Ineptitude of Imposition

There has been an idea, for as long as people idolized men for their promising words, that people of the political class can somehow maximize the well-being of their constituents. It is this idea that results in the blind belief that the state is a necessity for us to reach a preferable society, but in actuality it is a waste of resources as it could never get us to a preferable society. The epistemological and practical issues affecting applied utilitarianism. Considering the desires(perceived outcomes that would provide the individual with more pleasure) of the populace are varied and practically unknowable end up making applied utilitarianism infeasible.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argumentation, there exists a government capable of knowing all the wants of their constituents. Since individuals want invariably different things(some may deem saving money for some future expense to be more preferable than paying for health insurance) these desires must be ranked in a matter of importance. This can be mathematically formulated as a set of various ordered pairs, where “D” is a set of desires, the first entry of the pair being being natural numbers with “1” signifying the most important desire, and the second entry of the pair being the desire.

D = {(1,a),(2,b),(3,c)…}

In the example above, the most important desire is “a”, second most important is “b”, third most importance “c”, and so on. Since there are limited means available to reach a certain amount of desires at a time, a central body must rank these desires itself. The most proper way of doing this would be to take the intersection of all sets, this is because it will effectively act as taking the mode of each desire per rank, and this is the only way of being able to form a new set of ranked importance since we are not dealing with quantitative variables. So take two possible sets:

D₁ = {(1,a),(2,b),(3,c)}

D₂ = {(1,a),(2,d),(3,e)}

If were to take the intersection of these two sets(D₁⋂D₂) it would result in a new set that we will refer to as “D𝓰”:

D𝓰 = {(1,a)}

Now this is a totally hypothetical set with no real backing, two people’s sets of desires may be very similar, or they may not. We can measure the similarity with this formula:

n(D₁⋂D₂) / n(D₁⋃D₂) = % similarity of desires in decimals

Using the two sets above, this formula would output “0.33” or “33%” similarity of the two sets of desires. However, knowing that governments set policy for a considerably large number of individuals, and that there are various cultures, subcultures, family cultures, and individual wants, we can assume that with a larger population and a more diverse culture a governing body would have a harder time implementing policy that can possibly make the people happier. We can calculate the percent similarity of this as well if we were to take the sets of desires of ALL people of a population, with the subscript “n” referring to the total number of people in the population. It would look like this:

n(D₁⋂D₂⋂D₃…⋂Dₙ) / n(D₁⋃D₂⋃D₃…⋃Dₙ) = % similarity of ALL desires of a population in decimals

Given that there is likely an invariably different number types of ends with different ranks for each individual, some individuals having ends others don’t, and that with a larger population the percent similarity seems like it would output a low similarity percentage. The rule here is, if the similarity is high then policies the government enacts based of the new proposed set of desires will produce an outcome that will maximize the happiness of its citizens, but if it were to have a low similarity then the policies the government enacts will produce dissatisfaction with its citizens as resources are being wasted on what only a small amount of people want. Now this presents an issue regarding effectively maximizing happiness, if the similarity of all desires seem to be low in a world where perfect knowledge is assumed, is it truly worth taking resources to put towards what the government now deems as important in a world where we don’t have perfect knowledge?

Since currently we do not live in a world were a central planner knows in real time all the intricate sets of desires of every single individual for whom they plan for, we cannot expect that the government will be able to do these formulae and find out how similar these sets of desires in order to produce policy that will maximize the happiness of the population. It can simply be argued by a politician that the people popularly desire healthcare paid for by the government and the government should pool resources in order to pay the cost of this healthcare, however, what is not apparent is how important this healthcare is in comparison to other wants. Since the knowledge of this importance is not there the central planner, if it truly wanted to maximize happiness, ought not take resources to put towards the healthcare as doing so can produce unknowable effects. It is as if a central planner is willingly jumping into an abyss where he can not see the bottom but assumes he will land safely because others told him he will.

Furthermore, desires are not static. If I were to feel thirsty and then subsequently drink water is it likely I still desire water? Probably not, the feeling of uneasiness produced by being thirsty have stopped, and since the desire to get rid of the thirstiness has gone possessing water is not desired. So even if at a point the central planner had somehow came across a way to maximize happiness at a particular time it would need to know the change of people’s desires in real time which is not possible either.

Central planners simply lack the ability to maximize happiness. People see the government as this powerful force, but in reality it can not provide for what the people demand of it. If you wish to be happy you must will it into existence with your own action; The actions of a central planner will never produce the happiness the people desire.