The Meaning of Social Philosophy to Me
One of the most interesting aspects of the American system is the changing and shifting role of government. However, considering that the American system is highly predicated on the American government being free of oppression, certain circumstances sometimes make the government’s role controversial. Specifically, the American government is often put in a position where ethical considerations have to be weighed against ideas like national security and prosperity of the nation. This may also constitute interesting and difficult decisions for elected leaders as they strive to balance these two equally important ideas.
And though the government has an obligation to take all possible outcomes into account when making a decision about its place, it must be conscious of what ethical consequences could arise as a result of the decision that is made. The government must take an active role in an ethical perspective, making decisions that not only benefit the greater good, but also promote positive morality.
What is interesting about a large government is that it has to balance numerous, varying obligations such as maintenance of public order and basic security, ensuring public health, providing education, preservation of natural resources and the environment, and keeping international relations intact, among others. As such, it is mandatory for the government to properly document all of its decisions, there are instances that decisions are concealed from public knowledge. And in several occasions, the government is left with decisions where someone will benefit and someone will suffer.
A particular premise for government decision making is that, in making practical decisions that are supposed to benefit the nation, it is equally important to ponder on the obvious ethical obligations within that decision. This is because the overall understanding of the role of the general role of the government is important in the decision making process. The United States government, in this regard, has a special role in the lives of the citizens of the country. As per the constitution and the civil liberties that have been gained since the framing of the constitution, the American government has amassed limited power in what they can and cannot affect.
As such, the American forms of government are often left with a decision over whether they should intervene in cases where ethics play a huge role. Former United States Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson wrote of the role of government in an essay entitled The Proper Role of Government. Though he held some strong ideals on what the government should and should not do, he remained completely uncertain as to what the total role of a government should be in American society. According to Benson (1968):
It is generally agreed that the most important single function of government is to secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. But, what are those rights? And what is their source? Until these questions are answered there is little likelihood that we can correctly determine how government can best secure them.
Mr. Benson’s remarks simply clarifies that the government is in place for the people and their overall betterment, but there is much debate over what that betterment actually means. Benson, thus, speaks in the context of the government’s practical obligations because if the government is designed to protect the rights of its people, then it must consider such rights as a top priority overlooking other concerns, even ethical.
The government decision-making process can be determined through various aspects. These aspects are presented with many issues that require a hard line stance in which they have to choose whether or not to honor the rights of individuals and protect citizens or choose to protect the ethical sanctity of their thinking. One of the most important and most relevant of these issues deal with the environment considering that one of the government’s obligations is to protect both the environment and the sanctity of the United States as a nation. The American government has been asked to weigh in on environmental issues and for the most part, it seems as if the government’s role in this issue has been clearly defined.
Though the Supreme Court and the executive branch have passive involvement in numerous controversial issues, but they seem to have taken up a stance on issues regarding the environment. It is clear that the government is meant to be involved on decision-making when the environment is concerned, since the well being of the nation and its people are at stake when such issues are at hand.
The problem is that the government’s ethical stance of protecting the environment has been limited to promises, for the most part. They are providing a positive stance, but are showing incapacity to act upon that stance as a result of their concern for supposed bigger, more important issues. Green Options Media’s Joshua S. Hill (2008) articulates that:
With my ongoing report on the US 09 Budget, I’m well aware of just how little the US Government is going to be putting in to the environment. Let’s just make a note here – Green Options could invest more in the environment than the US Federal Government is planning.
Hill’s article details the fact that government spending on new environmental protection programs has been especially blurred. This is the case primarily for new energy programs, which are the most relevant environmental issue today. The government seems to have taken a broad stance that new, renewable energy is important, but not important enough to invest American dollars in a time of economic crisis.
The United States government’s position on the environment immediately brings up an interesting and important ethical dilemma as it is charged, at its most basic core, with protecting the interests of the American people. One of its most important practical; choice is how the tax dollars are being spent on what government officials deem as important. The government’s role, in this case, precludes them from pouring substantial amounts into environmental issues when there are more pressing issues facing the nation.
As previously mentioned, the government should function in such a way that it has to decide what issues are the most important and relevant to the well being of the American people. The lack of government attention on environmental problems obviously has become a matter of judgment since the actions of the incumbent administration entails the use of practical approach on dealing with priorities, which is to support the economy with tax dollars rather than addressing the pressing environmental concerns of many citizens.
Another very important ethical dilemma that the government has shown emphasis on is its war on terrorism which leads to the instigation of American ideologies such as Democracy to other nations. Much debate about the ethical considerations of spreading American culture and forcing it on other countries has been raised in recent years. For such actions bring about a nation’s identity and cultural heritage to the brink of extinction.
America has always been a bastion of freedom and democracy, but lately, the government appears to have abused the Democratic concept of freedom and focused more on articulating that the so called American way is the unprecedented solution to the problems of the post 9/11 world. Consequently, the American government has drawn a thin blurry line on what it aims to do and what it doing now.
