The Ethics of Governance - YJ Draiman
When we have a set of principles, of values, which we have been learning for many years, we organize our life following this structure, and then we try to apply that frame of mind to practical situations in our life. But often, we find ourselves in a sort of uncomfortable position because the moment we try to apply our values to this very present practical issue, we feel that the situation is not as clear as we would like, that we can not tell very clearly which is the best possible alternative. Often, it is not a choice between good answers and bad answers, good and evil, but maybe between two good things or two bad things. We would like to be much surer about our decisions.
When this happens in government, it is even worse because the whole society and beyond is affected by your decision. You are not dealing with your own life. You are dealing with many millions of lives at the same time. Maybe things will never be the same again in the future because of your decision. Hence, ethical decisions in government are; How do you apply your theoretical values to practical decisions where you do not have pure answers and when the whole life of your society or community will be affected?
I have found a plethora of relevant information on the Web. You have very good practical advice and tips on how to deal with these problems. The first is to get the facts. For example, when you have a headache, probably, the headache is not the problem; the headache is the symptom of the problem. If you hit your head against the wall, that's Scenario A. If you have a hangover, that is Scenario B. If you have a tumor in your brain, that is Scenario C. Therefore, to have a headache is just a symptom of something else. What you need to do if you have the symptom or a group of symptoms is to try to sort them out, to elaborate possible explanations for them-that is how doctors precede. For each possible explanation, you can have an action plan and then you have to implement it. So you go from practical things-the headache-to theoretical things-the possible diagnosis-then to the possible solutions-the prescription-and then back to the practical field-the treatment or the implementation of the cure.
You have more or less the same system dealing with the problems in government. You need all the facts. The facts can be the symptoms or the problem. You never know which is it at the instant you start analyzing the problem. Thus, you get the facts, and afterwards you try to make some sense of them. You have some theories or hypothesis of what is causing the symptoms. In addition, you try to implement the course of action. Only after you have consulted with your advisers, you want to have as much input as possible.
You also have to deal with the problem in ethical terms. The ethical approach is the Utilitarian. You have to balance how much good and how much evil you produce with your actions. If the good outweighs the evil, you should do it, as it is a sort of balance. The second is based on the concept of rights. There are some basic human rights that you have to respect. You are not allowed to affect those human rights in order to produce positive affect in your society. The third one is founded; on the concept of justice or fairness. We have at least three different concepts about justice. You can have distributive justice in which you try to distribute all the goods of the society according to the needs of the people. However, you can also have the concept of contribution. In this case, you are not receiving on the base of what you need but on the base of what you are contributing to society. In addition, you have the compensation concept. In this circumstance, you have the right for compensation if you have losses or harm done due to others. The fourth major ethical approach is a foundation on virtues. The question is not what I should do, but what kind of society would I like to have in the future. How are my actions going to contribute to that future? In addition, you have the common good, the concept in which you are doing things that are equally good for everybody in your community.