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Branch of philosophy that studies the values that guide human conduct

Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concern matters of value, and thus comprise the branch of philosophy called axiology.


Anti-Life Ethics in Iraq, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 15 Dec 2006
Criticizes the conclusion by George Weigel, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, that the March 2003 invasion of Iraq was a "just war"
It would be difficult to find a more morally and ethically abominable and perverted view of human life than that. What Weigel is saying is that when measured against regime change in Iraq, the life of an Iraqi citizen — or the lives of thousands of Iraqis — is of only secondary importance ... Why shouldn't the issue of regime change have been left to the Iraqis, just as it was left to Eastern Europeans ... at the end of World War II? Under what moral or ethical authority does one nation impose involuntary regime change on another nation, especially when it will entail innocent people's deaths in the process?
Related Topic: Iraq War
Aristotle (382-322 B.C.), by Fred Miller, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical and bibliographical essay
Aristotle's practical treatise, the Nicomachean Ethics, argues that the human good consists of happiness, understood as rational and virtuous activity; that moral virtue involves achieving a mean (or intermediate condition) between extremes (e.g., courage is a mean between cowardice and foolhardiness); and that this mean is attained through practical wisdom, a deliberative excellence cognizant of the human end. Although concerned with individual excellence, the Ethics describes itself as a work of "political science." ... Because the city-state is necessary for individual human perfection, ethics is a part of political philosophy.
The Consequences of Liberty, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 30 Jan 2015
Compares consequentialism (or utilitarianism) to deontological ethics, also mentioning virtue ethics, and reviews Roderick Long's essay "Why Does Justice Have Good Consequences?"
[Some] regard themselves as consequentialists (or utilitarians), that is, those who think moral acts are acts that maximize some good like pleasure or happiness or well-being, and [some] regard themselves as deontologists, or advocates of doing one's moral duty (say, respecting other people's rights) as good in itself, without reference to consequences ... [W]e can understand a deontologist's joy at the prospect of high general prosperity. Why not rejoice that one's moral duties yield good consequences even if yielding good consequences is not their objective?
A Conversation with Leland B. Yeager, by Leland B. Yeager, Austrian Economics Newsletter, 1991
Topics discussed include utilitarianism, rights theory, ethics and economics, mathematics and economics, methodological taboos, hermeneutics, Austrian economics, socialism and Eastern Europe
AEN: Do you wish more economists were interested in ethics?
YEAGER: We can't expect all economists to be interested in the same things. But the tradition of economists interested in ethics goes way back and carries up to the present. Smith, Hume, Mill, Keynes, Mises, Hayek all were. And ethics does indeed seem to be becoming more important to economics discussion these days. The typical economic journal does not deal with the subject, since it is supposed to be on the frontiers and cannot be concerned with the great bulk of accepted doctrine.
Election 2014: The Good News and Bad, by Sheldon Richman, 6 Nov 2014
Sobering comments on elections, governments, democracy and why voting is of so little consequence to the individual voter
The national, state, and local governments attempt to manage all aspects of our lives ... Even if doing these things were morally proper—which it assuredly is not—it would be beyond the capability of human beings ... how many [voters] study moral philosophy to better decide whether existing and promised policies are moral or immoral? The great American social critic H.L. Mencken said, "Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." How would we decide if he is right or wrong? .... why would you take time away from your family, friends, work, and voluntary community activities, where your choices are decisive?
Ethics Study Guide: Aristotle, by Roderick T. Long
Part of study guide to Prof. Long's introductory ethics course; includes biographical details, comments on Aristotle's ethical and political writings, short introductions to Rethoric and Nichomachean Ethics and study questions
The central concept in Aristotle's ethics is eudaimonia, usually translated as 'happiness.' Literally it means 'being well-favoured by the gods.' For Aristotle it is not a subjective psychological state, but a condition of overall well-being; we might think of it as 'living a good life' or 'flourishing as a human being.' ... Aristotle thinks that being a virtuous person involves a kind of moral insight developed through experience but not statable in words.