Jennifer Haslag of the Missouri Miner argues that America acts more as a global policeman or a global big brother in trying to “help” other countries. Haslag (2005) further that:
The rest of the world sits back and respects other cultures, intervening only when necessary. The rest of the world knows that cultures must fight their own battles to evolve normally. Can you imagine our nation if, during the Civil War, the French had not let us duke it out? If they, instead, invaded our country, told us our fighting must stop and that they would enforce this with deadly measures? America sets itself up as the world police and goes marauding about trying to solve the so-called problems of the world by asserting our own arrogant way of life. Good intentions or not, it is based on the flawed assumption that our way of life is better than everyone else’s. The word pride comes to mind.
America has to consider its role, and one of the top ethical considerations here is whether or not the United States is taking the time to think about their place in the world. Thus, America should consider answering questions such as: Are American values better than other values around the world? Does the country and its government have the right to start dictating other countries how to live, spend their money, and how to govern themselves?
From my personal experiences of learning about the rest of the world, I have seen that other cultures are much different from that of the United States. I have completed Marine boot camp training and I have married a Pakistani Muslim. I have learned that there is value to other cultures and that they are, in many instances, perfectly fine even without American intervention.
The American ideal is to protect democracy and protect the people, not to use government as a big arm to influence the decisions and the cultures of the rest of the world. However, it has become apparent that the American government has exercised its power beyond full capacity by asserting that imposing Democracy is among its primary positions, though, such assertion goes against all ethical and moral considerations that it might have adhered to in the past.
The United States government has a decision making structure in place that refuses to look at the world in a broad perspective. For the most part, the people in power fail to look at the world through the eyes of other nations. Though it is their primary function to protect the American people, they cannot do so without first considering the world from a different perspective.
An article from the International Herald Tribune (2008) discusses America’s moral role in the world by suggesting that “This is the world we live in. If we care to do what is right, the first step is not to delude ourselves into thinking that our side is of course the good side.” The article indicates an interesting trend in thinking by introducing readers to the idea that American leaders should reconsider the belief that the American way is the best way in order to make the best decisions. They must understand that the American way might be the best way for the American people, but it may not be the best way to live for people who happen to be in other countries.
In short, what American leaders should ponder upon is the original role of government, which is to look after the rights and concerns of the American people. However, what the American government actually does is it looks after the concerns of people all over the world, a duty that is no longer part of the government’s role. Furthermore, as much as Thomas Friedman defends the positive aspects of American foreign policies, the moral implications of trying to look after the concerns of people all over the world are troubling because the American ideology is not necessarily universal as the government deems it to be. .
Take the case of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the American government took over the seemingly struggling Republic of Iraq, overthrew its government, and forcibly instituted Democracy as the form of government to save the country from the tyranny of then dictator Saddam Hussein. However, the result of American intervention only led to frequent use of violent means against American imposed policies in the country.
In light of the actual definition of the role of the American government and the apparent inefficiency of American ideologies in Iraq, the government needs to change its current outlook on its duties and responsibilities or future decisions are going to suffer the same ill fate to that of Iraq’s. A well balanced world view is quite important for the United States government considering that the outcome of recent events are not as promising as President Bush believes it to be.
The Global interdependence Initiative’s article on the United States’ role in the World (2005) suggests that
If the U.S. chooses to ignore or oppose peacemaking efforts, peace may not get made. Which trade agreements the U.S. supports, and how we work to shape world markets, will have profound effects on faraway workers and communities. We need to look into the future to understand those effects — and how they might boomerang to affect us.
The role of government in the lives of citizens and in the world becomes an extremely important and controversial issue. Just like President George W. Bush should taken note of his actual duty before he even began proposing of invading Iraq, American leaders are given much responsibility and they are charged with making decisions that have both an ethical side and that uphold what their general purpose in office is.
The government officials must remember to keep an open mind and a balanced world view. Though they are burdened with difficult tasks, the American leaders must be open to the idea that their decisions should not only benefit people in the country, but they should look after the welfare of other countries and its people with more objective principles. The American leaders should bear in mind the basic tenets of ethical and moral consideration in order to protect the basic fabric upon which the United States of America was founded, and without this, the United States government will not have any success at home or abroad.
Benson, E.T. (1968). The Proper Role of Government. Retrieved from http://www.laissez-fairerepublic.com/benson.htm
Hill, J.S. (2008). Google to Outspend U.S. Government on Environment. Retrieved from http://planetsave.com/blog/2008/02/07/google-to-outspend-us- government-on-environment/
Haslag, J. (2005). Is America Spreading Democracy or Policing the World? The Missouri Miner. Retrieved from http://media.www.missouri-diner.com/media/storage/paper426/news/2005/09/01/Opinion/Is.America.Spreadi ng.Democracy.Or.Policing.The.World.left-973202.shtml
International Herald Tribune (2008). Debating America’s Role. Retrieved from http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/22/opinion/edlet.php
US in the World (2005). Why Our Foreign Policy Matters So Much. Retrieved from http://www.gii-exchange.org/guide/americas_role/8A.shtml