If you're thinking of using a form of utilitarianism as your criterion for the Sept. / Oct. LD permissible killing resolution, or for any other resolution involving morality, consider these issues.
1. Utilitarianism offers a clear standard for what counts as moral--do what maximizes the good--but not what counts as good. In fact, for utilitarianism as a theory, no specific conception of the good is required. [After Daniel E. Palmer's "On the Viability of Rule Utilitarianism," found in the March 1999 edition of the Journal of Value Inquiry, pp. 31-42.]
2. Similarly, utilitarianism as a theory can tell us how we ought to make a decision, without giving a clear indication as to what decision we ought to make. In come the Rule Utilitarians, who ask us to consider our actions in the light of the rules we do--or should--follow. What consequences do those rules bring about?
3. But this is problematic as well. According to many critics, "[T]he set of rules that would bring about the best consequences if people actually did conform to them would consist of only one rule, the rule that states that we should act to produce the best consequences." In other words, Rule Utilitarianism is "extensionally equivalent" to Act Utilitarianism, and therefore suffers from the same shortcomings. [Palmer, op. cit., p. 33]
4. Thus, some Rule Utilitarians focus only on the rules that are normally and generally recognized by actual moral agents. Richard Brandt's "ideal moral code theory" and Brad Hooker's "distribution-sensitive rule consequentialism" are two such methods.
5. Brandt's version can be summed up, in his words, thusly:
[A]n act is right if and only if it would not be prohibited by the moral code ideal for the society.[qtd. in Palmer] The ideal code is that which produces the best consequences when followed by the preponderance of society. An immediate question: how and why is the societal boundary drawn?
6. Hooker's formulation is slightly different, and combats some of the weaknesses in Brandt's:
An act is right if and only if it is forbidden by the code of rules whose internalization by the overwhelming majority of everyone everywhere in each new generation has maximum expected value in terms of well-being (with some priority to the worst off).[Brad Hooker, Ideal Code, Real World, 2000, p. 32]
"Has maximum expected value" is another way to say "maximizes utility," but with an important distinction: the reasonable expectation of a payoff, rather than the post-hoc determination of a payoff, is sufficient to justify a rule. This is critical for anyone who attacks utilitarianism on epistemic grounds--in other words, by arguing that we can't know the precise consequences of our actions, so we are paralyzed in the face of a difficult choice. Hooker's rule avoids that objection.
If you have any good ideas about using utilitarianism in a round--in any variety--leave them in the comments.