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Thursday, August 1, 2013


Philosophical decision framework

Let’s consider one foundation for ethical decisions: the greatest good for the greatest number.” This is called Utilitarianism. It’s seen in extreme form in fascist and totalitarian governments. In these systems the state defines what the greater good is.

The Utilitarian approach can work well as a base for some personal decisions. For example, a Costa Mesa citizen can choose to redeem her recyclables. Or, she can carry her groceries in a reusable bag. She knows she’s doing something “for the good of all.”

Mandated doesn't work as well

The problems with Utilitarianism arise when it is used by agencies trying to wield power. Who should decide what is best for all?

We've all experienced “disinterest in service” from DMV personnel.  And some of us have tolerated the disdain of a few (always smiling) petty tyrants who are considering our request for their assistance at City Hall.  Our interests don’t happen to coincide with what they decide is best for the greater good. DMV and City staffs define “the best for the most” by virtue of their office.

Don't need no stinking office

Self-appointed experts don’t need the office; they just appoint themselves our caretakers. They already “know” what is best for us.

CM4OE* representatives are certain that we shouldn't face the dilemma of voting for or against a charter, so they delay, obstruct, and obscure (DOO) to block choices about a good charter.

Some of their minions are certain that we should overplant Fairview Park with “natural” bushes and grasses, so they repeat their demands over and over “for our own good.” Groups insist that we use no plastic bags “for our own good.” The “lay experts on everything” assure us that we need more -- or less -- housing density.

Don't tell the residents that. . .

Our “caretakers” try to keep different opinions and different options from being heard. They want to prevent us from supporting the “wrong” viewpoint.

If we let our government work, well-informed citizens will present their views, staff will do its studies, and our elected representatives will allocate resources. Then all will be served. That’s how representative government works when the power to govern is exerted by elected officials; they look after the interests of all of the citizens or they look for  new jobs. It is representative Utilitarianism in action.

Can destroy the City 

But Utilitarianism underlies a society’s failure if self-appointed “arbiters of what is good for all” can insure that their views are the only views considered. They block, redirect and overwhelm discussion – as prescribed by the Allinsky system. (Alinsky Rules) Their hubris limits our choices; their repetitive noise and rudeness drown out opposition.

What’s good for Costa Mesans should be defined by Costa Mesans directly -- through the ballot -- or through our elected representatives. We shouldn't be “guided” by the agendas of the complainers.  

Might not care about you 

Watch out for those who would “protect” you from charters and changes “for your own good.” They may not be as benevolent as they’d like you to believe. 

*CMOE is a term coined to refer to those who appear to be "Costa Mesans for Opposing Everything." (CM4OE) This is NOT a 501c organization -- send no donations!

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