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Fausto Corvino

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Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies

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Fausto Corvino

Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies

Cosmopolitan Utilitarianism and the Problem of Local Inaction in a Globalized World

Abstract: This article explores the problem of the public acceptability of political inaction as an extreme consequence of cosmopolitan utilitarianism. The case of political inaction as the utility-maximizing public policy option emerges more clearly in the globalized world, because of a misalignment between the electoral body and the persons that the government ought to consider while evaluating the consequences of a given policy. In this context, a situation can easily occur in which the only way to maximize utility in a global context is by renouncing action at the national or local level. However, the problem of inaction should not be interpreted simply as a by-product of globalization. Its origins can be traced to the basic structure of utilitarianism as a normative consequentialist theory. This drawback can even present itself at the local level in a less visible form. One example is that in which the performance of a supererogatory act in the exercise of public office leads to a reduction in overall utility. The aim of the article is to demonstrate that cosmopolitan utilitarianism can bind the decision maker to a series of inactions at the global and local levels that contradict his own mandate, generating a dangerous moral confusion in the implementation of public policies. This can seriously threaten the universal applicability of cosmopolitan utilitarianism as a normative political theory, especially in the age of globalization.

 

Keywords:  cosmopolitanism, utilitarianism, inaction, local