What is good, and what is bad? Doing away with subjectivity. The sustainability test.

It has been a raging battle since the beginning of time to decide between the interests of everyone and come to a conclusion about the relative goodness of one action over the other.



Governments kill their own countrymen, crushing them under the debris of the most iconic towers, people come together and lynch their own dictator, terrorists train day and night for years preparing for an all out proxy war, and thousands of masked men come to the streets protesting the idiosyncrasy of corporates after tolerating them for infinity.


Classifying these incidents into good or bad might be tough for someone, also these may bring different feelings for people of different countries, different religion or for different stratas of society.


Some of us would define goodness as something which brings happiness to the largest number, at least Jeremy Bentham did[1], some of us would try to find legality or morality behind every act, H. L. A. Hart did[2], or we might also consider following one specific religion or school of thought to decide bad or good. The last paths are the ones definitely leading to a more clouded opinion.



Let’s not do the hard work, let’s just attack the moot point: What is good? What is bad?


Time to recall my last post[3] where I had said “Human beings should do all those things which lead to prosperity and humanity” I had also pointed out that how only those things which have a continuity and results in prosperity are favourable and logical for us to do.


Good is something which is “sustainable”. And bad is something which is “unsustainable”.


From the beginning of time, all animals be it the lower animals or the higher animals, have always pursued prosperity. Now the level of prosperity pursued might be different according to the advancement each species have made. Lower organisms can pursue only the prosperity of themselves and their immediate generations while only higher organisms can pursue communal and global prosperity.


The object of humankind being prosperity, any means adopted to reach any level of prosperity as long as such means is sustainable in the long run, it is good.


The sustainability test

Sustainable[4] accordingly here would mean able to last or continue for a long time for the pursuit of prosperity.


Robin Hood looting the rich to help the poor, is it sustainable in the long run, what objective does it carry?

I deduce the activity to be largely sustainable, as there will be always inequality in the society and for an infinite amount of time, these activities will be able to last or continue for a long time. And if there is inequality, to offset such inequality a set-off is desirable. Even nature intrinsically in its ways sets-off such inequalities[5]. And as the object of Robin Hood in such activities was prosperity and humanity I consider such an act to be good.


Lalu Prasad misappropriating crores of rupees in the fodder scam. Is this good?

Lalu Prasad or for that matter any greedy politician who mops off crores of rupees in taxation also have an objective of prosperity. Yes. And humanity too. 🙂

The sole difference with Warren Buffett’s objective is that such prosperity is of micro level and extends till immediate generation whereas Warren Buffett’s objective affects a considerable world population.

Clouded by short-run gratifications majority of human beings fail to look beyond immediate generation or community.


But the problem starts when Lalu’s pursuit to achieve even that level of prosperity is corrupted by unsustainable means. Unsustainable because there is limited possibility that he continues to do this year after year, until he destroys a considerable part  of the economy.


A student cheating in an exam hall? How sustainable is that?

A student cheating in an exam hall might have an objective of prosperity of a very micro-level that being his own prosperity or of his family’s does a very unsustainable job. He fails to realise that if all the students were to cheat together and gain higher marks than they deserve,  it would create information asymmetry in the job market and that the job market would collapse. When recruiters would realise that the student from a certain university is worth nothing and is completely corrupted in his ways, and by finding a pattern in every student of that college, they might stop recruiting from such college.

There are many consequences of cheating in exams, the scope of this article being limited I wouldn’t discuss all those.


I had put across these three situations just to further illustrate my view and the logic behind the sustainability test.


I realise that all cases in India can be solved by a rational person who doesn’t even know Indian law, but by application of his rationality on the long term consequences based on the sustainability test.


While it might be very difficult to decide on the goodness or badness of some actions or their effect on the prosperity of the world, as all data might not be available at all times due to law of marginal utility; leading to an ineffective decision.


Unavailability of data should not amount to terming any decision as subjective.


Time for you to think.

Let’s take another situation, those who concur with this logic may skip to the conclusion.


Terrorists went in and blew themselves off with the person which they and their community so hated, was it good or bad?


To help you with this test I would further resolve it into three objective questions.

Did the instance have a continued effect?
Did it bring prosperity to their community?
Did it bring prosperity to the whole world?
Was it sustainable?


You probably have thought that these are not objective questions at all, they are quite subjective in nature.

Yes, good and bad are subjective from a lower perspective but from a higher plane which involves the effect on the whole world, there can be only one answer.


Yes, the instance had a continuity. Yes, it might have brought prosperity to their community in the short term. No, the world got scared and terrorised. No, people can blow off only once, and…


Blowing off with people is a very unsustainable means of achieving any kind of prosperity. A person can blow off only once, any prosperity thus brought would last only for a very short term; it can’t be a permanent solution; further how many people would you blow off?

The objective being betterment of their own community they are trading off the betterment of the world. Threatening the rest of the world will never make the world a better place to live in, thus jeopardising their own interests more.

Short term goals are the fuel behind such incidents.




Good or bad is nothing but the positivity or negativity in the sustainability test.


Being reduced to sustainable the word good can be applied in so many instances to sort out conflicts.


I might have failed to communicate my ideas wholly or partly, I implore you to think more about this sustainability test in your own ways, so that you may come up with dissenting opinion.


I might think I deserve a Nobel peace prize, but then the committee would have to decide if it would be good or bad by considering the data on how it would affect the pursuit of others towards the same, and the prosperity of the human kind; would it have a continuity or be an end in itself.

World Trade Center

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