This just flittered into my head on the way back from lunch with my landlord. We normally assume (or I would think most of us normally assume) that if there’s a real best out of a group of options, that’s the one we should prefer. For instance, if we’re faced with choices of meals, and one of them is the healtiest, best priced, most readily available, most delicious, etc., it would be pretty stupid to prefer one of the others. We might not be morally wrong to choose another one, but we’re being stupid. We’re not making sense, because we’re not choosing the (objectively) best option. This holds all the more obviously in moral situations. I’m faced with a choice to save a drowining person, watch the person drown and do nothing, or help drown them. The best option is obvious. If I don’t choose that one, I’m just plain wrong.
But here is what seems like a situation where I have a strong preference for something, but I don’t believe it to be the best of the available options, and yet I don’t think I’m wrong to prefer what I prefer: government. I honestly think I’d prefer a socialist or communist government. That’s actually a pretty strong preference for me, but, I don’t think that either of those is the best form of government. I tend to think that something pretty close to what America has now is the best form, because it allows for the most personal liberty – a value I hold pretty highly. So why would I prefer communism or socialism over this capitalist, constitutional republic, even though I think the latter is overall a better form? Well, like I said, I think our government makes the most room for personal liberty (while also safeguarding its citizens), and I think that’s the general role of government. But, it affords a lot of liberties that I don’t care anything for (like the liberty to dominate competitors in the marketplace, hoard material posessions, etc.), and those liberties come with costs that, since I don’t want them anyway, I don’t care to pay. Communism generally doesn’t carry these costs, so I’d really prefer that system. And all that is justified; there’s no reason I should prefer our government over communism or socialism (personally). I’m totally within my rights to wish (personally) to live in such a society. So, my preference is unscathed. But, considering the role of government, I have to say that our current style is the objective winner, since it does what government ought to do better than competitors (generally). The result? – an odd situation where I rationally, justifiably prefer one option, and yet hold that it’s, in the end, an inferrior one. Weird.