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What will you pick, law or ethics?

Lesson 6 of 7 • 9 upvotes • 10:36mins


Faizan Khan

Solution- Laws are part of ethics and purpose of making any law is enforcement of societal morality. But sometime laws may come in conflict with the prevailing morality and this creates ethical dilemma. If Edward Snowden followed the Espionage act of 1971 and did not leak state secret then – a)      He would have followed professional ethics and contract. He would be loyal to his organisation, CIA. b)      He would have not allegedly put national security in jeopardy. c)       International reputation of his government would not have been marred. However stand of Snowden can be justified based on following ethical principle – a)      Gandhiji advocated for breaking the unjust law. He said, “An unjust law is itself a species of violence”. b)      As per the Rousseau’s social contract theory people do give up some of their rights to the sovereign power to protect rest of their rights. However how much right has to be given up will be decided by people. In this case permission of surveillance will have to be taken by government; otherwise social contact will be broken. c)       Socrates also advocated for “speaking truth to power” if sovereign authority is using power unjustly. d)      As per third Principle of Kant’s categorical imperative one has to behave like a “creature of kingdom of ends”. This means that one has to impose moral principle on oneself. e)      This will also enable value of transparency and accountability in administration.   Based on above analysis I agree that Snowden’s actions were ethically justified even if legally prohibited. Government cannot beak the trust reposed by people. Even Chanakya has mentioned ‘Spy System’ in ‘Arthashastra’, but it was declared state policy. If such surveillance is in national interest then government must pass a law on it and inform people. This will ensure apolitical use of it, only for national interest.

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What will you pick, law or ethics?



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