The Law Of Least Harm/Most Good

A friend, when commenting on my new-found vegetarianism, asked me half jokingly, half snarkily when I’m going to stop buying clothes that are made in sweatshops and when I’m going to stop buying vegetables picked by cheap immigrant labor.  He has a point.

The problem is, you can’t step outside your home without causing harm to someone or something.  Heck, you probably couldn’t touch anything in your house without causing harm to someone or something.  Those appliances don’t build themselves and they ain’t built in America by well treated employees.

What’s a globally conscience individual supposed to do?  You try to follow the law of least harm/most good.

This makes things like becoming a vegetarian an easy choice.  Meat production in the United States can be said to follow the law of most harm/least good.  Meat provides you with nothing that you can’t find somewhere else so there absolutely no necessity in eating meat.  That, by itself, isn’t enough to say that you shouldn’t eat meat, but in order to justify eating that meat, it better be a fairly humane process.  And it is not.  Wow, is it not.  The law of least harm/most good is easy to follow in this case.

Then there are things like tomatoes.  To eat tomatoes or not to eat tomatoes?  That is the question.  It is issues like whether to eat tomatoes or not where it becomes difficult to tell which side to fall on.  Tomato farming has some of the most unfair labor practices in the United States.  Tomato picking is done exclusively by immigrants who are easily taken advantage of because of their illegal status.  At the same time, though, these are jobs that the people might not otherwise have.  What little money is made often gets sent home to families that desperately need it.  Not eating tomatoes would mean a loss of jobs for those immigrants and a loss of those jobs could be deadly to their families.  Good is being done despite evil intentions.  That makes an issue like this prime for vigorous activism to push for better conditions and better wages for the pickers while at the same time continuing to eat tomatoes.

Speaking of activism, if you want to follow the law of least harm/most good you should be volunteering.  It doesn’t matter for what.  No, you are not too busy.  No, it doesn’t take a lot of time to make a difference.  Under 30% of adults above the age of 16 currently volunteer.  That’s around 60 million people.  Those volunteers average 51 hours a year volunteering.  That’s 3 billion volunteer hours a year.  Imagine if all 200 million people over the age of 16 gave just 40 hours a year ( under 4 hours a month!)  to volunteering.  That would be 8 billion volunteer hours a year.  Think of the good that could be done with that.  All it takes is one simple step.  Call an organization whose cause you agree with and offer to volunteer.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you are only one person and one person can’t make a difference.  It’s true, you are just one person and it’s true, you might not make a difference, but it is guaranteed that you won’t make a difference if you do nothing.  You will be amazed at what just a little bit of effort following the law of least harm/most good can accomplish.