Related Topics: Aristotle, Dialectics
Frédéric Bastiat and Subjective Marginal Utility, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 2 Aug 2013
After discussing marginal utility as presented by Menger and the Austrian school, examines how Bastiat anticipated many of the same concepts in his writings
It's nice to see that, subjectivist though he was in economics, Bastiat was no moral subjectivist. "It can happen," he says, “and often does, that we rate a given service very highly, because we judge it to be very useful, whereas in reality it is detrimental." Subjective marginal utility underlies price formation, but the kind of beings we are and the nature of the world ultimately determine what constitutes the good. So in another sense—the moral sense—value is objective. (Menger, who distinguished "true goods" from "imaginary goods," wouldn't disagree.)
Frédéric Bastiat: Two Hundred Years On, by Joseph R. Stromberg, 2001
Extensive survey of Bastiat's life and writings; "EH" refers to Economic Harmonies, "Sophisms" to Economic Sophisms, "Essays" to Selected Essays in Political Economy (all three from FEE, 1964)
As for the content of a principled defense of the social order resting on free exchange and private property, Bastiat favored reintegration of two ethical systems ... The first was religious ethics, which dealt with ultimate things; the second was utilitarian, or economic, ethics, resting on the conclusions of political economy (Sophisms, p. 150). "These two systems of ethics, instead of engaging in mutual recriminations, should be working together to attack evil at each of its poles" ... For Bastiat, there was no insuperable conflict between essential moral teachings and economic science.
Freedom of Education, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Mar 1993
Imagines a potential discussion between an advocate of religious freedom, a proponent of a system, established one hundred years ago, of public, i.e., government-sponsored, churches and an advocate of religious "vouchers"
Advocate of Public Churching: Why, religion and morality are vitally important to a society. America would not exist as a nation if its citizenry were not taught about God, the Bible, and moral and ethical principles. If people were not required to send their children to church, there would be total chaos, gross immorality, and widespread debauchery. Society would be filled with liars, thieves, cheats, and murderers ...
Advocate of Religious Freedom: ... Moreover, with freedom and responsibility, people might gain a stronger sense of morality and ethics.
Free-Market Socialism, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Nov 2014
Counters the progressives' caricature of libertarians as hyperindividualists or atomistic and explains the benefits that could be gained from truly freed markets
Libertarians ... are methodological individualists, which means ... they begin with the fact that only individuals act ... [W]e don't have preferences; we prefer. We don't have values; we value ... [I]t's a short step to the principle that the unit of morality is the individual person. Morality concerns what individuals should and should not do, and what sort of life is proper for human beings. Interpersonal morality addresses ... when the use of force is permissible (if ever), and this leads into the ideas of rights, entitlements, and enforceable obligations, also attributes of individuals.
The Greatness of Peace Activist John Bright, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 24 May 2013
Commentary on John Bright's opposition to war and interventionism. with relevant excerpts to several of his speeches
[Bright] summed up ...:
I believe there is no permanent greatness to a nation except it be based upon morality ... I care for the condition of the people among whom I live ... Palaces, baronial castles, great halls, stately mansions, do not make a nation. The nation in every country dwells in the cottage ... I do most devoutly believe, that the moral law was not written for men alone in their individual character, but that it was written as well for nations, and for nations great as this ... If nations reject and deride that moral law, ... a penalty ... will inevitably follow ...
Related Topics: John Bright, Great Britain, War
Hazlitt, Henry (1894-1993), by Bettina Bien Greaves, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical and bibliographical essay
The Foundations of Morality, elaborated on Mises's statement that "Everything that serves to preserve the social order is moral; everything that is detrimental to it is immoral." Hazlitt wrote, "Morality is older than any living religion and probably older than all religion." He noted a common denominator in law, ethics, and manners: They all rest on ... sympathy, kindness, and consideration of others. The moral philosophy Hazlitt presents is "utilitarian ... [i]n the sense that all rules of conduct must be judged by their tendency to lead to desirable rather than undesirable social results."
