are the consequences of consequentialism murder by ideology?

How much responsibility does one have when something tragic occurs due to one’s conscious inaction towards a situation? What are the consequences of consequentialism? Or how I see it in my worldview: Is there really such a thing as an ‘innocent bystander’?

“Charlene Dill, a 32-year-old mother of three, collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor. She was at an appointment to try to sell a vacuum cleaner, one of the three part-time jobs that she worked to try to make ends meet for her family. Her death was a result of a documented heart condition—and it could have been prevented.

Dill was uninsured, and she went years without the care she needed to address her chronic conditions because she couldn’t afford it. Under the health reform law, Dill wasn’t supposed to lack insurance. She was supposed to have access to a public health plan through the law’s expansion of the Medicaid program.

But Dill, a Florida resident, is one of the millions of Americans living in a state that has refused to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion after the Supreme Court ruled this provision to be optional. Those low-income people have been left in a coverage gap, making too much income to qualify for a public Medicaid plan but too little income to qualify for the federal subsidies to buy a plan on Obamacare’s private exchanges.

Florida has one of the highest uninsurance (sic) rates in the nation, and is home to a disproportionately large number of residents who struggle to afford health services. Nonetheless, lawmakers have continued to resist accepting generous federal funds to expand Medicaid to an estimated 750,000 low-income Floridians like Dill.”

The passages above were taken from an article titled “This 32-Year-Old Florida Woman Is Dead Because Her State Refused To Expand Medicaid” by Tara Culp-Ressler for ThinkProgress (April 9, 2014).


Why did Florida’s Republicans let a hard-working young mother of three die rather than accept federal funding that would’ve provided her with health insurance?

“‘Sadism,’ according to Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL). That—along with extreme ideology and a certain amount of political expediency—explains why Florida Governor Rick Scott refused to accept Affordable Care Act funding to expand Medicaid coverage.

‘How (else) can you explain it? Republicans have been blinded by their own ideology. Every single member of the state legislature in Florida has healthcare—every single one of them—and yet they voted to deny that health coverage to almost a million other people.’

Scott made an enormous sum of money from the Medicare fraud committed by his corporation while he was CEO. And, as Grayson explains, Scott continues to make decisions as governor that benefit that corporation.”

The passages above were taken from an article titled “GOP Sadism: Grayson’s Candid Talk About a Young Mother’s Death” by Richard Eskow for Campaign for America’s Future (April 17, 2014).


Merriam-Webster has one primary and three secondary definitions for ideology: the first—“visionary theorizing”—is not applicable in the above instance. It’s the latter three that meet our needs for an explanation for the above behavior of hardline Republicans—elected officials whose sworn duty is to see to the needs of their constituency.

These three secondary definitions are similar and apply directly to the use of the word ideology in the paragraphs above:

a) “a systematic body of concepts, especially about human life or culture”

b) “a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture”

c) “the integrated assertions, theories, and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program”

Ideological thinking often leads to ideological behavior. This behavior often fits too comfortably into the belief that the ends justify the means, which can be referred to as consequentialism.

Consequentialism is the class of normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgement about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right act—or omission from acting—is one that will produce a good outcome, or consequence.

In an extreme form, the idea of consequentialism is commonly encapsulated in the saying, ‘The ends justify the means.’ This means that if a goal is morally important enough, any method of achieving it is acceptable.” (Wikipedia)

Consequentialist thinking/behavior is ethically and morally neutral: it can lead one (or one’s group) to positive or negative behavior for the group or for an entire society. An example of the former is self-sacrifice; an example of the latter is sacrifice of another.

An extreme instance of self-sacrifice for one’s beliefs is that of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, who burned himself to death (self-immolation) on June 11, 1963, in front of the cameras of international journalists. He did this as an act of protest against the repression and persecution of Buddhists in South Vietnam by President Ngo Dinh Diem, a man many considered an American puppet.

Thich Quang Duc_self-immolation

The so-called “Buddhist crisis” was jump-started by the murder of nine unarmed protestors by the South Vietnamese Army and related security forces the month prior. It eventually led to a military coup and the assassination of Diem in November 1963, three weeks before the assassination of another president, which made this extremely important event seem inconsequential. It was anything but!

An extreme instance of the sacrifice of others for one’s beliefs is the use of Jews as a scape-goat to focus the fears anxieties hatred of the Germans by Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazis—good Christians all.

Or the sacrifice of Charlene Dill and “more than 7,000 unnecessary deaths per year” for one’s beliefs.


One last reflection: if your own beliefs are in accord with those of one who is willing to self-sacrifice to achieve a set of goals, you see him or her as acting in the interest of others, of society, of the oppressed. You see him as heroic.

If you are not in accord, you tend to be baffled by such behavior, or dismissive of it, as indicative of an unbalanced psyche—such as an anti-authoritarian. (“What are you protesting?” “Whattaya got?”)

If your own beliefs are in accord with those of one who is willing to sacrifice others to achieve a set of goals, you see him or her as displaying strength, faith, individualism. You see him as heroic.

If you are not in accord, you tend to be baffled by such behavior, or dismissive of it, as indicative of an unbalanced psyche—such as a psychopath/sociopath, like Hitler or, well, you know where I’m headed with this . . .

Comments, suggestions, additions, and arguments welcome!