Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ethical Behavior

What is ethical behavior? For me, it is actions and words that reduce human suffering, facilitate cooperation for the general good of people here and abroad, and promote broadening the range of possibilities for everyone.

While we do what we can to follow these guidelines for family, friends and neighbors, what we can do individually is limited. Helping more of our fellow human beings requires collective action, much of it by governments, national, state, and local. So, for me, politicians' ethics involves how they behave with respect to the criteria listed above. Here are some examples:

Since WW II, the US government has killed, wounded, or driven from their homes many millions of people, and continues to do so. For example, its drones are bombing buildings believed to contain ”suspected militants”, regardless of who else may be inside. To me, politicians who support such savagery are behaving unethically.

The disparity of income in the US is the greatest in the developed world, and is greater than even in places such as Tunisia and Libya, where it has led to revolution. Poverty abounds in the US. Many children lack food and medical care. To me, politicians who support laws to make the super-rich even richer and to deny help to those in need are behaving unethically.

Millions of Americans suffer from disease because they cannot afford adequate medical care, especially preventive medicine. To me, politicians who oppose measures to give all citizens access to adequate health care are behaving unethically.

Education contributes to productivity, an informed electorate, access to opportunities, and a richer life. To me, politicians who work to limit educational opportunities for all Americans are behaving unethically.

Civilian injuries and deaths result from the use of weapons such as land mines, cluster bombs, and torture. Others result from small arms trafficking. The US has refused to join the international community in controlling such evils. To me, politicians who oppose such cooperation are behaving unethically.

Until recently, this country continued to improve civil rights for its citizens. In recent years, however, our government has imprisoned citizens without trial and tortured them. Its repression of dissenters is becoming more like that of the police states that we abhor. Now, our government has announced a justification for killing citizens on suspicion, without a hearing. To me, politicians who support these invasions of civil rights are behaving unethically.

Our planet is threatened by global warming, pollution, lack of water, and other aspects of a deteriorating environment. The US has dragged its feet with respect to both domestic environmental protection and refuses to cooperate with the rest of the world to protect our planet. To me, politicians who oppose reasonable measures to protect the earth’s environment are behaving unethically.

America could easily afford to take the ethical path if the super-rich and the military didn’t consume such a large fraction of our GDP.

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