July 28, 2013

The Age of Consequences

CSIS-CNAS: Security Implications of Climate Change

Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965):
The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close.
In its place we are entering a period of consequences.

Implications of Global Climate Change

  • Soft power and north-south tensions will increase
  • Migration and immigration will rise, producing a strong backlash
  • Public health problems will grow
  • Resource conflicts and vulnerabilities will intensify
  • Nuclear activity will increase, with attendant risks
  • Challenges to global governance will multiply
  • Domestic political repercussions and state failure will occur
  • The balance of power will shift in unpredictable ways
  • China’s role will be critical
  • The United States must come to terms with climate change

(p 106-8)

Environmental and National Security Implications of Three Climate Scenarios


Expected (2010-40)

  • Average 1.3°C warming
  • 0.23 meters of sea level rise
  • Approximately 30 year time frame

Severe (2010-40)

  • Average 2.6°C warming
  • 0.52 meters of sea level rise
  • Approximately 30 year time frame

Catastrophic (2040-2100)

  • Average 5.6°C warming
  • 2.0 meters of sea level rise
  • Approximately 100 year time frame

Environmental Stresses

Expected (2010-40)

  • Water scarcity affects up to 1.7 billion people
  • Changed distribution of some infectious disease vectors and allergenic pollen species
  • Up to 3 million additional people at risk of flooding
  • Up to 30 million more people at risk of hunger due to crop failure

Severe (2010-40)

  • Water scarcity affects up to 2 billion people
  • Increased burden from malnutrition, diarrheal, cardio-respiratory and infectious diseases
  • Up to 15 million additional people at risk of flooding
  • Changes in marine and ecosystems due to weakening of the meridional overturning circulation

Catastrophic (2040-2100)

  • Water scarcity affects 3.2 billion people
  • Increased morbidity and mortality from heat waves, floods, and droughts
  • Approximately 30% loss of coastal wetlands
  • Up to 120 million more people at risk of hunger due to crop failure
  • Possible collapse of the meridional overturning circulation

Security Implications

Expected (2010-40)

  • Conflict over resources due to and driving human migration
  • Immigrants — or even simply visitors — from a country in which there has been a significant disease outbreak may not be welcomed and could be subject to quarantine and lead to loss of national income from restricted tourism
  • Dissatisfaction with state governments could radicalize internal politics and create new safe havens [for violent extremists] in weak and failing states
  • A strengthened geopolitical hand for natural gas exporting countries and, potentially, biofuel exporting countries …
    [A] weakened hand, both strategically and economically, for importers of all fuel types
  • Social services will become increased burden on central government where available
  • The regional positions of Turkey and others will likely be strengthened as a result of the water crisis

Severe (2010-40)

  • Wealthiest members of society pull away from the rest of the population, undermining morale and viability of democratic governance
  • Global fish stocks may crash, enmeshing some nations in a struggle over dwindling supplies
  • Governments, lacking necessary resources, may privatize water supply …
    [Past] experience with this in poor societies suggests likelihood of violent protest and political upheaval
  • Globalization may end and rapid economic decline may begin, owing to the collapse of financial and production systems that depend on integrated worldwide systems
  • Corporations may become increasingly powerful relative to governments as the rich look to private services, engendering a new form of globalization in which transnational business becomes more powerful than states
  • Alliance systems and multilateral institutions may collapse — among them, the UN, as the Security Council fractures beyond compromise or repair

Catastrophic (2040-2100)

  • Migration toward US borders by millions of hungry and thirsty southern neighbors is likely to dominate US security and humanitarian concerns
  • A shrinking Russian population might have substantial difficulty preventing China from asserting control over much of Siberia and the Russian Far East …
    [A high] probability of conflict between two destabilized nuclear powers …
  • Rage at government’s inability to deal with the abrupt and unpredictable crises
  • Religious fervor, perhaps even a dramatic rise in millennial end-of-days cults
  • Hostility and violence toward migrants and minority groups
  • Altruism and generosity would likely be blunted
  • US military’s worldwide reach could be reduced substantially by logistics and the demand of missions near our shores
  • Electricity generation and distribution highly vulnerable to attack by [violent extremists] and rogue states

(Adapted from Table 3, p 104)

July 26, 2013

George W Bush

Blue Army: Persons of Interest

(Acts of War, Afghanistan — Inside Australia's War, Episode 1, ABC Television, 2015)

George W Bush (1946):
… I'm going to be judicious as to how to use the military.
It needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious.

Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make.
  • you are with us; or
  • you are with the terrorists.

[Iran, Iraq and North Korea] constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.
(State of the Union Address, 29 January 2002)

John Kennedy (1917 – 63):
I will never compromise the principles on which this country is built, but we're not going to plunge into an irresponsible action just because a fanatical fringe in this country puts so-called national pride above national reason.
(Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Simon & Schuster, 2011, Reader's Digest, 2013, p 215)

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding.
(4: 7)

Jonathan Haidt (1963):
[Ignorant] people see everything in black and white.
They rely heavily on the myth of pure evil and … are strongly influenced by their own self-interest.
The wise are able to:
  • see things from others' points of view;
  • appreciate shades of grey; and
  • [choose] a course of action that works out best for everyone in the long run.
(The Happiness Hypothesis, 2006)

Peter Singer (1946):
[It] is a mistake to divide the world neatly into good and evil, black and white without shades of grey, [because it] eliminates the need to learn more about those with whom one is dealing.
For an unreflective person to have a sense of "moral clarity" that disregards the shadings in human motivation and conduct can be a vice, not a virtue.
(The President of Good and Evil, p 250)

Dennis Howitt:
[The] thinking of terrorists exhibits the sort of cognitive distortions that are often found in people who commit other sorts of violence.
These … include the tendency to over-generalize the enemy's perceived failings to encompass the entirety of the population.
Perceptions are also dichotomised so that they are either good or they are bad with no shades of grey in between.
(Introduction to Forensic and Criminal Psychology, 4th Edition, Pearson, 2011 / 2012, p 229)

George Washington (1732 – 99):
The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.
It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919):
He who is not with us absolutely and without reserve of any kind is against us, and should be treated as an alien enemy …
We have room in this country for but one flag.
We have room for but one language.

William Clifford (1845 – 79) [Philosopher and Mathematician]:
Men speak the truth to one another when each reveres the truth in his own mind and in the other's mind …
[But] how shall my friend revere the truth in my mind when I myself am careless about it …
[When] I believe things [simply because] they are comforting and pleasant? …
The credulous man is father to the liar and the cheat. …

Charles Wesley (1707 – 88):
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill,
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master's will!
(George W Bush, A Charge to Keep, 1999)

George W Bush (1946):
The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it's God's gift to humanity. …

I looked [Vladimir Putin] in the eye [and] I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy.
We had a very good dialogue:
I was able to get a sense of his soul.
(Taking Control, Putin, Russia and the West, 2011)

Bush's Ethical Failure

This book [attempts] to cover all the possibilities.
When Bush speaks about his ethics, he is either sincere or he is insincere.
If he is insincere, he stands condemned for that alone.
I have started with the opposite, more generous assumption: that Bush is sincere, and we should take his ethic seriously, assessing it on its own terms, and asking how well he has done by his own standards. …
(p 267)

Whether [or not] he really believes in the … rhetoric that he uses … it is clear that Bush has no real interest in the policy details needed to achieve the aspirations he has voiced.
He has failed to follow through on most of the commitments he has made to work for a better, more just society.
He has said that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of America's promise, but the number of Americans living in poverty increased in both 2001 and 2002.
(p 265)

Instead of combating that increase, Bush has pressed for tax cuts that hobble the government's capacity to do anything about it.
Rather than ensure that the nation he leads is a good global citizen, Bush has spurned institutions for global co-operation and set back the task of making the rule of law, rather than force, the determining factor in world affairs.
He has launched an unnecessary war, costly in [blood and treasure,] with a final outcome that is still uncertain.
His protection of the steel industry and his signature on a law authorising the largest-ever subsidies to American farmers shows his strong rhetoric about free trade to be a brutal hypocrisy that is driving millions of impoverished farmers in other countries deeper into poverty.
A comparison between the size of these subsidies and Bush's proposed increase in foreign aid makes his compassion look stingy.
(p 266)

He speaks of America's calling to promote democracy around the world, but his administration reacted positively to the first reports of an apparently successful coup against the left-leaning, but democratically elected, Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez.
Following the Enron scandal, he pledged to increase enforcement against corporate rip-offs, but his 2003 budget actually reduced funds for such enforcement by $209 million.
[If] a candidate campaigns by stressing his moral character and his honesty, and then fails to make even a serious attempt to implement his campaign promises, he has damaged the moral fabric of democracy.
(p 257)

