In this day and age, where war, fear and hatred are so abundantly present, we encounter more and more fellow human beings who seem ruthlessly pragmatic when it comes to solving world problems. When discussing ISIL, for instance, the comment ‘just nuke ’em’ is far from scarce.
Other people, like a prominent businessman and politician speak of ‘killing their families’ and ‘implementing tortures such as waterboarding, even if it doesn’t work.’ These are instances of reactionary rhetoric and gives the impression that many amongst our fellow humans do not care to fully examine current political problems on an ethical level.
That’s sad, as we have a great abundance of even greater philosophical works by some of the most enlightened minds throughout history to help us with this. Aside from that, the world of ethical consideration is just wondrous and educative, even if you reach no conclusion. It just is such a waste to reserve ethical consideration for mere judgement.
So why should people ethically consider social or political problems?
Let’s take a trip to the present. If you, like me, enjoy discussing news articles online, you will have noticed that political, social and military factions are basically sorted into four categories: acceptable good, unacceptable good, acceptable evil and unacceptable evil. Let’s examine these categories for a minute.
The acceptable good;
The acceptable good, often also perceived as good by default, is the category for the factions that are perceived to have a right of existence and to strife for ‘good’. An example here is the US in the western world. Though specific opinions may vary, within the west, the US is generally accepted as the police of the world.
The unacceptable good;
The unacceptable good is a faction that is perceived of having good or noble goals or commits good or noble actions, but is in a way unacceptable, often due to its means of aspiration. An example for this category is found among a number of Muslims, whom typically support the erecting of a caliphate (Islamic state run by a caliph, who is a successor to Muhammad), but reject ISIL on the grounds of their un-Islamic ways of treating infidels and fellow Muslims.
The acceptable evil;
The acceptable evil is a faction that works to achieve a goal that is generally considered to be bad or evil, but either has redeemable qualities or is to powerful to terminate. A good example for this is Russia for the US and vice versa. Russia is the US’ prime evil. But it is accepted because going to war would engulf the world in fire and nuclear radiation.
The unacceptable evil;
The unacceptable evil is a faction that works to achieve a goal that is perceived as bad or evil and has little to no redeeming qualities or the redeeming qualities it possesses do not weigh up to the depravity of their intents and actions. A good example would be any faction that is perceived to be ripe for regime-change. Let’s take Al-Qaida, for westerners.
Description of the problem;
While it might not seem to be irrational or ignorant to have a system of four categories to neatly organise (geo-)political factions and events, a problem arises when one of these factions, mostly the one to which they (feel they) belong, is perceived as ‘good by default’ or even ‘better by default’.
Yet we see this is the case in most modern countries. Where the government of “country A” admits to having committed war crimes, their civilians are at the ready to defend them, no matter the case. A good example of this we find, once again, in the US with both Guantanamo bay and the CIA torture report. In both cases, innocent people were hurt, sometimes for years on end, without the fair trial each human deserves (see the Geneva treaty). And in both cases, droves of people were at the ready to defend this choice, saying it was absolutely necessary and a good or the best move.
But we know for a fact that they were not a good move, nor were they the best move. In the case of Guantanamo, the US government made agreements with afghan and Pakistani warlords to imprison and extradite Al-Qaida members. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of history and power could have predicted that rather than Al-Qaida members, these warlords extradited their competitors and pesky civilians. Yet, these men were kept in Guantanamo and tortured for years.
In the case of the CIA torture report, in which it was found that 52% of tortured captives turn out to be innocent and not in possession of the desired information, a military trial would have at the very least diminished the percentage of innocent or ignorant victims. But even this, I would say, is too lenient toward the US government. The fact is that they signed the treaty of Geneva, declaring the UN Human rights to be accepted -though the US never ratified the treaty- and the human rights provide protection against cruel and unusual punishment. This should never have happened and is thusly NOT a good or the best move.
So what difference does ethical consideration make?
Ethical consideration for political problems and questions, might seem to be irrelevant for the political landscape. This is in large parts due to recent politics, which haven’t focused on doing ‘the right thing’ for a long time.
These days, politics is almost synonymous with economics, and that’s a great shame. While politicians care about running the economy their way (which is funny, as both the left-wing and the right-wing proposed policies tend to run the economy into the ground, but that’s perhaps the subject for a future article), the population has to be submitted to higher taxes or increasing freedom and thus immoral behaviour by companies and corporations.
This makes sense economically, because a person registered as a company brings in more tax revenue than a person registered as a person. This is not because taxes for companies are higher (which isn’t the case), but because companies move more money and therefore make more money.
This leads to a tendency of giving more freedom to companies by lowering their tax-burden and giving them certain benefits, which in turn leads to terms like “too big to fail”. The term too big to fail in turn leads to a form of corporate welfare, in which the government is basically forced to maintain failing too big to fail companies in order to save the population from the consequences of said company failing. So we see that our economic policies are directly victimizing the population, the very population who voted for the people who created said policies, who are voted into office by the population. These are, by the way, entirely basic and predictable economic patterns.
Now, you might think to yourself; “But what about capitalism?” Well, I contend this isn’t capitalism. Capitalism is more meritocratic than the system we currently have. Capitalism is the principle of free market trade, where the market decides whether or not a company has what it takes to be founded and to prolong its existence. There is no “too big to fail” in capitalism, because once it fails, it no longer has the approval of the population, which means the product sold by the company is no longer in favour with the population. This is why there is such an emphasis on competition in the capitalist economic theory. Yet, in this day and age, we are left to deal with companies that have bankrupted thousands of us, simply because they are our only options and our “representatives” thought they were “too big to fail”.
So, we can see here the primary influence ethical consideration would have on politics; a more balanced stance regarding the economy. There would be an understanding for the needs and wants of companies and corporations, but there would not be special privileges that would undermine the link between companies, corporations and the population. The special welfare privileges would then be used fort he population itself and failing too big to fail companies would just be taken apart and the subsets would be left tof end for themselves.
The same thing can be said for foreign affairs. When we look at the refugee crisis for instance, we see that the panic in the EU has lead to an inability to decently distribute refugees across Europe. This is actually kind of a funny incident, as the influx of refugees had remained more or less stable from 2014 until 2015. The problems only started in late September of 2015, after the word ‘crisis’ was added to the description. The term crisis was added, because some reporter somewhere thought that the ‘massive’ influx of refugees would be unbearable for the delicate recovery of the economy. This turned out to be untrue, as most countries in the EU are showing signs of growth, regardless this new “crisis”.
This is a great example of how words can effect our thinking and actions as well as how easy it is to cause social upheaval. It’s altogether beautiful and terrifying.
When we introduce ethical consideration to the decision making in politics, we might have leaders that are willing to look beyond the potential problems fort heir own country and think more like a union ought to; spreading the risk, instead of avoiding it. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Merkel’s “Wir schaffen das(We will make it)”, but the actions taken after that, resemble more a “wir schaffen das nicht(We will not make it)” approach, even threatening to close their borders to new refugees in may of 2016.
In conclusion, we can say that politics is the governing of people, yet it has –over the last decades- changed to governing money. We also know that when governing people, the focus should be on “what is right/fair” than “what is cheapest or most lucrative”. This is leading to more and more situations in which innocent civilians are falling victim to government savings, only to see the government spend more and more on companies who go on to pocket their newly found benefits. But most importantly, we see that just a bit more of ethical consideration could change the world fort he better. I’d like to thank you for your time reading this and hope you have a good day.