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Val,

You are clearly a person who likes critical thinking and debate and I commend you for that.

For this and future debates, you may want to consider the three basic ways in which an outcome may be judged to be “good”:

  • It is moral: A judgement has been made that an action is personally acceptable to you.
  • It is ethical: People are acting within a framework of rules which are judged to lead to good outcomes for a group.
  • It has utility: The outcomes benefit you or a larger group to which you belong.

To take two of the issues you raised …

Abortion used to be prohibited on moral grounds. Today, the utilitarian and ethical outcomes of allowing abortion are more commonly seen to outweigh any moral concerns (no deaths from backyard abortions, lack of practical distinction between abortion/miscarriage and fetus not being viable outside the womb).

Parental payments exist because there is a strong utilitarian argument in the social productivity benefits to reproduction and keeping parents in te workplace. However, note that the benefit mostly accrues from the most productive parents in our society. In a purely utilitarian world, a government would deny parental leave to the poorly educated and disabled. This is not countenanced because most people judge that it would not be ethical to do so (also there are potential utilitarian costs in administration and voter behavior).

Politics happens precisely because people disagree on these assessments and we need a way as a group to make a decision and move forward.

My problem with many present-day feminists is that they appear to discount utility while feeling their personal moral frameworks are unimpeachable due to in-group cognitive reinforcement.

Most notably, my view is that a very large proportion of people who voted for Trump did so on utilitarian grounds. But many voted against Trump on moral and ethical grounds. This isn’t actually that common — more elections are decided on utility, not morality.

The problem is that people arguing on utilitarian grounds will never convince those arguing on moral grounds and vice versa. It is first necessary to accept and reconcile any difference in morals and ethics because these objections will always trump utilitarian arguments.

In summary: keep learning and thinking. Try to understand the viewpoint of others. None of us are right about everything, all the time. There often isn’t even a “right” to find.

I wish you the very best of luck.

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