Morality depends on the ability of an individual to choose between good andevil, thus, entailing freedom of the will and the moral responsibility of theindividual for his actions.
It is obvious this is so for the individual, butwhat about groups and governments? Do they have the ability to choose betweengood and evil, do they have free will and therefore are they subject to the sameparadigms 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? Suchas should the United States government fire cruise missiles at Serbian cities inorder to force the government of Serbia to comply with NATO demands ofwithdrawal from Kosovo? What moral questions should be asked? Further yet, as weare members of a representative democracy, do the citizens bear any of theresponsibility of the government’s actions? Am I responsible for the governmentI choose? Being that it is the actions of a governments we wish to question themorality of, we must know what the present justification for or against thelaunch of cruise missiles at Serbia and what the consequences of that decisionwould be. It can be conjectured that the “official rational” of theUnited States government in its decision to use cruise missiles on Serbia isbased on cost/benefit analysis of what would be in the best interest of thenation and the worlda utilitarian morality. The Serbian government hasinvaded and seeks to undermine the sovereignty of Kosovo while using genocidaltactics to control the population. The US is acting on what it believes to bethe greatest good for the greatest number.Order now
But who is the government to place amarket value on human life? Is it moral and does the government have the rightto 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 amarket value on human life Kant writes: “Now morality is the conditionunder which alone a rational being can be an end in himself, for only therebycan he be a legislating member in the kingdom of ends”, survival of theindividual in a group is the end. If we are to treat men otherwise, as a meansto an end, we must make that a categorical imperative and we must treat it as ifthat action will be a universal law of nature laws to live by). Hence, to doharm to others, to place a market value on man, would be immoral since it wouldharm humanity. Likewise, it is immoral for the United States to sacrifice tenthousand lives in hope of saving more. It must be asked “what if everyonesacrificed ten thousand lives?”. According to Kants theory of theUniversal law, “We must be able to will that a maxim of our action becomeuniversal 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 foundedon reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men arecreated equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienablerights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “This, like Kant’s moral philosophy of “universal maxims,” proclaimsthat man has intrinsic absolute value. Yet, so quickly are we ready to disregardthis declaration as our cost benefit analysis dictates. Slavery was abolished onthe principle of the absolute value of man.
Why should we disregard this now? Dowe suspend the unalienable rights to life whenever it would be most prudent? TheUnited States must ask itself whether it wishes to make a maxim of placing valueon human life. It must be remembered that by lowering the value of life ofothers, we at the same time lower our own value. Governments and institutionsare composed of a completely different dynamic than that of the individual. Thisleaves man curious as to whether to obey the same set of morals. These moralissues lead to the question of whether or not a man is responsible for what hisgovernment does. I am inclined to believe that either philosopher would notthink that the individual is fully responsible for the actions of his governmentso long as they do not participate in the government’s decision-making process.It is possible to argue that, if all individuals .