The greatest benefit of having utility as a single standard by which to judge all pleasures is that it makes it possible to compare different kinds of happiness. Whether one believes that equality of happiness is preferable, or that the least happy person should be as happy as is possible, it is still necessary to have a way of comparing different people and different kinds of happiness: utility provides a single measurement that allows for precisely this kind of comparison.

This single measurement is particularly significant in the area of public policy, where we need real measurements of how people are benefitting or suffering from various policy measures. However, having a single standard for happiness also has problematic elements. For example, one could argue that having a single standard inappropriately devalues certain kinds of pleasures. How does one compare the pleasure of good health with the pleasure of watching television? Even if health is weighted more strongly than television viewing, one could argue that the two kinds of pleasures are different. The mere act of comparing the two, however, implies that they are fundamentally the same.

Beyond the question of whether experiences should be ranked according to their happiness quotients, there also arises the question of how to measure happiness at all. Many people cope with extreme suffering while maintaining the psychological signs of “happiness.” However, the fact that people are able to remain “happy” does not mean that they are well off or have a good quality of life. Thus, this single standard may also serve to hide both inequality and grave suffering. This must lead us to wonder whether happiness is the correct standard by which to judge moral concerns. 

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