It's never utilitarianism versus libertarianism
As the Covid interventions illustrate
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The Covid debate might mistakenly be couched as utilitarians VS libertarians. These are classic political-philosophical debates: Do we respect civil liberties and accept greater overall harm? Or do we violate civil liberties and promote the general welfare?
While that’s a common way to frame it, in reality, many or most utilitarian policies fail to promote the general welfare. Usually, they violate civil liberties AND cause great harm.
…and we have to look no further than the last two years of Covid interventions to see examples. Lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures, mask and vaccine mandates violated civil liberties in spades, and led to dramatic worldwide harms. Yes, even vaccine mandates, which led to millions losing their jobs and/or banished from public life, and troves of damaging side effects for a disease of low risk to most.
Why are utilitarians so bad at doing utilitarianism?
Top-down, centralized plans are almost always stupid, at the best of times. Decentralized solutions are what work.
Centralized solutions come about via folks with special interests, biasing the policies and ensuring they don’t work.
And centralized interventions are often due to group think and — key for Covid — collective hysteria, where the drive to do them isn’t ultimately scientific, but a morally righteous “must.”
The debate is almost never in fact utilitarianism versus libertarian. The utilitarian interventions are almost invariably recipes for harm.