Henry David Thoreau and "Civil Disobedience," Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Freedom Daily, Mar 2005
After some background and biographical material, describes the event (Thoreau's imprisonment) that led to writing "Civil Disobedience" and Thoreau's reaction to those who paid the tax on his behalf, his jailers, his neighbors and Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to some accounts, Emerson visited Thoreau in jail and asked, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau replied, "Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?" Emerson was "out there" because he believed it was shortsighted to protest an isolated evil; society required an entire rebirth of spirituality. Emerson missed the point of Thoreau's protest, which was ... simply an act of conscience. If we do not distinguish right from wrong, Thoreau argued that we will eventually lose the capacity to make the distinction and become, instead, morally numb.
Herbert Spencer's Theory of Causation, by George H. Smith, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1981
Discusses Spencer's epistemology, his views on causation and how it affects social interactions, concluding with his ethical theory and concept of justice
In the realm of animal conduct (purposeful behavior) we see the continuous adjustment of acts to ends in the process of sustaining life, and this is where the ethical concept of "good" emerges. Acts are ethically good, generally speaking, if they are "conducive to life" and ethically bad if they "directly or indirectly tend towards death." In order to label life-sustaining acts as "good," we must ... assume, according to Spencer, that life is worth living—and this brings us to the "primary meanings of the words good and bad."
Heroic, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 23 Aug 2013
Discusses the inspiring yet naïve actions of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning when she realized she could no longer participate in the atrocities of war
Manning shouldn't be judged merely by the effect (or lack thereof) that the disclosures have had on the U.S. government or American people. The virtues of justice and courage are not mere instrumental means to some other end. They are constitutive of a proper human life. Virtue is its own reward. Manning acted out of conscience, and we are better off because we have her heroism to contemplate ... [Commentators who routinely side with government against whistleblowers] seem to believe that no one could be moved by moral principle to do what she did. That says more about them than about Manning.
Related Topics: Iraq War, War
How a 19th century French pamphleteer preempted two centuries of economic fallacies, by Christopher Todd Meredith, 18 Oct 2016
Examines some of the main themes in Bastiat's writings, such as ethics and economics, the seen and the unseen and the State
Those who have an interest in what are often called "economic issues" tend to analyze public policy as though the ends ... justify the means. In fact, since Bastiat's day, it is not uncommon for economists to favor a utilitarian approach ... For Bastiat, however, ethics and economics were interrelated, and the two ways of looking at morality were ultimately harmonious. In an essay entitled "Two Systems of Ethics," he referred to the utilitarian, ends-based ethics popular with economists as "economic ethics" and the deontological, means-oriented ethics as "philosophical or religious ethics."
Immorality, Inc., by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Mises Daily, 31 Jul 2006
Argues that the lawlessness and violence in occupied Iraq is due to the immorality of modern day warfare and questions the claim that the U.S. invaded Iraq "to bring about freedom"
There is a name for a country where there is no security, freedom, or justice, and where criminality is woven into the fabric of everyday life: moral nihilism. Not only it is not clear who the good guys and the bad guys are. It is no longer clear that there is any pervasive belief that there are such things as good guys and bad guys. The moral categories that make civilized life possible have disintegrated ... In any society, the problem with crime extends beyond the immediate victims. Pervasive violence whittles away the cultural and moral foundations of society itself.
Related Topics: Government, Iraq, Socialism, War
Interview with David Kelley, by David Kelley, Raymie Stata, Full Context, Jun 1993
Topics discussed include: the Institute for Objectivist Studies, ties between IOS and classical liberal institutions, the Objectivism movement, the split with the Ayn Rand Institute, the marketplace of ideas, open questions in philosophy, and psychology
In ethics, there are a number of different areas. The core of the Objectivist virtues seems solid to me. The only thing I would pursue is some kind of principle of generosity, kindness, sensitivity to others. These are somewhat more important than Ayn Rand made them out to be. She regarded them as virtues, but very minor ones. I think they may be more important, in light of the fact that we are in important ways social animals. So I'd like to see that area explored, those concepts and virtues. There is a lot more to be done applying ethics to the issues we have to deal with on an everyday basis.
