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An Argument for Utilitarianism: Omelas

By Jenny Tang, IV Form 

An Argument for Utilitarianism: Omelas

The 1973 short story “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas” presents the fictional town of Omelas whose citizens’ happiness, for an unchangeable reason, depends wholly on the grave suffering of one child, whom they trap in a cellar. After learning about this child, some Omelans oppose the idea by walking away, while others accept and stay.
 Citizens of Omelas should accept the situation and stay because it maximizes the collective happiness.

The purpose of a society is to make its members happy. If everyone is truly equal, their individual happiness should carry the same weight. Following this logic, the suffering of thousands added together will outweigh the suffering of one. Because Omelas’ prosperity “depends wholly on this child’s abominable misery” (Le Guin 3), the citizens should merely accept the situation because to walk away is “to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of the happiness of one” (Le Guin 4). Some might argue that it is inhumane to treat an innocent child so cruelly. However, to release the child would be to cause pain to the rest of the Omelas’ also innocent population, and that would be treating one individual more favorably than others: the opposite of equality. Additionally, utilitarianism is the essence of democracy. Every time a democratic decision is made, the good of the minority is sacrificed for the good of the majority through the process of voting. As a result, to be against the concept of utilitarianism is to oppose equality and democracy. In conclusion, one should not walk away from Omelas because staying do the greatest good for the greatest number.

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