Utilitarianism (from Latin “utilitas”- use) is an ethical and political theory developed by Bentham and Mill, supplemented by the latter’s son John Stuart Mill. In this theory, the main criterion of justice and morality is utility, the understanding of which was borrowed by utilitarians from Adam Smith. Utilitarianism as the embodiment of practical liberalism is closest to an adequate knowledge of the natural process of democratic governance. For example, the model of the modern welfare state is purely utilitarian.
Bentham proceeded from the fact that the maximization of pleasure (happiness) and the minimization of suffering (pain, punishment) are the main motives of any actions. He considered a moral judgment to be a judgment about happiness. The philosopher suggested the possibility of mathematically establishing morality as a balance of pleasure and suffering obtained as a result of an act. Studying British politics and laws, Bentham concluded what the best government should be. It is the one that follows the principle of “maximum happiness for the greatest number of people” (the greatest good for the most significant number). The benefit on the scale of the whole society is determined by the aggregate calculation of individual sufferings and pleasures (Mulgan 23). This procedure requires universal voting (and universal suffrage in the election of legislators) and freedom of expression.
Using the principles of utilitarianism, Mill concluded that a representative democracy based on universal suffrage is a necessary element of a “good” system of government. His son shared in principle the political ideas of the older utilitarians. He drew attention to the danger of “the tyranny of the majority” with the subsequent deterioration of the quality of politics. Mill Jr. believed that it was better for ordinary citizens to pay attention to the affairs of local self-government.
Mulgan, Tim. Utilitarianism (Elements in Ethics). Cambridge University Press, 2020.