Handicapped by a naive idea of ethics as conformity to a small number of fixed rules, he has been unable to handle adequately the difficult choices that any chief executive of a major nation must face.
(p 266)

(The President of Good and Evil, 2004)

Saving Lives

[In] 2003 Bush … became convinced of the need for a major US initiative to tackle HIV/AIDS at a global level …
The bill he signed stipulated only that
  • one-third of the funds going to prevention should be set aside for programs that exclusively promote sexual abstinence until marriage;
    Scientific American:
    [The US spent $1.4 billion] over a 10-year period from 2004 through 2013 promoting abstinence … in sub-Saharan Africa.
    [According] to the most comprehensive independent study [to date] the money was more or less wasted. …
    Instead … one of the most important factors associated with lower levels of risky behavior was the number of years women remained in school. …
    [In addition, previous studies] showed that … at least a million lives [were saved] by making anti-HIV medications more widely available …
    (August 2016, p 12)
  • the remainder was available for use in programs promoting condom use. …
(pp 126-7)

[Started] under President George W Bush in 2005 the President's Malaria Initiative, or PMI, is … one of the best run and most effective of the US's worldwide health efforts. …
[The WHO has estimated that] 4.3 million fewer malaria deaths occurred between 2001 and 2013 [than had been expected based on] malaria patterns in 2000 …
The PMI accounted for a substantial part of [this ~47% reduction in mortality.]
The Program is based on four interventions:
  • insecticide-treated mosquito nets,
  • indoor spraying,
  • testing and treatment with artemisinin-based drugs, and
  • preventive treatment of pregnant women.
The next phase of the strategy, under the Obama administration, [seeks] to reduce malaria deaths by a [further 30% by 2020] in 19 target countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Greater Mekong region of Asia. …
Efforts will even aim to eliminate the disease in some countries. …

The secret to the initiative's success [is its logistical rigour.]
PMI's approach is holistic: [taking] responsibility for every link in the chain, from procurement to quality control.
[It] is a model [of] sustained focus on a limited number of targeted interventions in countries with a high burden of disease. …

[Nevertheless,] the overall global budget for malaria control is still projected to lag by more than $2 billion a year compared with what the mission requires …

(Global Role Model: A successful malaria program enters its second phase, Scientific American, May 2015, pp 16-7)

July 24, 2013

Competition and Morality

Bertrand Russell: Power

Edward Gibbon (1737 – 94):
The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered
  • by the people, as equally true;
  • by the philosopher, as equally false; and
  • by the magistrate, as equally useful.

Walter Bagehot (1826 – 77):
The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government.
The mass of mankind understand it …
It is often said that men are ruled by their imaginations …
[But] it would be truer to say that they are governed by the weakness of their imaginations.
(The English Constitution, 1867)


To the unphilosophical propagandist, there is his own propaganda, which is that of truth, and the opposite propaganda, which is that of falsehood.
If he believes in permitting both, it is only because he fears that his might be the one to suffer prohibition. …

[However, for the philosopher,] any useful purpose which is to be served by propaganda must be not that of causing an almost certainly erroneous opinion to be dogmatically believed, but, on the contrary, that of promoting judgement, rational doubt, and the power of weighing opposing considerations …
[This purpose can only be served] if there is competition among propagandas. …

[The philosopher] will advocate that, as far as possible, everybody should hear all sides of every question.
Instead of different newspapers, each devoted to the interests of one party and encouraging the dogmatism of its readers, he will advocate a single newspaper, in which all parties are represented.
(p 154)

Moral Codes

Morality … has had two divergent aspects.
  • [Positive morality] has been a social institution analogous to law …
  • [Personal morality] has been a matter for the individual conscience.
(p 156)

[No] nation of antiquity recognised any legal or moral limits to what might be done with defeated populations.
It was customary to exterminate some and sell the rest into slavery. …
The vanquished, having no power, had no claim to mercy.
This view was not abandoned, even in theory, until the coming of Christianity.

Duty to enemies [remains] a difficult conception.
Clemency was recognised as a virtue in antiquity, but only when it was successful, that is to say, when it turned enemies into friends; otherwise, it was condemned as a weakness.
When fear had been aroused, no one expected magnanimity: the Romans showed none towards Hannibal or the followers of Spartacus.

In our day, almost equal ferocity has been shown towards the victims of the white terrors in Finland, Hungary, Germany, and Spain, and hardly any protests have been aroused except among political opponents. …
The terror in Russia, likewise, has been condoned by most of the Left.

