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Moral and Ethical

Entry 542, on 2007-05-28 at 19:39:04 (Rating 3, News)

The latest controversy to erupt here in New Zealand is over the tactics the state-owned energy company, Solid Energy, has used to counter the actions of an environmental protest group who are using fairly extreme tactics to protest mining in a scenic area of the country. The company has hired a private investigation company, who have hired an informer to "spy" on meetings run by the group.

The prime minister has said these tactics "simply aren't appropriate, and should stop". The CEO of the energy company has said he believes the action is OK as long as it is lawful, ethical, and moral. But we have a problem with both of these statements. The problem is that only the word "lawful" is objective - and even that is debatable. The others: not appropriate, ethical, and moral, really depend on personal opinion.

So what the prime minister is really saying is that she doesn't like what's happened and wants it to stop, and the CEO is saying that the tactics fit in with his personal beliefs so they're OK. I'm sure the protest group also has a moral code which it believes it is following. I find that in these situations everyone thinks they are right. Because its a state-owned company I guess the government will get the final say on this particular issue, but it does highlight a bigger problem.

The problem is that personal morality is not a good way to make decisions which affect the bigger world of politics, business and the environment. On the other hand, having precisely specified laws leads to lack of flexibility and inappropriate use of those laws even when they are theoretically pertinent in a particular situation.

Realistically, there isn't much that can be done about this, so we will probably have to put up with varying interpretations of what is "appropriate" and what is "moral" continuing to confuse these types of issues in the future.

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