Utilitarian Case Study

Hello Everyone, the following is a case study I had to do for my ethics class about utilitarianism. I had to relate it to this article: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/111009/Timestwo/int012.html Enjoy!

                  Utilitarian Case Study

Part 1: Summary of the Case Study/Article

                                                    In the article, Naomi Wolf looks at the treatment of women in the poorest countries, or what she has named Planet Worst.  She starts off by explaining how these women are treated. For example, Wolf says how in Chad women have pretty much have no legal rights.  As a result of this oppression of women, these poor countries are responsible for their own poverty, according to the article. As the article proceeds, it talks about how educating women and allowing them rights boosts an economy.  It concludes by saying that the poor countries would rather of the social aspect of treating women badly than face what it is doing to their country economically. In conclusion, the article is mainly talking about how the treatment of women in these poor countries is a moral issue and that it is also having a major role in causing the poverty and poorness of these financially challenged countries.


Part 2: Summary of Utilitarian theory (per John Stuart Mill)

The basic definition of Utilitarianism, to both John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, is to maximize pleasure, minimize pain. However, John Stuart Mill takes a more humane approach to Utilitarianism, he’s more concerned with individual rights. He believes protecting the rights of the individual promotes and strengths utility over time. Basically, it is a better decision in the long run instead of a benefitally short-term decision. Unlike Bentham, who just uses a quantitative analysis, Mill uses both a quantitive and qualitive analyses to analyze the utility of a situation. Also, Mill strongly believes that we, as human beings, are progressive beings. And as these progressive beings if we are educated properly and very well cultivated we can begin to identify individual interest with more of the individuals in our society. What this means is that, as the individual interests within the society start to become the same between each individual then the pleasures would become higher. Finally, as a part of Mill’s quanitive analyses of utility, he uses the Cost Benefit Analysis, which is a financial calculation that measures utility.


Part 3: Bullet Point List of the Aspects

  • Women in some poorer countries have on legal rights
  • Oppression of women tends to be cast of empathy-shouldn’t follow policies because they aren’t right
  • When poor countries choose to oppress women, they are to some extent there own continued poverty
  • Female oppression is a moral issue; also must be seen as choice that countries make for short-term “cultural comfort” at expense of long term economic and social progress
  • Widespread hunger, illiteracy, lack of property or legal recourse is a major factor in their current poverty
  • Educating women boosts economic prosperity; educated, pushy mothers make all the difference.



Part 4: Discussion

The first important point here is that in poorer countries the women have little to no legal rights. According to Mill, this is a major violation because each individual has rights. Therefore, I would apply Mill’s thinking with individual rights to these women in the poorer countries, giving them the legal rights they are all entitled to as an individual. However the problem with this is that it would be hard to change the customs of those countries since these customs have been in place for a long time.

The next important fact to discuss is that when these countries oppress women, they are to some extent responsible for there own poverty.  This can go back to the Cost Benefit Analysis part of Utilitarianism.  If the women in these countries had the right to work and make money, the entire countries economy would increase. Because of this, the financial status of the country would go up in happiness and decrease its pain, which is the definition of Utilitarianism. However the problem with this is a countries stubbornness to change. More then that though, it could become a moral issue within itself to ask these countries to change because it would violate their rights.

The oppression of women must be seen as choice that countries make for short-term “cultural comfort” at expense of long term economic and social progress. This shows a weakness in the Utilitarian theory that is known as time horizon. The people in the poorer countries of the poorer countries aren’t thinking of the long-term economical state when they are oppressing women, they are only thinking of their short-term social ideals. To counterattack this, the best way to do that is by to have the richer countries shows the other countries the benefits of educated and rightful women. In the article, Hilary Clinton said it best “The world needs to think more strategically and creatively about tapping into women’s potential for growth”. However the problem with trying to led by example is that once the poorer countries have these oppressive ideals in their head, its hard to show them the benefits of our way because they have become stuck on these ideals.

The final point of discussion is educated women boost economical prosperity. According to Mill, we are progressive beings. And as progressive beings we should all be educated and cultivated. That will help society to maximize its pleasure and reduce its pain. So therefore, the women in the poorer countries should be educated so that they can maximize their happiness. However, the problem here is that they countries would need to be willing to sacrifice with their short-term happiness for there long term overall happiness and pleasure.


Part 5: Conclusion

Through the discussion above, all of the information from the article, and the ideas of the Utilitarian theory proposed by Mill the ethical reason that I have developed is that it is ethically wrong what the poorer countries are doing. It’s not just because I think its wrong to oppress women and not give them rights, I also agree that they aren’t thinking of their long term happiness and success, in both their social and economical states.


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