Now, as in the days of the Old Testament, no duty to enemies is acknowledged in practice when they are sufficiently formidable to arouse fear.
Positive morality [is] only operative within the social group concerned, and is therefore … in effect, a department of government.
Nothing short of a world government will cause people of pugnacious disposition to admit, except as a counsel of perfection, that moral obligations are not confined to a section of the human race.
(p 164)

Broadly speaking [positive morality …]
  • is on the side of the powers that be …
  • does not allow a place for revolution, …
  • does nothing to mitigate the fierceness of strife, and …
  • can find no place for the prophet who proclaims some new moral insight. …

The world owes something to the Gospels [—] though not [as] much as it would if they had had more influence.
It owes something to those who denounced slavery and the subjection of women.
We may hope that in time it will owe something to those who denounce war and economic injustice.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it owed much to the apostles of tolerance [and,] perhaps it will again in some happier age than ours.

Revolutions against the mediaeval Church, the Renaissance monarchies, and the present power of plutocracy, are necessary for the avoidance of stagnation.
Admitting, as we must, that mankind needs revolution and individual morality, the problem is to find a place for these things without plunging the world into anarchy.
(p 165)

July 13, 2013

Categories and Dimensions

Live Long and Prosper

The Needs of the Many

[Our] administration favours the many instead of the few.
This is why it is called a democracy.

Pericles (c495 – 429 BCE), Funeral Oration, Athens, 431 BCE.

Democracy is better at protecting the many from the tyranny of the few,
than it is at defending the few from the persecution of the many.


(Adapted from Dan Kahan & Mary Douglas)

(Adapted from Shalom Schwartz in Tim Jackson, Prosperity Without Growth, 2nd Edition, 2017,
Figure 7.2, p 136)

Left Wing

Right Wing




Utopian FutureMythical Past
Long TermShort Term
Prisoner's DilemmaZero Sum
Stakeholder ValueShareholder Value

ProductivityRent Seeking

Spending CutsTax Cuts

Social InsurancePhilanthropy
RedistributionSpur of Poverty
Fair SharesWinner Takes All



Enlightened Self-interestNaked Self-interest

Social DemocracyLiberal Democracy
Communist OligarchyPlutocratic Oligarchy

Free SocietyFree Market
Positive FreedomNegative Freedom
Freedom as Non-dominationFreedom as Non-interference/td>

Public InterestPrivate Interests
Effective GovernmentIneffective Government
Weak CorporationsStrong Corporations

CivilityPolitical Correctness
SolidarityNanny State
Openness to ExperienceThreat Sensitivity

Risk ToleranceRisk Aversion
RefugeeEconomic Migrant


RedistributionTrickle Down

Human RightsProperty Rights


Judicial DiscretionMandatory Sentencing





Free LaborSlavery
Natural RightsInherited Rights
MechanizationManual Labor

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)

The philosophy of the Greeks reveals throughout its stages the influence of a number of dualisms.
In one form or another these have continued to be topics about which philosophers write or argue.
At the basis of them all lies the distinction between truth and falsehood.
Closely connected with it … are the dualisms of good and evil, and of harmony and strife.
Then there [are the dualisms] of appearance and reality … mind and matter, and freedom and necessity.
Further, there are cosmological questions concerning whether things are one or many, simple or complex, and finally the dualisms of chaos and order, and of the boundless and the limit. …

Truth and falsehood are discussed in logic.
Good and evil, harmony and strife, are questions belonging … to ethics.
Appearance and reality, and the question of mind and matter, might be set down as the traditional problems of the theory of knowledge, or epistemology.
The remaining dualisms belong to ontology, or the theory of being.

(Wisdom of the West, 1959, p 14-5)

July 12, 2013

Climate Briefing 1

John Houghton

James Lovelock (1919):
[Gaia] is no doting mother tolerant of misdemeanors, nor is she some fragile and delicate damsel in danger from brutal mankind.
She is stern and tough, always keeping the world warm and comfortable for those who obey the rules, but ruthless in her destruction of those who transgress.
Her unconscious goal is a planet fit for life.
If humans stand in the way of this, we shall be eliminated with as little pity as would be shown by the micro-brain of an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile in full flight to its target.
(The Ages of Gaia, 1995, p 212)

The Unity of the Earth

The Gaia scientific hypothesis [helps us] to recognise two things: …
  • the inherent value of all parts of nature, and …
  • our dependence on the Earth and on our environment …
(p 204)


