Unit 1: The Role of Ethics and Morality in Politics
In this unit, we study ethical issues related to politics and governance. Ethics are the rules societies make to guide their individual and collective decision-making processes. These rules are rooted in religion, morality, law, education, experience, and human strengths and weaknesses. We explore several definitions of ethics and learn how the ethics of our leaders have evolved over time. For example, while most believe the U.S. founding fathers were highly moral, most were slave owners. We frequently consider the actions previous generations and leaders supported to be unethical, due to evolving cultural norms and societal mores.
In the United States, federal and state government employees are subject to formal ethical codes to mitigate the damage of improper political activities, such as certain types of lobbying, conflicts of interest, bribery, and nepotism. Our executive and legislative branches of government employ agencies and officials to investigate allegations of breaches of ethical codes by politicians, federal employees and other officials. Punishment for these violations is often tinged with political overtones. Officials may be censured or impeached. Employees may receive disciplinary action ranging from counseling to termination.
Ethics in international affairs can be complicated. National security concerns and a lack of resources can trump a leader's stated desire to "do the right thing". However, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, economic and social injustice abroad can impact our national security. For example, we now see the role the disintegration of Afghanistan into a failed state played in the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.
1.1: What Does "Ethics" Mean?
1.2: Ethical Oversight in Domestic Politics
1.3: Ethical Oversight in International Politics