, a whole era of government intervention in our lives. And it’s, crazy to think of all the things that have happened in the name of the greater good and in the name of helping people, but actually, actually doesn’t do anything even in that realm.
Brittany: Yeah. It actually reminds me of war. Right. And we’ve talked about war a lot recently on this show, and for good reason, because if everything and again, we record these in advance, so hopefully by the time we listen to this, you know, the Afghanistan crisis will be solved. But I know it won’t be because it’s been 20 years since the last one. So, you know, there’s a reason to talk about war right now. And, you know, it’s, war to me is one of the most explicit examples of this greater good cuz of war. It’s always made to seem like, you know, we need to go and, kill all these people to protect. You know, Americans as a whole, we need to keep us safe. In reality, what’s happening is we are sending individuals out to die under this false premise. Yeah. Or this false reasoning that, by them sacrificing their lives, they’re protecting the whole country and keeping people safe, and in reality people are risking their lives so that the government can prove some sort of point or Yeah. Or get whatever, you know, whatever their aim is. So it’s, very scary to me. So whenever someone is out to promote this greater good, you know, they’re really just trying to promote some sort of, you know, collective good or collective will over individuals.
Emma: Absolutely. And I wanna go back to the war thing that you mentioned too. It’s not just the greater good of our country that the government says we should care about. It’s not even, well, we need to do this to protect ourselves. We need to do this to protect our freedoms, which is the big one that they always say.
Brittany: Yes, we hear that a lot.
Emma: It’s, the greater good of the entire world, which is crazy because how on earth could we as one country engineer the greater good in on an entire planet? It’s such a crazy, it’s, a vain idea that we can go out and do that and make that happen. Yet people still totally buy into it. And even in Afghanistan, there’s people saying, well, we need to stay and make sure that there’s democracy and make sure that there’s freedom there. But the simple fact is that we can’t control those things. And for us to be out trying to manipulate the greater good in other places, in other countries where we’re not even welcomed, that is really, really crazy. So, this belief that the greater good goes along with something called utilitarianism. And that’s a really big word, so we’ll unpack it a little bit. But basically, utilitarianism is the principle that beliefs and actions are right, if they’re helpful and if they benefit the majority. So basically, so long as an idea will help the majority of people, it’s the right path to take. But this can be used to justify just about anything so long as it’s believed that the majority of people are going to benefit. And we’ve said the quote before, that democracy is to wolves in a sheep arguing over what’s for dinner. And this is the exact same thing. It’s this idea that you know if the ends justify the means, we don’t need to care about individual liberties. The government is just gonna decide what’s best and just make it happen. So it’s pretty crazy.
Brittany: Oh, I, completely agree. And so basically, you know, our country, not basically our country does have a very, I can’t even speak today, individualism, you know, individualistic foundation. And that basically says that one person shouldn’t be sacrificed to save the money. And I apologize, this is gonna be kind of a brutal example, but, you know, imagine a doctor killing one person in order to use that person’s organs to save five people’s lives. Again, that’s a very extreme example, but you know, you could, you’d think on face value, you’re like, no, that’s not right. You wouldn’t take a person’s life. But there are people out there who believe this, who would say no, because if this one person is gonna save the lives of five people Yeah. Then yeah, go ahead and kill ’em and save five people. But the life, no, to clarify, that doesn’t mean these five people are any less important than the one individual person. right? But one person should never be sacrificed for, you know, the pure purpose of saving the many. And I’m saving that in quotes, you know, the majority of people. Yeah. And at its core, this is the problem of the greater good because it’s really in opposition to individualism. And, you know, we talk about over and over again on this podcast, I think one of the major themes is what a problem collectivist collectivism is. And this is at its main core a collectivism problem. Another thing I wanna point out, and I think Connor and I are doing a whole episode on this, but there’s a problem in our constitution that gets, misinterpreted because there’s a line that is the general welfare clause. Yeah. And it says, you know, for the general welfare, the people and a of people on the left have used that to say, oh, a greater good. So things like Obamacare have been justified. Oh, but you’re saying, you know, general welfare that literally means for the greater good of people. And if you take that for what that means, then that means you can justify anything. You can justify literally anything, taking anything from anybody. Because once you’ve crossed that line, then everyone gets healthcare. Everyone gets food. Yeah. Everyone gets, you know, we’ve talked about universal basic incomes where the government would give you a certain amount of money just to live, you know, every month forgetting that that money comes from someone. So there’s a lot of really, really big concern from this. And, you know, I think Connor and I just talked about tyrants and we talked about Hitler and, we’re, you know, we’re about to get into some pretty deep, episodes on into World War II and the Holocaust. and to me, that’s another greater good argument. These dictators always become powerful by telling people that to be safe, to achieve the, you know, this end goal, they have to worry about the majority of people and then get rid of the individuals who are causing problems. So the greater good is very scary. Emma, do you have anything else to add?