Interview with Nathaniel Branden, by Nathaniel Branden, Karen Reedstrom, Full Context, Sep 1996
In two parts; topics range from David Kelley, objectivisim, Ayn Rand, his memoir Judgment Day, Barbara Branden, Leonard Peikoff, homosexuality, self-esteem and more
If a client wants to tell me that, in retrospect, he now perceives something he or she once did as immoral, I do not challenge that, assuming it makes sense to me. But if the person describes himself or herself as immoral, I certainly do challenge it. I encourage people to see themselves as results of the choices they make ... Moral judgments have to have a purpose, something we wish to accomplish. They rarely accomplish anything valuable when working on one's own development. At best, they might be applicable to actions we've taken and now regret. Even then, however, people generally know when they've done something wrong.
Iraqi Sanctions: Were They Worth It?, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Jan 2004
Analyzes the sanctions imposed on Iraq during the 1990's, and Madeleine Albright's memoirs, Madam Secretary (2003), where she attempted to recant on her 1996 statement that the sanctions were "worth it"
Something should also be said about culpability for whatever deaths and other hardship occurred because of the sanctions ... I submit that in such circumstances, the enforcers of the sanctions are partly responsible for the deaths. Imagine a desperate criminal holed up in a house with hostages. If the police announce that no food will be permitted in unless the criminal surrenders, and if the criminal refuses, leading to the starvation of the hostages, aren't the police partly at fault? There is no absolution in saying that the hostages would still be alive if the criminal had surrendered.
Knight, Frank H. (1885-1972), by Richard Boyd, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
Knight also is remembered for two influential collections of articles and papers, The Ethics of Competition (1935) and Freedom and Reform (1947) ... The majority of the essays in the first volume were written during the 1920s while Knight was a professor of economics at the University of Iowa. In essays like "The Ethics of Competition" and "Ethics and the Economic Interpretation," Knight was highly critical of the "apologetic economics" of his day. Because the free-market system of prices rests only on the factual coincidence of supply and demand, which are products of the economic system, it can never be defended as ethical.
Related Topics: Frank Knight, Liberty
Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution [PDF], by Murray N. Rothbard, Cato Journal, 1982
Examines the principles of tort law, how to determine what is just property and how to deal with invasions of property such as air pollution
If ethics is a normative discipline that identifies and classifies certain sets of actions as good or evil, right or wrong, then tort or criminal law is a subset of ethics identifying certain actions as appropriate for using violence against them. The law says that action X should be illegal, and therefore should be combated ... Another serious problem with the Coase-Demsetz approach is that pretending to be value-free, they in reality import the ethical norm of "efficiency," and assert that property rights should be assigned on the basis of such efficiency ... We are now out of Wertfreiheit and back to unexamined ethical questions.
Libertarianism Is the Key to Our Future, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Jul 2006
Examines three reasons—freedom, morality and pragmatism—that suggest that Americans will eventually return to their libertarian heritage
What would happen if Americans were to discover that the welfare state and controlled society actually violate principles of morality? What ... if they [realized] it is morally wrong to take a person's money from him by force, even if [it] is going to be spent for a worthwhile cause? ... that it is morally wrong for the state to punish a person for making bad or sinful choices that inflict no violence on another person? ... that moral principles dictate that individual persons be free to make such decisions for themselves, even if the results are not to the liking of others in society?
Libertarianism: The Moral and the Practical, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, May 2014
Explores whether libertarian policies should distinguish between moral and practical concerns; revised version of "The Goal Is Freedom" column of 27 Dec 2013
I, for one, don't accept the division of the case for freedom into the moral and the practical ... How would you feel if someone said, "I will respect your rights to life, liberty, and property as long as I calculate that doing so will produce the greatest good"? The classic monkey wrench in the utilitarian machine is the question whether one person may morally be killed so that his harvested organs may save the lives of five others. The utilitarian might respond, "Perhaps, unless the fear that this potential engenders would subtract too much from the total happiness."
The Moral Case for Freedom Is the Practical Case for Freedom, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 27 Dec 2013
Considers whether it is reasonable to draw distinctions between moral and practical arguments for freedom
If I say that a government activity—"public" schooling, perhaps, or the war on selected drug merchants and users—helps turn the inner cities into hellholes and otherwise makes people's lives miserable, is that a moral objection or a practical (utilitarian or generally consequentialist) objection? ...
