Right and Wrong

       In “Homecoming” there was a definite breaking of American law.  Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell, Marlo Stanfield, and others were participating in drug trading and assault. To all intents and purposes, what they did was illegal and un-American. Although they operated a drug trade business, few legitimate businesses would operate under the same terms as them. Nonetheless, there are situations that present themselves to these legitimate organizations that are not necessarily clear cut right or wrong. How do these organizations go about deciding when it is ok to participate in perhaps questionable business– when it is ok to slightly step over the line of the law? I’ve decided to turn a discussion of two different ethical theories to find method for organizations to determine when it is ok to participate in “risky business.”

               According to Kantian Ethics, moral duties require that we act only according to maxims that we could will to become universal laws. In deciding upon these maxims, we must be able to both commit ourselves to them, and be able to prescribe them universally. For instance, in the case of the Enron, Fastow is often said to have used the literal word of the law to his own advantage. He devised accounting principles that may not have broken the words of the law, but did not follow their intent. Would Fastow wish this to be a universal law that all companies not follow the intent of the law? How would the world be if we applied this maxim universally, “As long as you follow the word of the law, it is ok to break its intent?” If Fastow could not see this maxim applied universally, he should not have allowed himself to do what he did.

           According to Hobbes’ Social Contract Theory, humans agree to live in a social state where there are moral principles governing their relationships with each other, and these principles are enforced by society. In determining which principles are justified we should ask ourselves: What principles would a group of rational, self-interested people commit themselves to live by when they do not yet know their personal characteristics (race, gender, ect)? Would this group of people agree to live in a world where one of the moral principles is that the law can be broken so long as you do not agree with it? If the drug dealers did not yet know they would be drug dealers, would they agree to live in a world governed by the principle: it is ok to have drug dealings and murder so long as you are born into an impoverished community and like drugs?

        In class we had some difficulty coming to an agreement on several things. For one, we felt that the government approving the War in Iraq was morally justified while if the government approved the Drug Trade War they would NOT be morally justified. How can we use these ethical theories to justify or disprove our feelings?

 For instance, one could say under Social Contract Theory the War in Iraq is morally correct for soldiers to participate in because a group of rational, self-interested people would agree that one should serve ones country. However, the Drug Trade War is wrong for dealers to participate because it does not serve the citizens to the same extent.

One could say under Kantian Ethics that the War in Iraq and the Drug Trade War are both morally wrong because we could never universalize the maxim that it is morally correct to kill.

3 Responses

  1. I don’t think it was that the War itself was morally justified, it is something that many feel had to happen because of what was going on during that time (2000-2002). It was interesting how heated of a discussion came about in class in reference to these two topics. It was also interesting how they were compared on the same level. I still find it fascinating that we compared the two, since they are, in my mind, two completely different arguments. The two have been around for hundreds of year’s but to compare them as similar, in my opinion and this is just my opinion, is insulting those who fight for our country, to be comparing them to drug dealers. I don’t see how anyone can find that right. Again, just my opinion. I think that this argument could have gone on for hours in class, it was nice to be able to see the many views of students’ on Bucknells campus. Great article!

  2. Kelli, I agree with you “we could never universalize the maxim that it is morally correct to kill.” – no one has the right to take a life- but that’s my opinion…- the soldiers that go to war know what they are going to do…it’s a job they sign up for…we can say they sign up to defend the country but they still sign up to kill. I think it is honorable to go to war but it doesn’t justify killing

  3. I think that my main issue with the disagreement in class came up when we were debating how similar the drug war and Iraq war are. I think there is a fundamental issue that arises with the morality of the drug war in that drugs are not only illegal, but the ones selling the drugs are typically not the ones who use them. Now, there are obviously things surrounding the Iraq war that are immoral (torture, rape, etc.) but looking simply at the war I believe that it is a moral action. I think it is important to look at the goals that each are working for: to create a democratic nation in the Middle East vs. making a large profit off exploiting people who are physically addicted to drugs.

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