Arthur WashburneMoral Accountability EssayMorality depends on the ability of an individual to choose between good and evil, thus, entailing freedom of the will and the moral responsibility of the individual for his actions. It is obvious this is so for the individual, but what about groups and governments? Do they have the ability to choose between good and evil, do they have free will and therefore are they subject to the same paradigms of morality as the individual or does an autonomous morality apply.
What if we relate this concept of morality to a present day moral dilemma? Such as should the United States government fire cruise missiles at Serbian cities in order to force the government of Serbia to comply with NATO demands of withdrawal from Kosovo? What moral questions should be asked? Further yet, as we are members of representative democracy, do the citizens bear any of the responsibility of the government’s actions?Order now
Am I responsible for the government I choose? Being that it is the actions of governments we wish to question the morality of, we must know what the present justification for or against the launch of cruise missiles at Serbia and what the consequences of that decision would be. It can be conjectured that the official rational of the United States government in its decision to use cruise missiles on Serbia is based on cost/benefit analysis of what would be in the best interest of the nation and the world—a utilitarian morality. The Serbian government has invaded and seeks to undermine the sovereignty of Kosovo while using genocidal tactics to control the population.
The US is acting on what it believes to be the greatest good for the greatest number. But who is the government to place a market value on human life? Is it moral and does the government have the right to place such a value on human life? And who is responsible for their decision? The official utilitarian rationale of the United States government does place a market value on human life Kant writes: Now morality is the condition under which alone a rational being can be an end in himself, for only thereby can he be a legislating member in the kingdom of ends”, survival of the individual in a group is the end. If we are to treat men otherwise, as a means to an end, we must make that a categorical imperative and we must treat it as if that action will be a universal law of nature laws to live by). Hence, to do harm to others, to place a market value on man, would be immoral since it would harm humanity.
Likewise, it is immoral for the United States to sacrifice ten thousand lives in hope of saving more. It must be asked what if everyone sacrificed ten thousand lives?. According to Kant’s theory of the Universal law, We must be able to will that a maxim of our action become universal law, this is the canon for morally estimating any of our actions (Kant). Perhaps it is a touch ironic that the very document the US was founded on reads: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
This, like Kant’s moral philosophy of universal maxims, proclaims that man has intrinsic absolute value. Yet, so quickly are we ready to disregard this declaration as our cost benefit analysis dictates. Slavery was abolished on the principle of the absolute value of man. Why should we disregard this now? Do we suspend the unalienable rights to life whenever it would be most prudent? The United States must ask itself whether it wishes to make a maxim of placing value on human life. It must be remembered that by lowering the value of life of others, we at the same time lower our own value. Governments and institutions are composed of a completely different dynamic than that of the individual.
This leaves man curious as to whether to obey the same set of morals.