I, for one, don't accept the division of the case for freedom into "the moral" and "the practical." It's a mistake, not to mention harmful to the cause. But does this mean I am a consequentialist, or utilitarian? Heavens no! The consequentialist case for freedom is too insecure.
Morals and the Welfare State, by F. A. Harper, 1951
Examines five moral principles by which the idea of the Welfare State (described in more detail in an appendix) can be judged; extension of talk given 13 June 1951; later published as "Morals and Liberty" (see The Freeman, Sep 1971)
The unbending rule of a moral principle can be illustrated by some simple applications. According to one Commandment, it is wholly wrong to steal all your neighbor's cow; it is also wholly wrong to steal half your neighbor's cow, not half wrong to steal half your neighbor's cow. Robbing a bank is wrong in principle, whether the thief makes off with a million dollars or a hundred dollars or one cent. A person can rob a bank of half its money, but in the sense of moral principle there is no way to half rob a bank; you either rob it or you do not rob it.
Murray N. Rothbard: Mr. Libertarian, by Wendy McElroy, 6 Jul 2000
A tribute to Rothbard as a "system builder," an integrator of multiple disciplines into a "philosophy of freedom"; examines several of Rothbard's essays and books
[Rothbard] wrote, "Economics can help supply much of the data for a libertarian position but it cannot establish that political philosophy itself. For political judgments are necessarily value-judgments, political philosophy is therefore necessarily ethical, and hence a positive ethical system must be set forth to establish the case for individual liberty." Much of [his] subsequent writing aimed at providing the necessary "political philosophy" that would allow liberty to flourish. Ethics of Liberty (1982) became his overriding moral defense of a free society.
Personal 'Freedom': Review of Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World [PDF], by Roy Childs, The Libertarian Forum, Apr 1973
While admitting that the book has many valuable insights, Childs chastises Browne on his definition of freedom and his views on morality and natural rights
What is a "universal morality"? A code based on man's nature, which applies to all men. Browne maintains that there can be no such thing. Why? He isn't clear, but it has something to do with the fact that people are different. Unfortunately, however, no one has ever denied this, and no one advocating a "universal morality" has ever told people to ignore differences. The principles of a "universal morality" do not specify concretes, and are not intended to. The principles constitute a code of action, which is applied to widely varying concretes.
Playboy Interview: Ayn Rand, by Ayn Rand, Alvin Toffler, Playboy, Mar 1964
Topics discussed include objectivism ethics, guilt, having a productive or creative purpose, emotions, women and family, romantic love, sex, marriage, religion, compassion, other writers, government, various politicians and altruism
The ethic derived from the metaphysical base of Objectivism holds that, since reason is man’s basic tool of survival, rationality is his highest virtue. ... The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics is: man’s life—man's survival qua man—or that which the nature of a rational being requires for his proper survival. The Objectivist ethics, in essence, hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.
Political Science, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 18 May 2007
Reviews Frank Van Dun's 1986 paper titled "Economics and the Limits of Value-Free Science" and its implications for making an objective case for ethics, freedom and private property
We ought to be reasonable. That proposition is deceptively simple because it's so powerful. How can one deny it or argue for the contrary proposition? ... "We can assert, bluntly, that we ought not to be reasonable," Van Dun writes. "But if we do we should not add insult to injury by spelling out the 'reasons' why we ought to accept that position. We cannot reasonably deny that we ought to be reasonable." Therefore, he continues, "there can be a science of ethics and therefore also an ethics of science that is quite objective if it conforms to the normative fact as discussed by the science of ethics."
Religion and Freedom, by Robert Sirico, Freedom Daily, Dec 1993
Examines the premise that the state is justified as a means to promote or even coerce morality, the role of attaining liberty and the historical roots of "church and state"
[One] frequently hears the objection that in order to believe in God and morality, almost all means, including the mechanism of the state, are justified to promote ... these worthy ideals ... It is unfortunate that morality is very often seen as the observance of and conformity to rules rather than an internalized system of values. This kind of confusion leads people to think that if they can create a situation whereby people are forced to conform to a particular set of moral standards, somehow virtue has been achieved ... But morality and virtue call for something much deeper, and can only result from conversion, not coercion.
Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 17 Jan 2014
Discusses criticism of Richman's article "Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration" (10 Jan 2014) in the larger context of rights violations
More than a few libertarians appear to hold the view that only rights violations [deserve] moral condemnation ... If you observe an adult being rude to his elderly mother, it is surely reasonable for you to be appalled, even though the offender did not use force. And, being appalled, you may be justified under the circumstances in responding, such as by cancelling a social engagement or telling others of his obnoxious behavior. One can reasonably say that this person's mother is owed better treatment, without the word owed implying legal, that is, coercive, enforceability. ... Therefore, the rude son may be judged culpable.
Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty: Still Worthy after All These Years, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 9 May 2014
Review of The Ethics of Liberty (1982) with emphasis on part 1, covering Rothbard's arguments for the validity of natural law
For Rothbard, natural law concerns the discovery of objective values and objective ethics. He writes,
In the Thomistic tradition, natural law is ethical as well as physical law; and the instrument by which man apprehends such law is his reason—not faith, or intuition ... or anything else. In the contemporary atmosphere of sharp dichotomy between natural law and reason—and especially amid the irrationalist sentiments of "conservative" thought—this cannot be underscored too often.
... [H]e quoted ...
... [T]here is in fact an objective moral order within the range of human intelligence ...
The schism organism: The Life of the Party, part three, by Thomas L. Knapp, Rational Review, 19 Feb 2003
Delves into ethical controversies within the Libertarian Party, describing in particular the tension between Jacob Hornberger and Jim Lark, and the effect this had on the former's candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat in Virginia in 2002
The "ethics" conflict may, of course, arise independently of other considerations ... Ethics controversies have no winners, at least at the time that they take place and for some time after. If allegations of misconduct prove to be true, the best that can be hoped for is that the misconduct will be stopped and that the perpetrators will be punished and/or cease and desist: that the stain will, eventually, come out of the rug. If the allegations prove to be untrue, then it's just as bad— the stain takes as long or longer to fade, and nobody remembers that it turned out to be ketchup instead of blood.
Should We Force Others to Shape Up?, by David Gordon, Mises Daily, 20 Oct 2006
If I steal from you, I may justifiably be compelled to return your property; but if I wish to drink myself to death, the state cannot stop me. People are free to persuade me to modify my conduct, or shun me if I will not; but they cannot use force against me. Many people find this sharp separation implausible, but Otteson suggests that most people implicitly accept it.
Smith, Adam (1723-1790), by Ronald Hamowy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical and bibliographical essay focusing on Adam Smith's two major works
In A Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith addresses the following question: From whence springs our ability to condemn certain intentions and actions as immoral and approve others as morally worthy? This problem is especially vexing inasmuch as we are able to judge our own behavior as either moral or immoral despite the fact that we are strongly motivated to act in our own self-interest. Smith maintained that our ability to form moral judgments is a function of our being possessed of a basic moral faculty that motivates us to act as an impartial spectator of our own and others' actions.
Trapped in Lies and Delusions, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 20 Nov 2006
Predicts that U.S. troops would not withdraw from Iraq for at least two more years, because it was politically implausible for Bush and Cheney to backtrack on their positions, and laments American attitudes towards the war and countless interventions
Hanging over the Iraq debacle, ... is that one overriding moral issue ...Do U.S. troops have the moral right to be killing people, when they are part of a military force that has aggressed against another country? Do they have the moral right to kill people who have done nothing worse than defend their nation from attack or attempt to oust an occupier ...? Does simply calling an action "war" excuse an aggressor nation from the moral consequences of killing people in that war? ... does the United States have the moral right to violate the principles against aggressive war, for which it prosecuted Germany at Nuremberg ...?
Truman, A-Bombs, and the Killing of Innocents, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 9 Aug 2013
Written on the 68th anniversary of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, discusses whether that bombing and the previous one at Hiroshima were really necessary and whether they should be considered war crimes
The moral distinction between killing noncombatants deliberately and killing them in "collateral damage" is overstated. As Caplan says, "But we greatly exaggerate the moral difference when foreigners are the ones who suffer the 'unavoidable side effects.' If the police firebombed a domestic apartment complex to pursue the legitimate goal of killing Charles Manson, few people would consider the doctrine of Double Effect a strong defense. Would you?" ... The Truman administration revealed that it knew the atomic bombing was immoral by attempting to keep the full truth from the American people.
