Developing our understanding of the morality of public policy decisions using the Principle of Double Effect (PDE)


Joseph Drew (University of New England, Australia), Bligh Grant (University of Technology, Australia), Josie Fisher (University of New England, Australia)

One of the remarkable features of public policy debates generally is their predictable shape.

A recurrent example in the Australian context is municipal amalgamation. In one corner stands state government, arguing that amalgamation will result in the greatest happiness for the greatest number, with this “happiness” measured in financial savings. In the other corner stand a collection of voices—in particular local government itself—vehemently opposed to amalgamation.

The reasons for this opposition are varied but by far the most heart-felt argument is one that insists that extant communities have the right to be left alone. This rights-based argument might have several components—that democratic representation will diminish, for example—alongside claims about particular communities being incompatible with others with which amalgamation is proposed. Continue reading