Ethics and Government Angela M. Roberson SOC 120: Introduction to Ethics and Social Responsibility Professor Kay Green May 30, 2010 Ethics is defined as a set of principles of right conduct. It is also a theory or a system of moral values (Merriman/Webster online dictionary). Government Ethics is often times referred to an oxy-moron. The reason for this is that many believe that our government does not have ethics in decision making. In this paper I will attempt to analyze the links between laws and ethics and how they have a relationship with one another.
I will also explain how our government and ethics have a connection and how this connection can be made better. In recent months there have been several government issues going. It appears to me that there is a lack of ethics being applied in the decision making. One of the current issues that I will discuss is the Oil Spill going on in the Gulf right now. At the time this paper was written, the President has failed to answer any questions concerning this issue nor has he addressed the country. Laws are being created and amended each day.
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As the people, we look up to laws to help protect us. But many people have lost their faith in our laws. Some people may think “why do we have ethics if we have laws to govern our behavior? ” The best answer that I can come up with is no ethics, no laws. According to Ruggiero ethics is the reason that we have laws in the first place. Why do we need ethics if we have laws? Laws would be non existent without ethics Laws are a set of guidelines to help define ethical issues and the consequences of these issues that are to be given if someone decides to act wrongfully.
Lawmakers look to ethics as guidance when creating laws however Ethicists are not lawmakers. One of the reasons why many people feel that our government does not ethics is the lack of understanding of the true meaning of ethics. There are two different definitions of ethics. These are the scientific sense and the philosophical sense. The scientific sense describes ethics as a descriptive discipline which involves the collection and interpretation of data based upon what different cultures believe.
The philosophical sense involves two sides; normative ethics and metaethics. The main goal of normative ethics is to arrive at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. This may involve articulating good habits that we should have or will acquire, the duties that we should follow, and the consequences of our behavior to others. The Golden Rule is an example of a normative principle. We should do to others what we would want others to do to us and vice versa. Other normative theories are more focused on foundational principles and good character traits.
The definition of metaethics is to investigate where our ethical principles come from, and what they mean (Fieser, 2006). Metaethics answers questions that pertain to social interventions and expression of our individual emotions. Many of these questions focus on the issues of the will of God, the role of reason in ethical judgments, universal truths, and the meaning of the ethical terms themselves (Fieser, 2006). Metaethics can also be defined as the study of the origin and meaning of ethical concepts. According to Fieser there is a third side of philosophical ethics. He calls it applied ethics.
Applied ethics is defined as a branch of ethics which is an analysis of specific controversial moral issues such as abortion, animal rights, and euthanasia. In order for an issue to become an applied ethical issue there must be a double point of view. In recent years applied ethical issues have been subdivided into smaller groups such as medical ethics, business ethics, environmental ethics, and sexual ethics. There are a lot of issues pertaining to these groups because there was no majority view of what was right and wrong. Issues like gang violence or child abuse are not considered applied ethics because the majority views it as wrong.
When faced with an issue such as destroying a park to extend the street, cutting down trees to build new homes, or causing a disturbance to nature would be an applied ethical situation because not everyone considers these actions wrong. The second requirement for in issue to be an applied ethical issue is that it must be a moral issue. Sensitive issues like affirmative action, don’t ask don’t tell, health care reform and energy conservation are controversial and have an important impact on society. Fieser refers to some of these issues as issues of social policy.
His definition of social policy is to help make a given society run efficiently by devising conventions, such as traffic laws, tax laws, and zoning codes. As for moral issues, he stated that it concerns more universally obligatory practices, such as our duty to avoid lying, and are not confined to individual societies. One example that he brought up was, “some social policies forbid residents in certain neighborhoods from having yard sales. But, so long as the neighbors are not offended, there is nothing immoral in itself about a resident having a yard sale in one of these neighborhoods. Therefore, to qualify as an applied ethical issue, the issue must be more than one of mere social policy: it must be morally relevant as well (Fieser, 2006). The ethical process helps to explore the reasons for different positions, and to evaluate them by ethical standards. The process provides opportunities for mutual understanding and learning. By integrating the more traditional emphasis in ethics on rationality with the more recent emphasis on relationships, The Ethical Process invites participants to jointly explore the basis and the value of their disagreement through the creation of “argumentative dialogues. By going through this process, groups can learn how to use disagreement as a resource for making better decisions. We hear about controversial issues in the news everyday about our government. Many are usually around election time when certain bills or laws, that will affect our lives, want to be passed. As a citizen, we have the right to vote, in which we can help make a decision based upon our moral views. As stated by Brown (2003), the ethical process is a guide in working together to make better decisions and fewer mistakes. The ethical process has three ethical approaches.
The first approach was the ethics of purpose, which begins with an individual, group, or organization that decides what its “good” purposes are, and then asking what action can bring about those purposes (Brown, 2003). The second approach is the ethics of principle, which focuses on the act and the person or group that is bringing up the purpose. This approach seeks the principle of an action and then tests its validity by seeing if one can will it as a universal moral law (Brown, 2003). The third approach is the ethics of consequences.
The ethics of consequences simply covers the situation. This approach begins with the result of the act, by looking at what impact it will have on the situation On April 20, 2010 the worst oil spill in our nation’s history began. This spill surpasses the 1989 Exon Valdez disaster of the Alaskan coast. 12,000 to 14,000 barrels of oil per day have been spilling per day into the Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana, which is closest to the spill, officials have shut down many areas off the state’s coast to fishing and shrimp and oyster harvesting.