Related Topics: Japan, War, World War II
Try This On Your Friends [PDF], by F. A. Harper, Faith and Freedom, Jan 1955
Poses a riddle about the extent to which government is needed
To what extent should politicians be enthroned to rule affairs in our daily lives? ... It would seem ... that the principle by which many answer is simple and easy to grasp: "People should be ruled only to the extent they are evil." That is, they say, only evil acts should be restrained; good acts should be unrestrained, for men should be free to engage in all that is good. Seemingly easy, isn't it? But we should ask the next logical question: What precisely is good and what is evil? But that is not the question I want to pose ... let us look at good and evil in their pure forms, as a chemist deals with elements ...
Related Topics: Government, Society
What the Martha Stewart Case Means to You, by Harry Browne, 5 Mar 2004
Examines the Martha Stewart insider trading case, including juror and prosecutor comments after the guilty verdict
Another charge was that of "conspiracy." Conspiracy to do what? Conspiracy to do what the other charges were. The whole concept of conspiracy crimes makes no sense. If you rob someone of $1,000, you're guilty of robbery. If you and I together rob that person of $1,000, we're both guilty of robbery—but the victim is no worse off than if you had done the job by yourself. But in today's Alice-in-Wonderland legal system, ... we're also guilty of conspiring to rob—because we're so inept it took two of us to do the job. (This may sound like a Polock joke, but it's serious business.)
Would a Return to Conscription Substantially Reduce the Probability of War?, by David R. Henderson, 7 Sep 2015
Analyzes the question of whether reintroducing military conscription would incentivize the rich and powerful to object to "military adventurism" and thus prevent war; also includes a moral argument against the draft
Most of us think that it's wrong to use innocent people as human shields in war. The immorality is due to two factors: (1) those innocent people's lives are put at risk, and (2) they do not get to choose whether to risk their lives. We don't make our moral judgment conditional on the consequences ... Those who advocate conscription as a way to avoid war are advocating that innocent people become "human shields." Even if it can be shown that reintroducing conscription would reduce the chance of a war breaking out, it still is wrong to force people to put their lives at risk.
Related Topics: Vietnam War, War
Would-Be Rulers without Clothes, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, May 2008
Examines Hillary Clinton's assertion, in a debate with Barack Obama, about "wanting" a universal health care plan and dismissing the option of voluntary medical insurance
Why are presidents and presidential candidates exempt from the normal and reasonable rules of morality? ... All of us are taught as children not to hit others, not to take their belongings without permission, and not to break our promises. If we need the cooperation of other people, we are expected to rely on persuasion ... if Hillary Clinton, private citizen, cannot legitimately force you and me to buy medical insurance, neither can Hillary Clinton, president of the United States — even if 99.9 percent of the American people support the idea. Morality is not properly determined by majority rule.
Would You "Support the Troops" in Bolivia?, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 27 Dec 2006
Discusses U.S. military contracts and the hypothetical case of a soldier objecting to being deployed for an invasion of Bolivia on orders from the President, contrasting it to the real scenario of the 2003 invasion of Iraq
But what about the morality of the entire operation? Where is the morality of killing people who have never attacked the United States and who have done nothing worse than try to defend their country from a wrongful invader? Where is the morality in killing in "self-defense" when you don't have a right to be there killing people in the first place? Does a burglar who has entered someone's home in the middle of the night have the moral (or legal) right to claim self-defense if he kills the homeowner who shot at him while he was burglarizing the homeowner's home in the middle of the night?


The Alliance Story: An Interview With Marshall Fritz, by Marshall Fritz, Tammy Drennan
Topics include how Fritz came to his views, why he thinks government schools cannot be reformed, charter schools, various objections to turning education to the free market and the effects of state/school separation on taxes, the economy and "the church"
MF: Public schools are based on four false premises ... We need to replace those false premises with truisms ... To teach character, we must integrate three factors: the reason for morality, examples of morality, and instruction in morality. Today's schools are trying to teach kids to be good, but if Johnny says, "Why should I be good, Mrs. McLumphy?" she cannot give him a real, significant answer. Everything she says is shallow, because to give a significant answer is to undermine some segment of that classroom. So we are pretending we can teach children how without teaching them why.
