Blog Post: [Part 1] Power, Vested Interest, and Prejudice: On the Need for Critical Thinking in the Ethics of Social and Economic Development

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Mar 01, 2022 • 2y ago
[Part 1] Power, Vested Interest, and Prejudice: On the Need for Critical Thinking in the Ethics of Social and Economic Development

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"In this paper, presented at the International Conference on "},{"insert":"Hie Ethics of Development, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"held at the University of Costa Rica (1987), Richard Paul argues that mass education is essential to ethically sensitive economic and social development. There are two main reasons Paul advances to support this view: "},{"insert":"1) "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"politicians, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, do not typically respond to ethical concerns unless those concerns square with their vested interests, and "},{"insert":"2) "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"the mass media in each country "},{"insert":"— "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"the main source of information regarding development for most people "},{"insert":"— "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"must be critically analyzed to understand the ethical issues implicit in social and economic development options. As Paul puts it, \"neither the leaders of powerful nations and groups nor their followers” are likely to analyze or apply the ethical principles relevant to development in a way likely to do justice to those principles. The thinking of the leaders verges toward manipulations, rationalizations, and narrow ways-and-means analysis while the thinking of the followers tends toward naivete, closedmindedness, and intellectual servitude fostered by their restricted sources of information, limited access to education, and traditional egocentric and ethnocentric prejudices.\""},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true},"insert":"We Have Appropriate Ethical Principles"},{"insert":"\n\nThe problem of ethics in economic development is neither verbal nor philosophical, but operational. It isn’t that appropriate ethical principles have never been formulated. On the contrary, one could easily identify and set out appropriate ethical principles. The problem is, rather, how to make those principles morally operational, to put them into action when policies and decisions are formulated and implemented by persons and groups in power.\n\nIn the next few paragraphs I will provide an incomplete but illustrative list of some moral principles relevant to economic development. For example, the U.S. Catholic bishops, in a pastoral letter on the economy, gave the following “basic and social moral principles” as “guidelines for economic life:”\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"1)"},{"insert":" Every economic decision and institution should be judged in light of whether it "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"protects "},{"insert":"or "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"undermines "},{"insert":"the "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"dignity "},{"insert":"of the human person. The economy must be at the service of all people, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"especially "},{"insert":"the poor."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"2) "},{"insert":"Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community. The obligation to “love our neighbor” has an individual dimension, but it also requires a broader commitment to the common good."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"3) "},{"insert":"Everyone has "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"a right to participate "},{"insert":"in the economic life of society. No person or group should be unfairly excluded or unable to contribute to the economy."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"4) "},{"insert":"All members of society have a "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"special obligation "},{"insert":"to the poor and vulnerable. It is our duty to speak for the voiceless, defend the defenseless, and assess lifestyles, policies, and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"5) "},{"insert":"Human rights are the minimum conditions for life in community. All people have a right to life, food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, education, and employment."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"6) "},{"insert":"Society as a whole, acting through private and government institutions, has the moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and protect human rights."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nSimilar or supplemental principles have been formulated in the U.N. “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” (U.N. General Assembly resolution 2200 of 16 December 1966) and the U.N. “International Bill of Human Rights” (U.N. General Assembly resolution 217 of 10 December 1948).\n\nMore recently, the U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development issued a report prepared by 21 commissioners who conducted public hearings on five continents, which concluded "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"1) "},{"insert":"that resources must be transferred from the wealthy industrial nations to the poorer developed nations, "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"2) "},{"insert":"that global military expenditures (said to be now $1 trillion a year) use resources that might be employed “more productively to diminish the security threats created by environmental conflict and the resentments that are fueled by widespread poverty,” and that “sustainable human progress” can be achieved only through a system of international cooperation that treats economic growth and environmental protection as inseparable.\n\nThis report is quite consistent with the ethical principles cited in the American Catholics bishops’ letter and the basic U.N. declarations of human rights. The facts upon which they base their ethical judgments are generally accepted by the scholarly community. But the steps being called for sharply contrast with the fundamental mode of operation of powerful nations and groups. Let us now consider why ethical principles are generally moot in the world of economic and political power.\n"}]}

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