A tale of impossible choices

10 March 2020

This is a tale of impossible choices.  Every now and then an item comes up for decision at Council that leaves you feeling highly conflicted over what decision to make.   

How do you decide what is in the best interests of the community when opinions in the community are divided?  How do you prioritise the competing claims? Do you switch off your emotions?  Should you switch off your emotions?  It’s a bit like being in a philosophy class trying to discern the meaning of life.  The beauty of those classes for me was also my eternal frustration - the question of the meaning of life was never resolved.  No such luck when it comes to making council decisions - there must always be a resolution.

My young impressionable mind was influenced early when I began reading the works of Jeremy Bentham.  British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer, Bentham is best known as an early advocate of utilitarianism.  Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that determines right from wrong by focusing on outcomes. Utilitarianism holds that the most ethical choice is the one that will produce the greatest good for the greatest number.  It is commonly referred to as the “Greater Good” theory.

The Greater Good has been called the politician’s dodge by some, and by others it is the decision that most people know is right but refuse to accept – sacrifice one for the good of the many.  Although my thinking has expanded beyond utilitarianism, this month felt like one of those dilemmas of the greater good.

So I invite you to put yourselves in the shoes of the decision-makers and feel the dilemma up close.  Sacrifice one for benefit of the many, or save one and sacrifice the many?  How would you choose? 

Mayor Karen Vernon