Faculty Spotlight Interview: Walter Block: Walter Block, by Walter Block, 18 Jan 2010
Asks Block about his hobbies, greatest inspiration, the impact of his work and more
How important is ethics in relation to economic theory and the progression of free-market ideals?
Ethical considerations are crucial in promoting free enterprise and a civilized order. To me, the Non Aggression Principle ... works in tandem with the economic or utilitarian goal of wealth maximization and the curtailment of poverty. Sometimes, when an ethical issue is unclear, an economic consideration can shed light on it, and vice versa. For example, in my work in the economics and ethics of abortion, stem cell research, obligations to children, I was led to ... my "donut" or "bagel" theory of land settlement and homesteading.
The Kirznerian Way: An Interview with Israel M. Kirzner, by Israel Kirzner, Austrian Economics Newsletter, 1997
Topics discussed include Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian School, equilibrium, entrepreneurship, capital, business cycle theory, time preference, Hayek, Lachmann and Rothbard
KIRZNER: ... If someone buys something for $10, and sells it for $17, why does he get to keep the $7? It seems to many people that it's pure luck ... and the products of luck should probably belong to all mankind. Or it might seem to be a fraud or a con job. Those are the obvious ethical problems. But those problems appear only insofar as we assume that everyone begins with potentially full and equal knowledge. In that case, this $7 profit might represent an attempt to deceive. But if people lack knowledge that someone else has, does taking advantage of that constitute fraud?


A Primer on Business Ethics
    by Tibor Machan, 2003
Related Topic: Business
The Theory of Moral Sentiments, by Adam Smith, 1759
Partial contents: Of the Propriety of Action Consisting of Three Sections - Of Merit and Demerit; or of the Objects of Reward and Punishment - Of the Foundation of our Judgments concerning our own Sentiments and Conduct, and of the Sense of Duty
The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism
    by Nathaniel Branden ("Mental Health versus Mysticism and Self-Sacrifice" and five more chapters), Ayn Rand, 1964
Partial contents: The Objectivist Ethics - The Ethics of Emergencies - The "Conflicts" of Men's Interests - Isn't Everyone Selfish? - The Psychology of Pleasure - Doesn't Life Require Compromise? - The Nature of Government - The Argument from Intimidation


Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part One: Francis Hutcheson, by James Stacey Taylor, 7 Dec 2011
Discusses the philosophical views of Francis Hutcheson, in particular the argument that human beings, in addition to the five traditionally recognized senses, have a public sense, a sense of honor and a moral sense
And here is ... the core of Hutcheson's moral philosophy. You persons have a moral sense, claims Hutcheson. You feel approval when you recognize that persons have performed good, virtuous actions. You feel disapproval, naturally, when you feel, believe, and sense that they haven't ... You simply think, that was not the right thing to do. Your moral sense is offended. Now, you might think, where does this moral sense come from? Why are we concerned about the interests of other people? For Hutcheson the answer is straightforward. We have a calm, stable disposition towards universal benevolence.
Related Topic: Francis Hutcheson
An Introduction to Philosophy Part 5: Ethics 1, by Stefan Molyneux, Freedomain Radio, 3 Sep 2006
An Introduction to Philosophy Part 5: Ethics 2, by Stefan Molyneux, Freedomain Radio, 7 Sep 2006
An Introduction to Philosophy Part 5: Ethics 3, by Stefan Molyneux, Freedomain Radio, 7 Sep 2006
An Introduction to Philosophy Part 5: Ethics 4, by Stefan Molyneux, Freedomain Radio, 7 Sep 2006
An Introduction to Philosophy Part 5: Ethics 5, by Stefan Molyneux, Freedomain Radio, 8 Sep 2006
An Introduction to Philosophy Part 5: Ethics 6, by Stefan Molyneux, Freedomain Radio, 8 Sep 2006

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ethics" as of 18 Oct 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.