Tropical forests … contain perhaps half of all Earth's biological species.
[Only] about half of the mature tropical forests that existed a few hundred years ago still stand.
At the present rate of destruction, all will be gone by the end of the twenty-first century.
(p 198)

[The] amount of fossil fuel that we now burn worldwide every year [injects about a million years worth of fossil carbon into the atmosphere.]
(p 199)

The world's forests and deforestation

The total area covered by forest is almost one-third of the the world's land area, of which 95% is natural forest and 5% planted forest.
  • About 47% … are tropical,
  • 9% subtropical,
  • 11% temperate and
  • 33% boreal.
[The] net loss of forest area during the 1990s was an estimated 940,000 km^2 (2.4% of total forest area.) …
Deforestation of tropical forests averaged about 1% per year.

(p 250)

Environmental Values

In the methodology and the practice of science are many assumptions of value. …
  • that there is an objective world of value out there to discover,
  • that there is value in the qualities of elegance and economy in scientific theory [and]
  • that complete honesty and cooperation between scientists [is central] to the scientific enterprise.
(p 206)

Stewardship — Dominion

[The story of the Garden of Eden leaves us] with a picture of the first humans as 'gardeners' of the Earth …
[Seeing the world as a garden suggests] four things:

  • A garden provides food and water and other materials to sustain life and human industry. …
    The Earth provides resources of many kinds for humans to use as they are needed.

  • A garden is to be maintained as a place beauty. …
    Humans are to live in in harmony with the rest of creation and to appreciate the value of all parts of creation.
    [A] garden is a place where care is taken to preserve the multiplicity of species, in particular those that are most vulnerable. …
    Gardens are meant to be enjoyed.

  • A garden is a place where humans [can express their creativity.] …
    [Scientific] and technical knowledge coupled with the enormous variety of the Earth's resources … create new possibilities for life and its enjoyment [as well as great] potential for evil …
    [Good] gardeners intervene in natural process [only] with a good deal of [cautious] restraint.

  • A garden is [a place] to be kept so as to be of benefit to future generations.

(pp 208-209)

The Will to Act

We are not short of statements of ideals.
[What is lacking is] the capability and resolve to carry them out. …

[Action] addressing environmental problems depends not only on knowledge … but on the values we place on the environment and our attitudes towards it. …
[What we must recognise is] that, just as
  • the totality of damage to the environment is the sum of the damage done by a large number of individuals,
  • the totality of action to address environmental problems is the sum of a large number of individual actions to which we can all contribute.
Edmund Burke (1729-1979):
[No one makes] a greater mistake than [he who does] nothing because he could only do so little.
(p 211)

The Precautionary Principle

[Significant] anthropogenic climate change is not an unlikely possibility but a near certainty …
[It] is no change of climate that is unlikely.
The uncertainties that … have to weighed lie in the magnitude of the change and details of its regional distribution. …

An argument … sometimes advanced for doing nothing now is that by the time action [cannot be avoided, better] technical options will [have become] available. …
But [this] argument works [both ways.]
The thinking and … activity generated by considering appropriate actions now … will itself be likely to stimulate the … technical innovation that will be required [later.]
(p 229)

Climate Insurance

[There is a greater than 66% probability that unmitigated] climate change [will,] in the long term … exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt.
(AR4, IPPC, 2007, p 65)
With typical levels of [global] economic growth being between 2-4% per annum, [six economic models have estimated] the cost of [stabilising carbon dioxide levels] at 450 ppm [at] less than one year's economic growth over fifty years [ie < 2% per year].
(p 235)

(Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, 2004)

July 7, 2013

Background Briefing

ABC Radio National

Malcolm Turnbull (1954):
I regret to say, that a number of the state Labor governments have, over the years, set priorities and renewable targets that are extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic, and have paid little or no attention to energy security. …

Tony Wood [Director, Energy Program, Grattan Institute]:
The policy that drove the 40% of electricity in South Australia coming from wind was actually a federal government policy introduced originally when John Howard was Prime Minister under a Coalition government for the Renewable Energy Target. …
[Industry then capitalised on the renewable energy target by building wind farms in the state with the most wind, that is, South Australia.]
So I would say that if you wanted to place blame on anybody for undertaking an aggressive renewable energy target and not thinking through the consequences, that blame could just as easily be laid, if not more so, at the foot of the federal government than the state government.
(System Black, 6 November 2016)

Climate Antiscience

There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects. …
The evidence on shadow flicker does not support a health concern. …
[Wind] turbines of contemporary design … produce very low levels of infrasound. …
The risk of blade glint from modern wind turbines is … very low.
[The] closeness of the electrical cables counters the electromagnetic field [generated by wind turbines], as does shielding with metal armour. …
[Evidence is limited, therefore] it is recommended that relevant authorities take a precautionary approach and continue to monitor research outcomes.

