The real issue is not “what is the nature of good” as utilitarians pretend. The real issue is: Are rights a discovery by individuals that enable them to get along peaceably with other individuals, or are they a creation of a supreme being such as a reified society or reified state, that imposes peace on a vicious multitude with no inherent knowledge of good and evil, thus forcing on them the peace that slaves of a common master possess.
“Society” does not exist, rights do exist, not as arbitrary fiats of the state as the utilitarians claim, but inherently as a result of the nature of man. No conflict exists between civil order and individual rights. Both concepts are based on the same fundamental principles.
Whether Mill's claims about the importance of secondary principlesimply rule utilitarianism depends, in part, on whether he wants todefine right action in terms of the best set of secondary principles orwhether they are just a reliable way of doing what is in fact best. Ifhe defines right action in terms of conformity with principles withoptimal acceptance value, then he is a rule utilitarian. But if theright action is the best action, and secondary principles are just areliable (though imperfect) way of identifying what is best, then Millis an act utilitarian. Mill appears to address this issue in twoplaces. In Chapter II of Utilitarianism Mill appears tosuggest that in the case of abstinences or taboos the ground of theobligation in particular cases is the beneficial character of the tabooconsidered as a class (II 19). But in a letter to John Venn Mill claimsthat the moral status of an individual action depends on the utility ofits consequences; considerations about the utility of a general classof actions are just defeasible evidence about what is true inparticular cases (CW XVII: 1881). Unfortunately, naturalreadings of the two passages point in opposite directions on thisissue, and each passage admits of alternative readings.
Mill's utilitarian justification of secondary principles is intendedas a contrast with the intuitionism of William Whewell and others. Ashe makes clear in his essay “Whewell on MoralPhilosophy”(CW X), Mill thinks that the intuitionistwrongly treats familiar moral precepts as ultimate moral factors whosejustification is supposed to be self-evident. By contrast, Mill'saccount of secondary principles recognizes their importance in moralreasoning but insists that they are neither innate nor infallible; theyare precepts that have been adopted and internalized because of theiracceptance value, and their continued use should be suitably regulatedby their ongoing comparative acceptance value. Far from underminingutilitarian first principles, Mill thinks, appeal to the importance ofsuch moral principles actually provides support for utilitarianism.
As a result of this false idea, in the third world and in the former soviet empire, a number of governments have collapsed or are close to collapse. Leviathan derives his cohesion from civil society, Without a strong civil society the police, the army, the bureaucracy and the judiciary tend to dissolve into a mob of individual thieves and hoodlums, each grabbing whatever he can, and destroying whatever he cannot. It is civil society that holds the state together. The state does not hold civil society together. Civil society is not a creation of the state. The state is a creation of civil society.
In order to argue that Stalin's analysis of utility was incorrect, utilitarians find themselves rationalizing that the Soviet Union failed because of economic errors. But this is plainly false. The Soviet Union did not lose cohesion because of economic errors. Loss of cohesion came first, economic problems came later. It suffered economic stagnation as a result of loss of social cohesion.
Stalin tried simple utilitarianism until 1921, meta rule based utilitarianism from 1921 to 1928 and rule based utilitarianism from 1928 onwards. The problem was not errors specific to Marxism, as non Marxist socialists argue. Nor was it errors specific to socialism, as non socialist utilitarians argue. The problem was the basic assumption that the state could pursue good ends by force and coercion. In the social fabric, means are ends.
Similar, though less extreme, events have occurred throughout the vast majority of the third world. Cambodia was merely the most monstrous of these of these events, but there have been many others, smaller in scale but equal in horror and depravity. In countries where people live close to hunger, most of the third world, state intervention to improve people lives has invariably resulted in mass starvation, these catastrophes being most photogenic in Africa. This mass starvation has often resulted in resistance the these benefits and improvements, which has resulted in extraordinarily brutal terror and torture, to extort continued submission to government aid. Especially entertaining is the suffering of the unfortunate recipients of government to government aid. One notable example is the World Bank resettlement program in Ethiopia, where hundreds of thousands of people who failed to appreciate the generous aid their Marxist government provided them were resettled in extermination camps built by the World Bank, and shipped to those camps in cattle trucks supplied by the World Bank (Bandow, Bovard, Keyes). Another amusing example of your taxes at work providing the greatest good for the greatest number was the World Bank's Akosombo dam project (Bovard, Lappe 35 37). Most attempts to determine the greatest good for the greatest number have had similar outcomes, it is just that in affluent societies the consequences are less flagrant, less brutally obvious. In a poor society an attempt to provide the greatest good for the greatest number usually results in starvation, death, torture, and maiming. In an affluent society it merely produces poverty, fatherless children, homelessness, street crime, and discreet police violence.
It is natural to group these four considerations into two mainkinds: the first two invoke a truth-tracking defense of expressiveliberties, while the second two appeal to a distinctive kind of valuethat free discussion is supposed to have.
We need to ask if Mill is able to reconcile his defense of utilityand liberty without compromising either his utilitarianism or hisdefense of a right to liberties.
Whether a government consciously intends to destroy free enterprise or not, free enterprise cannot survive the destruction of the rule of law by the state, as Hayek pointed out. The rule of law is not merely a matter of the government applying its own rules in a consistent manner to all its subjects, as Stalin did in the great terror. The rule of law is not rule based utilitarianism, it is fundamentally incompatible with any form of utilitarianism. The concept of the rule of law is inexpressible in utilitarian speak, and is meaningless within the utilitarian philosophy.