Jeff Smith 8 p.m., Aug. 30
- Community Blog
- Encanto Gas Holder
On the Utilitarian Calculus of Ideal Democracy in America
In America, the utilitarian calculus of an ideal democracy is that each person gets one vote on any matter of importance that requires us to vote on it, and after the vote, the majority rules.
We are not living in an ideal democracy.
In the field of mathematical logic, the concept of an ideal can be summed up as the smallest collection of truths that describe the object that one may wish to describe. The initial statement above of what the utilitarian calculus ideally is also happens to be an ideal in its own right: a relatively simple statement that each person gets one vote on any matter of importance that requires us to vote on it, and the majority rules.
The reason why we do not live in an ideal democracy is that there are persons who cannot vote because they are artificial persons. Generally these artificial persons are known as corporations with the ability to own property and to have an interest in profits but without the ability to vote. Two examples of local corporations who don't vote -- but always manage find the money to make campaign or other political contributions, hire lobbyists in Sacramento with visually attractive assets, run daily ads for strictly for name recognition, or pay for other political things far in excess of what most real people can do within their own personal budgets -- are San Diego Gas and Electric Company and Sempra Energy.
Some of us are convinced that these two persons under the law are actually one and the same with altered egos, but that's the topic of other blogs, not this one.
Utilitarianism is an ancient philosophy, meaning that it was around even before the United States became the United States, even as it was the universal legal-philosophical presumption of every last one of our Founding Fathers. The utilitarian calculus was not merely the result of the Revolutionary War; it was the reason fighting the Revolutionary War was worth losing one's life for in the first place. The simple form for deciding if something is ethical in a utilitarian way is to ask oneself if one is doing something that provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people. When most people in a given sovereign state act without calculating in a utilitarian way, then recent history since World War II tells us that is when the rule of law in unstable democracies can give way to the rule of whim by junta or dictatorship.
My argument is that when issues involve the public safety of persons who can vote and of their property, then under the utilitarian calculus of each person getting a vote, any person without the ability to vote does not count, or at least counts for something less than any individual person with a vote. This makes sense especially whenever the non-voting artificial person also happens to be getting a lot of money every quarter out of all of us, real people who can vote but generally have no idea that voting can actually get back some of that massive mound of outgoing money for our common police protection, fire fighting services, parks, libraries, and other civic-minded needful things.
I am hoping that the upcoming State of the City address includes the way to raise the necessary funds for all of those civic-minded needful things that the voters are looking for from our mayor and city council, but in case I don't hear anything, there is an alternate plan in preparation right now, waiting to be blogged by next Monday.
More like this:
- Removing Confusion, Promoting Democracy — May 15, 2012
- Occupy San Diego Remains at Civic Center, Modifies Consensus Process - At Least 26 Tijuana Occupiers Arrested — Oct. 18, 2011
- A Definition of 'Ethic' — Sept. 1, 2010
- The Ethics of PG&E and Possible Passage of Proposition 16 — May 21, 2010
- Last Wishes — Jan. 9, 2010