Utilitarianism Is Not ‘The American Way’

Date: 03/15/2002

Echoing 19th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve insisted at [the March 5th, 2002] Senate hearing on human cloning, “Our government is supposed to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people” (“Reeve touts cloning to Senate,” March 6). He encouraged hesitant senators to allow, in the name of utility, the cloning and killing of living human embryos to harvest their stem cells.

Sadly, Mr. Reeve did not seem to grasp the grim irony that severely disabled individuals like himself would hardly fare well in the utilitarian calculus of anticipated benefit for the most people. If public policy truly were reduced to “the greatest good for the greatest number,” racism and exploitation would flourish, eugenics would rule, and the fittest and favored would be released once and for all from the burden of those perceived as useless.

(published March 8, 2002 in The Washington Times