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Analysis of Economic Inequality Within Mill’s Utilitarian Theory

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Economic inequality is a political problem as it is the outcome of ineffective governance of a capitalistic institutional mechanism that has led to an unequal distribution of wealth. With capitalism placing emphasis on profit, the production of wealth has been more prioritized over the distribution. However, this mechanism outcome was due to the government’s neglection of considering the best distribution of wealth despite their duty to support the citizens to maximize their happiness. Mill’s Utilitarian theory helps to explain how this mechanism has led to income inequality that impedes society from reaching the ultimate happiness and why the best distribution of wealth is an equal distribution to have the equal opportunity in society.

Economic inequality is a political problem as it limits the pursuit of happiness in the individual. With liberty being the essential elements of well-being in his theory, this outcome could be argued to be due to ineffective governance as Mills views the duty of the government is encourage individuals to maximize their happiness through developing their individuality. With economic wealth being a necessary means for an individual to develop their human capacity, this lack of freedom for those without such means will be categorized by Mill as being unfree. Given this circumstance, he would go onto argue this outcome to be oppression as the individual is not free to pursue his or her happiness due to the result of such poor governance.

With capitalism being primarily profit-focused through production and consumption, Mill would look at the unequal distribution of wealth which has led to economic inequality. As a Libertarian, he would view the legislator to encourage the production of wealth in order to ensure that the possessor of property obtained through free use of body and mind to enjoy the full advantages of ownership. However, the legislator must also achieve the best distribution which achieves the greatest amount of happiness in society where does mill say this. Having equal distribution without squandering on individual liberty, would be aligned to his view on achieving the best distribution.

Although Mill would argue against the redistribution of wealth by the government to not be justifiable if it tramples on individual liberty, one could imply that he would view inequality must be submitted for the sake of the greater good if it is to protect all persons in the free use of the faculties of the body and mind, and to enjoy the property that can be obtained through such activities. While one may see that this would result in the rich no longer enjoying the same wealth they would have had in this redistribution, extending Mill’s Utilitarianism which follows the Greatest Happiness Principle will point to the diminishing marginal utility of wealth and that the same sum of money would have more value in the eyes of the poor man than to the rich man. Furthermore, there is no reasons to show that unequal distribution of wealth would result to a decrease in the production of wealth as the rich man would still be comparatively better off in terms of wealth compared to the poor man. Equal distribution would merely allow the poor man to have enough economic means to freely pursue their own individuality as Mill was strongly against charity as he feared it would breed dependent citizens rather than those with autonomy. Thus, equal distribution will allow such unfree citizens to have the basic freedom to pursue happiness, resulting in a greater happiness in society, and can argued to be the best distribution of wealth.

In the case of income inequality with certain professions requiring education or background of a certain social rank, giving such individuals the monopoly on wage rates as the majority of the population unable to meet such requirements required for the professions. With an equal distribution of wealth, those who were previously unfree to pursue such careers will now have the opportunity to do so. Ensuring fairness in competition through this distribution will still ensure free competition in that only those who are successful in pursuing the career requirements will be able to be in the profession. However, it is important to note that this extending of opportunity to all citizens previously unfree to do so will encourage marketplace of ideas, serving as a collective benefit to society as it allows for diversity, triggering more contribution in the professional fields.

One of Mill’s proposed solution to have more equal distribution of opportunity was through universal education. Allowing more participation in certain opportunities such as encouraging literacy will encourage individuals to not be imprisoned in a fixed social position that they are born into. Despite the ineffective governance on handling the capitalistic institutional mechanisms, education will allow individuals to have more opportunities to pursue their individuality and as such, one can argue that equal distribution of opportunity will lead to a collective social good.

Mill’s solution to economic inequality fits into the contemporary context by viewing equalization in the distribution of opportunity as seen in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Originally, in the UN Millennium Development Goals, one of the goals was to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Despite the significant improvement from 2000, Sub-Saharan Africa’s aim of having the same amount of enrollment as other developing countries still lags in that their growth was constrained by various factors such as lack of quality educators and institutional support to make access to education more inclusive. Focusing on primary education has improved basic literacy rates which can directly help to alleviate poverty rates. However, the UN Sustainable Development Goals has seen the limitations of the original goal for universal primary education and has in turn focused on achieving quality education as a foundation for sustainable development globally. By focusing on ensuring the development an inclusive education that strives for life-long learning, this will encourage learning in all ages in developing countries and help to set up a better resource for quality education such as trained educators for future generations. Through such universal education goals, this will help to further social progress globally by directly setting up an environment that encourages individuality and creativity by improving the quality of the modern mass society. Improving literacy rates and basic education level of citizens will promote the collective exercise of reason by promoting citizens to think for themselves, pushing for citizens to not be stuck in “collective mediocrity” in which there is a lack of fruitful debate in the public sphere. By achieving this goal, those who lacked access to quality education by the ineffective government will no longer have their opinions suppressed through the development of their human capacity which Mill would view to be unfair to the individual and harmful to the progress of society as a whole.

In conclusion, ineffective governance has resulted in economic inequality in which production of wealth has been given more focus over the distribution. By looking at Mill’s Utilitarian theory, we can have a better understanding of how to address this inequality through an equal distribution of wealth and opportunity. One of the ways he has proposed an equal distribution of opportunity was through universal education, in the contemporary context, his proposition is highly applicable when considering how raising the quality of the citizens in terms of education level and individuality will lead to a flourishing society.

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