Emma: Yeah, absolutely. I think the greater good is the main argument behind all of the terrible things that have happened in the past year and a half with COVID. where people were saying, well, you need to shut down your businesses for the greater good. You need to stop going to your job for the greater good. You know, stop, stop earning your paycheck to feed your family for the greater good. And there were all of these things, you know, wear your mask, get the vaccine, whatever. And rather than appealing to people’s self-interest and appealing to people’s need to provide for their families need to look out for their best interests. The government just tried to convince all of us that we should just, you know, operate on the greater good and just make that the ultimate value. But at the end of the day, people, it’s good when people are looking out for themselves because our interests are not, it’s not like if Emma succeeds, Britney has to fail. It’s, you know, with us, us looking out for ourselves is a good thing because it means we don’t need the government to take care of us, and we don’t need the government to take other people’s money away to take care of us. And what’s happened through COVID is people have basically been brainwashed to think that they can’t look out for themselves. They can’t, you know, look after their own health and make their own decisions without totally violating the greater good. And that’s the really crazy thing, is that it’s such a tool and it’s a wedge that’s used to get people to comply with what the government wants them to do, without thinking for themselves. So we’re, gonna talk soon about critical thinking and what that means, but, yeah, I think this idea of the greater good is used a lot of times as a tool of dissection with the government.
Brittany: That’s, we’ve seen this with COVID too. I didn’t even think of the most obvious example, which is, you know, if, you don’t get vaccinated, you’re trying to kill my grandma, things like that. It’s very, very much this mindset of the greater good.
Emma: Yeah, exactly. So it’s, crazy just to see like how people have been demonized for looking out for, you know, their own interests and what their own beliefs are. because people say, well, you just want people to die. You just want us to be in lockdown forever. And, it comes ultimately from this greater good argument that, you know, if you care about yourself more than you care about the greater good, you’re some evil person. And that’s just not true. but that, that lie, I don’t think is gonna go anywhere. No. You know, COVID is gonna phase out eventually. Hopefully.
Brittany: I, you know what, at this point, I don’t even know.
Emma: Yeah. And, then it will be something else. And it will be another reason for people to try to, you know, control the way you live and it’s all gonna be the greater good. And you don’t want, you wanna keep people safe and you wanna care about people’s welfare, but at the end of the day, you know, looking out for yourself is actually doing a surface to the world because you’re making sure that no one else needs to come in and take care of you. So, there are all kinds of things we could go into with this, but we’re gonna wrap it up here for today. do we have anything in the show notes about this? I feel like we could, we could maybe put in like a video or an article or something.
Brittany: Yeah, we might be able to find something to see if there’s something relevant. And then a guest stay tuned for our future episode. We’re gonna talk more about like the welfare clause and how that ties into all this. So we’ll dive into some more stuff too.
Emma: Awesome. Great. Well, thank you Brittany for chatting with me. We will talk to you all again soon.
Brittany: Talk to you later