Presentation on theme: "Ethics of Foreign Policy How can we judge our leaders’ actions?"— Presentation transcript:
Ethics of Foreign Policy How can we judge our leaders’ actions?
I. Bases of ethics A. Consequentialism = Right and wrong depend on consequences of our actions. Examples: 1. Oppenheim’s “practical necessity” 2. Utilitarianism B. Deontology: Certain acts are right or wrong regardless of consequences 1. Argument from divine revelation: Certain acts prohibited by moral law even though no punishment/consequences 2. Kant’s Categorical Imperative: Act only when you want your behavior to become a universal law – also implies that one must always treat people as ends in themselves and never merely as means
II. Goals: National vs. Global Interests A. National Interest: Sometimes incoherent (Arrow’s Theorem) but probably includes physical and economic security 1. Implication: Governments should value own citizens’ welfare above welfare of others 2. Problem: Identifying long-term national interest is hard or even impossible
B. The global interest: Everyone is equal 1. Implication: Equal moral weight to every life 2. Problem: Requires governments to sacrifice their own people for the good of others
III. Four Views of International Ethics Legitimate Goal of Policy National Interest Global Interest Consequentialism Prescriptive Realism Deontology Ethical Standard
A. Prescriptive Realism 1. Oppenheim’s 1987 Argument (Practical Necessity): a. Morality implies choice – to say that a state should take Action A instead of Action B is to imply that it does indeed have a choice. b. Practical necessity makes morality irrelevant – Even if a state has a choice between Actions A and B, if it faces extinction if it pursues Action B, then it is practically necessary for it to pursue Action A c. National interest is necessary goal – States that fail to pursue the national interest get eaten by those that do critical step: does this happen? d. It is not rational to oppose something that is practically necessary, since no genuine choice exists.
2. Implications of Practical Necessity a. Recommending national interest: Redundant b. Opposing it: Irrational
c. When goal is compatible with national interest i. Only one effective means available: Support redundant, opposition irrational. ii. Several effective means available: Morality comes into play. Some means more effective than others: irrational to oppose the more effective means and redundant to oppose the less effective means. (If something is necessary, then it must be pursued using the best means at hand.) Some means more effective than others: irrational to oppose the more effective means and redundant to oppose the less effective means. (If something is necessary, then it must be pursued using the best means at hand.) Several equally effective means available: Moral choice exists Several equally effective means available: Moral choice exists
3. Oppenheim’s 2002 Argument: Primary Goods a. National interest defined as a list of goods which are needed to pursue any other national goals b. Since pursuing any goal means acquiring primary goods, states must pursue primary goods c. Argument shifts to satisficing of primary goods, not maximizing them (because maximizing might cause undesirable side-effects)
4. Problems with Prescriptive Realism a. Normative basis of self-interested rationality not defended. Selfish rationality assumed to be valuable for its own sake. b. National Interest can be incoherent: Arrow’s Theorem implies that if different people have different long-term interests, there may not be a policy that makes all better off than the alternative c. Vagueness: National interest is defined as what is objectively best, rather than subjective preference
III. Four Views of International Ethics Legitimate Goal of Policy National Interest Global Interest Consequentialism Prescriptive Realism Utilitarianism Deontology Ethical Standard
B. Utilitarianism 1. Fundamental principle: Greatest good for the greatest number. Everyone’s happiness counts equally. 2. Implications: If utility of money is non- linear (diminishing), then wealth transfer from rich people to poor people is probably best (exception: if transfer inhibits so much wealth creation that even the poor are worse off)
3. Problems with Utilitarianism a. Vagueness – “The greatest good” is even more problematic than “national interest” b. Incorrect calculations can justify anything – Example: economic benefits and social stability used to justify slavery c. Distributive justice – Utilitarianism allows us to treat people unfairly for the benefit of others (kill half and give their stuff to the rest, cutting pollution in the process)
III. Four Views of International Ethics Legitimate Goal of Policy National Interest Global Interest Consequentialism Prescriptive Realism Utilitarianism Deontology Social Contract Ethical Standard
C. Social Contract 1. Fundamental principle: Treat people as ends and not merely means a. Legitimacy: Government power is moral if and only if exercised by consent of people for the end of securing their rights b. Property is a natural right: people would naturally acquire things and seek to retain them even if there were no government c. Theft is doubly wrong: Treats people as means to an end and violates their natural property rights
2. Implications a. Government must serve national interest – interests of the people determine right and wrong for their government b. Defense is moral – Consent can be inferred for the continued survival of the people c. Reject foreign aid and charity – Taxing (theft) some to help others is wrong. Treats people as means rather than ends d. All lives are not equal – each government exists to promote the welfare of a limited group, not everyone
3. Problems with the Social Contract approach a. Delegation problem: If people have no right to oppress others, how can they delegate that right to their government? b. Confuses consent to government with consent to each government act: People may agree to be bound by a process that sometimes harms them c. Circumstances may require government to treat foreigners as means to the end of domestic happiness or property
III. Four Views of International Ethics Legitimate Goal of Policy National Interest Global Interest Consequentialism Prescriptive Realism Utilitarianism Deontology Social Contract Cosmopolitanism Ethical Standard
D. Cosmopolitanism 1. Fundamental principle: Categorical Imperative (Behave in ways that you think others should behave) 2. Variant: “Veil of Ignorance.” Assume decisions must be made without knowing your own place in the world. Which world do you want to live in, if you didn’t know where you would be born?
3. Implications of Cosmopolitanism a. Negotiate international laws and follow them once negotiated – law is morally binding because we want others to follow it b. Two wrongs don’t make a right – noncompliance by others does not end the moral force of law c. Do the right thing even when no law exists. Orend’s example: Follow precepts of “Just War Theory” because goal should be a more just state of affairs (no aggression, no targeting civilians, seek a peace more just than the antebellum status quo)
4. Problems with Cosmopolitanism a. Objections to law-as-morality i. New state dilemma – Why obey rules to which the state never consented? ii. Changing state dilemma – Stronger states want to revoke consent to rules that protect the weak iii. Legal indeterminacy – Law frequently contradicts itself b. Theory requires detachment from self – is this even possible? c. Notion of states as moral actors – does responsibility lie with “peoples” or governments? Each wants to pass the buck…