There are those who believe we have a moral obligation to donate a substantial part of our wealth to foreign aid if the net utility of doing so is maximized. Thus we should give away (say) 10% of our wealth to charity, even if we are not well off by local standards. If this means sacrificing the quality of our children’s education, then so be it—the world will be better overall. And the morality of the charity will be better if the sacrifice is greater, up to the point of equality of utility between giver and receiver. But let us consider an extreme case: a lot more of our wealth will be available for utility maximization if we simply do away with our children, because then we can send all the money that would have been spent on them to people in foreign lands. They will be made happier by doing so, though admittedly your child will not be. In fact your child won’t be unhappy at all because he or she will no longer exist. So you will have increased the amount of happiness in the world by not spending the money on your child. Come to think of it you need not limit your generosity to doing away with your (expensive) child; you could also sacrifice your spouse. That would really free up a lot of money for happiness-increasing charitable donations. Admittedly, your spouse and child will now be dead and you will be utterly miserable, but you can console yourself that other people have benefitted hugely from your generosity. You have done the right thing! Your conscience is clear—in fact, it is radiant. Does anything think this is a reasonable (or even sane) way to act? Wouldn’t it be downright evil?
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!