Government Surveillance From Perspective Of Utilitarianism

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Utilitarianism is a moral philosophy where the moral justification of a course of action is established based on its ability to accord tangible benefits to a more significant number of beneficiaries than those who lose out. Therefore, utilitarianism justifies its decisions based on establishing the amount of benefits against that of losses. If the former exceeds the latter, then the course of action was warranted.

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Such decision-making processes that pit morality and the balance between benefits and harm have long been a source of great scholastic and social contention. This short essay uses the practical method of making moral decisions to analyse the justification in government surveillance over its citizens.

The utilitarian method of making moral decisions is a unique process that involves establishing the possible benefits and harms of each course of action associated with the same decision. This process includes first identifying all possible courses of action that are directly applicable to the issue in need of attention (Bia?‚ek and De Neys 634). In this scenario, all possible courses of action are listed down and established as feasible solutions based on both merit and outcome. Afterwards, each of these possible solutions is analyzed individually and its benefits and harms identified. Lastly, the course of action that offers the highest number of advantages as opposed to harming its subjects is chosen.

Many governments have adopted the much-criticised approach of surveillance on their citizens to identify terrorists, public enemies, and significant criminal activity before they become a reality. However, there is a moral dilemma in doing so because although these governments are intent on keeping their citizens safe, these methods also constitute a breach of privacy and espionage on the citizenry. Every citizen that is not under investigation for criminal activity is entitled to their rights to privacy. Therefore, the argument on whether this method of establishing public safety and curbing major crime or terrorism is justified seems to be a perfect scenario for the utilitarian approach of moral decision making (Ferrin 71). The value applicable in this scenario is the right to privacy and be free from espionage, which is also highly desirable in the currently connected world. Breach of the peoples’ rights to confidentiality usually causes enormous scandals and mass unhappiness.
Another value that becomes evident in the course of analyzing the case scenario is trust in government systems. Although governments are tasked with the safety and welfare of their citizens, spying and collecting information from them breach the same trust these beneficiaries have for their leadership (Day 34).

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