Historically speaking, the answer to this question has generally depended on what utility is being sought, and by whom. For example:
- Theological determinism and religious fatalism have been quite helpful in pacifying followers within many different religions over time. So from the perspective of the religious elite who are interested in the conformance of followers, it has been quite a useful tool.
- In the same way the Divine Right of Kings - which has a similar flavor to theological determinism - helped stabilize the right of succession and pacify the unruly masses. So again, for Kings and Queens it was extremely useful.
- In any form of democracy, if the people believe that they have “free will,” this can provide a similar pacifying utility when the democracy doesn’t really represent the will of the people. Here again, it is quite useful for anyone in an elected position of power - and for the folks who bankrolled their campaign - to encourage this belief among the electorate in order to maintain an oligarchic status quo.
- It is also quite handy for owners of corporate monopolies when consumers believe they have “freedom of choice” - that market competition is providing better products at lower prices, whether or not that is actually the case.
- In the U.S., we routinely see the enhancement of free will promoted in competing political ideologies. Quite often, however, the outcome of persuading voters that one ideology is better at promoting or providing free will than another is usually increased oppression and exploitation of those same voters. In other words, just as with the previous examples, the “belief in free will” is most useful for the hucksters trying to establish or maintain their own influence.
Now, lest anyone think I am being overly pessimistic, I personally think it is vitally important in a democracy for the electorate to both believe in and insist on free will. Because whenever voters become fatalistic or begin to think their vote doesn’t really matter, they tend to abdicate their civic responsibility and obligations, and disengage. The greatest corrosive force to democracy is apathy - which is essentially letting other forces determine outcomes, instead of actively participating to shape an outcome. The challenge, however, is to protect and educate democracy sufficiently for the voice of the people to be artfully expressed using their own judgment…instead of their just being conned by snake oil salesmen.
My 2 cents.
From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Which-is-more-useful-for-society-to-believe-in-free-will-or-determinism/answer/T-Collins-Logan
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