(NHMRC Public Statement, July 2010)

Table 3 (Adapted): Typical A-weighted sound levels for different sources

ActivitySound pressure level (dBA)
Busy general office60
Car travelling at 64km/h at 100m55
Typical wind farm (at moderate wind speed 7 m/s)*40 ± 5
Background noise in rural area at night30 ± 10
*Based on sound level measurements taken from multiple resident locations near two Victorian wind farms, at distances 500–1,000 m from the nearest turbine.

(p 8)

Table 4: Examples of sources of infrasound

Natural environmentHousehold and industryHuman body
Air conditioning
Rail traffic
Power plants
Heart beat
Head movement

Infrasound from wind farms has been found to be well below the hearing threshold of 85 dBG, and therefore inaudible, even as close as 185 m from the turbines.
(p 10)

(Wind farms, sound and health — Technical information, Victorian Department of Health, April 2013)

Would you like to know more?

July 2, 2013

Values and Virtues

Live Long and Prosper

Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970)

Peterson and Seligman

VirtuesCharacter Strengths
Love of learning
Emotional intelligence










Appreciation of beauty and excellence

Moral Foundations Theory

(Jonathan Haidt)

John Steinbeck (1902 – 68):
There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue.
There's just stuff people do.
It's all part of the same thing.
And some of the things people do is nice, and some ain't nice, but that's as far as any man got a right to say.
(The Grapes of Wrath, 1939)

Martin Luther King Jnr (1929 – 68):
Ultimately, it isn't so important how long you live.
The important thing is how well you live.

Noam Chomsky (1928):
[We] have two choices:
  • we can decide to be pessimistic, decide nothing's possible and quit and help guarantee that the [worst] will happen, or
  • we can put in whatever effort we can as individuals to try to improve things and maybe it will make the world better. …
That's not much of a choice.
(Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher & activist, Sunday Profile, ABC Radio National, 6 November 2011)

John Stuart Mill (1806 – 73):
[The] utilitarian standard … enjoins and requires the cultivation of the love of virtue … as being above all things, important to the general happiness. …
(Chapter IV)

The entire history of social improvement has been a series of transitions by which one custom or institution after another, from being a supposed primary necessity of social existence, has passed into the rank of a universally stigmatized injustice and tyranny.
So it has been with the distinctions of
  • slaves and freeman,
  • nobles and serfs,
  • patricians and plebians;
and so it will be … with the aristocracies of color, race, and sex.
(Utilitarianism, Fraser's Magazine, 1961, Chapter V)

Karl Popper (1902 – 94):
Instead of the greatest happiness for the greatest number …
[One] should demand … the least amount of avoidable suffering for all …
(The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume 1: The Spell of Plato, 1945)

Russel Hardin:
The moral impulse of utilitarianism is constant …
[But] our decisions under it are contingent on our knowledge and scientific understanding.
(Morality within the Limits of Reason, 1990)

G E Moore (1873 – 1958):
An ethical law has the nature not of a scientific law but of a scientific prediction …
[It] is always merely probable, although the probability may be very great.
(Principia Ethica, 1903)

Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804):
To help others where one can is a duty, and besides this there are many spirits of so sympathetic a temper that, without any further motive of vanity or self-interest, they find an inner pleasure in spreading happiness around them and can take delight in the contentment of others as their own work.
Yet I maintain that … action of this kind [has] no genuinely moral worth [because] its maxim lacks moral content, namely the performance of such actions, not from inclination, but from duty.
(H J Paton, Translator, Kant, The Moral Law: Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Hutchinson, 1966, p 10, emphasis added)

Neal Stephenson (1959):
It is upon moral qualities that society is ultimately founded.
All the prosperity and technological sophistication is of no use without that foundation …
(The Diamond Age, Penguin, 1996, p 322)

John Rawls (1921 – 2002):
The natural distribution is neither just nor unjust; nor is it unjust that persons are born into society at some particular position. These are simply natural facts.
What is just and unjust is the way that institutions deal with these facts.
(Quoted by Michael Sandel, Justice: What's A Fair Start?, February 2011)