While Louisiana officials focused on convincing a concerned American public that Gulf Coast seafood is safe to eat, Florida officials were working to entice people to visit their state, which hasn’t been physically affected by the spill. The federal and state fishing bans were made to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers. NOAA is working with the Food and Drug Administration on a seafood-safety plan, which includes sampling seafood from inside and outside the federal closure area, at fishing docks, and from seafood markets.
While relatively few numbers of Gulf wildlife have been counted as oil fatalities to date, wildlife experts say the spill could produce mass casualties and steep declines of populations in the coming weeks, months, and years. Of particular concern: bluefin tuna, Kemp’s ridley turtles, and Florida manatees. In my opinion the oil spill is a serious ethical process that the nation should have been informed of immediate. This is a matter that has caused a serious affect on the environment.
We are currently over coming a recession, so I feel the president should have flown to the Gulf the minute he heard about the situation. I also feel that there should be laws or protocol in place for those fishermen who have lost income everyday during the past six weeks. Businesses that depend on the gulf waters for their existence are likely to fail. Fishing off the Louisiana coast has been decimated this year, and very likely for years to come. Tourism is non-existent for businesses dependent on that industry and it appear for the rest of the season this year.
Will those funds be spent to subsidize those businesses? In the other 4 gulf states, businesses dependent on tourism and fishing are also feeling the pain, in spite of so far escaping the spill hitting their shores. We are hearing that advance reservations are nil in many states, while cancellations are on the rise. Even as far away as Tampa bay, businesses are reporting that virtually all the calls they are receiving are cancellations, not reservations. It is definitely not business as usual along the coast. Should BP be removed from control while the US government takes over?
The government response to that question is that BP has the funds and expertise to stop this spill. The government apparently has looked to other major oil companies for alternatives, but all have said they would be taking the same steps BP has been taking. I feel the government should maintain a watchful eye over the crisis and demand the cleanup is finished in the next 2 weeks. .Another ethical issue our government is facing today is that of a National Health Insurance Plan. As a Health Care Professional and an American I feel that all U. S. itizens have the right to proper health care regardless of their ability to pay. Many people feel otherwise. The United States spends more on health care than any other nation the world. In 2007 the U. S. spent $2. 2 trillion on healthcare (Medical Economics, 2008). In the U. S. 84. 7% of its citizens have health insurance, either through their employer, purchased individually, or government funded. The U. S. economy has been in recession for more than a year, the unemployment rate is climbing, the ranks of the uninsured are growing rapidly, and health care provider organizations are feeling the squeeze.
The current health care system is in need of reform. Our country is among the richest countries in the world so I’m sure we can find a method to financially fund this program. The health care reform bill, signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, would expand health care coverage to 31 million currently uninsured Americans through a combination of cost controls, subsidies and mandates. So why are so many Americans against it? Do we not feel that all fellow Americans deserve healthcare?
During the recent recession as people lost their jobs they lost healthcare coverage. I think healthcare reform will bring long-overdue regulations to the private health insurance market so that people can no longer be denied coverage or charged exorbitant premiums because of pre-existing health conditions, health status, gender, or age. A major expansion of Medicaid coverage that will be fully federally funded for millions of low-income working families who currently fall through the cracks is only the start of a great health care system.
A regulated marketplace that clamps down on insurance company abuses so people can no longer be denied coverage must follow suit in order for health care reform to function fully. There should also be a requirement that insurance companies spend more of the premium dollars they collect on patient care. As a worker in the healthcare field I also feel that a strong public plan option that will provide choice, stability, and an honest yardstick to keep costs down and limits on out-of-pocket spending, giving Americans real ealth security and peace of mind will help improve the quality of health care in America. Is it really ethical for us to be denied health care coverage? As a principle in government ethics, all people are supposed to have equal access to the ear of government officials. New media can improve the access of citizens to their representatives by increasing the number and variety of channels of communication. However, these media can also restrict access or favor certain constituencies. Generally, public resources must be used for public purposes.
An engaged citizenry is a public purpose, and electronic communications, social media, and the Internet is a good tool to foster that purpose. For example, many officials have replaced the old constituent newsletter with e-newsletters, which also are more ecologically friendly. Potential problem areas include Using official government Web resources to promote a campaign and using official government resources to promote a business. Both which are ethically wrong. The ethical process has taught me that it is not always easy to make a choice that is right.
There may be lack of informative resources. We must also know how to differentiate between law and ethics in government. But I also want to keep in mind that the respect we have for each other’s differences and our willingness to mutually explore our differences can be a big part in our success of settling controversial issues. We must also know how to differentiate between law and ethics in government. This is where I think the government lack of. They are too occupied in choosing a side and defending that side that they have forgotten to work together to find a good solution.
The battles within the government have been so common that the government may have forgotten what their purpose was in the first place. Many government officials are elected by the people to represent the people. Therefore they should try and spend more time listening to the people and realizing that some of the decisions that are being made by them are unethical. Our government has a lot on their shoulders. With this in mind they also need to stay focused on the ethics of their decisions in lawmaking. References Alpert, B. (2010). Gulf Oil Spill Far Larger than Exxon Valdez.
Retrieved from May 24, 2010 from www. msnbc. com Brown, M. T. (2003). The Ethical Process: An Approach to Disagreements and Controversial Issues. Third Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Fieser,J. (2006). Ethics :The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved May 25, 2010 from http://www. iep. utm. edu/ethics. Ruggiero, V. (2008). Thinking critically about ethical issues. (7th ed. ). New York: McGraw-Hill. www. healthreform. gov, Retrieved May 27, 2010 www. nemj. org, retrieved May 21, 2010 http://www. scu. edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/government_ethics/roundtable/web2. html