Introduced by Jeremy Bentham - an 18th-century English political philosopher.
The right thing to do, the just thing to do is to maximize utility
Utility: pleasure over pain, happiness over suffering
All human beings are governed by two sovereign masters: pain and pleasure. We like pleasure and dislike pain
The right thing to do individually or collectively is to maximize the overall level of happiness.
"The greatest good for the greatest number."
Bentham's version of utilitarianism: The highest principle of morality - whether personal or political morality - is to maximize the general welfare or the collective happiness or the overall balance of pleasure over pain: "maximize utility"
Bentham tells us to maximize utility as a principle not only for individuals but also for communities and legislators.
In deciding the best policy, in deciding what the law should be, in deciding what's just, citizens and legislators should as themselves the question - if we add up all of the benefits of this policy and subtract all of the costs, the right thing to do is the one that maximizes the happiness over suffering - that is what it means to maximize utility.
The above point is usually achieved using cost-benefit analysis. which is used by companies and by governments all the time. it involves placing a value - usually a dollar value - to stand for utility, and the costs and the benefits of various proposals.
In cost-benefit analysis, associating a dollar value to human life has raised controversies.
Fails to respect individual/minority rights
Not possible to aggregate all values into dollars.
The following case and its verdict is a related discussion area