Defend them. Be prepared to discuss all of these in terms of politics and ethics. (from “Ethical Issues in Contemporary Culture,” Alan Blatner, M.D., 2006)
o #1 – 1. Welfare and charity. Welfare is organized charity, funneled through the collective, the government. But it raises many issues. How should we help others who are less fortunate? Can we differentiate between the “deserving poor” and the “undeserving” poor? Here are some associated questions.
A. How responsible can people be? To what extent can we require that people “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” If a college student is raised in a neighborhood where study is not fashionable, and they didn’t study, to what extent are we obligated to provide “remedial” training in college?
B. What if some folks are disabled, to what extent are we obligated–or would we choose to be obligated if we were fully enlightened–to help these people. The “how much” issue is tricky, because new technologies make increasing levels of aid exponentially more expensive.
C. What if a teenager has been raised in an area that is judged to be significantly culturally, economically, or technically “behind”–to what degree should we choose to compassionately support these people? Again, the themes would be remedial education.
D. What about those whose disabilities make them mentally unable to do more than fairly simple and routine tasks? In our culture, merit is associated with intelligence. What levels of subsidy should be given? What about the in-between categories, which represents an expanding sector of the population: Folks not that smart, not smart enough to get “good” jobs, but smart enough to live independently and have full and dramatic lives.
E. What about people who say they can’t work? They’re too burdened with kids–how much should this role of mothering be challenged? (This of course is a lively socio-political issue in the legal system right now.)
F. Regarding the broader topic of welfare: General issues of responsibility are raised. When is helping someone really helping them, and when is it rescuing them and enabling their own self-defeating behavioral patterns. Can beggars be choosers? Are any “rights” implicitly forefeited by someone who receives charity? (This varies in different cultures!)
For example, if offered work, is the person who is given welfare obligated to accept that job, even if they don’t like that work? What if the decision as to a job being not acceptable is viewed as trivial or unworthy by others?
G. What then are people entitled to as a basic support of society? Can these entitlements be negotiated?
H. Do we have special obligations to veterans, the elderly, children, women, any minorities, any types of disability or “differently-abled” people?
I. When does support for certain occupational groups, tariffs for workers in certain industries, subsidies for certain farmers, – when are these matters of social -ethical policy and when are they merely matters of community economic self-interest.
(1) Do we owe people jobs? To what extent do we collectively need to extend ourselves to sustain lines of work that are economically uncompetitive?
(2) As tobacco is becoming viewed as less of a socially beneficial substance, what obligations do we have to tobacco farmers?
J. What about our obligations to help people in other countries? There’s national and international charity, but is Government aid an ethical obligation?
(1) What about “strings attached”? Can we demand political, human rights, ethical governmental policy, enforcement of human rights, etc. before we give aid?
(2). What rights do we have on criticizing the ethics and priorities of peoples in other cultures?
K. Should those who have been “disadvantaged” because of past injustices, colonialist policies, slavery, etc., be given reparations?–or their descendents given reparations? What kinds?
#2 –Parenthood:Is there a “right” to parenthood? Should we support anyone who wants to be a parent in this activity? What if they are thought to be “unfit”? What makes a person “unfit” as a parent? (How much attention does a child really need? How nice must the housing be? The neighborhood? What if a parent cannot protect a child from the bullying of other children?
A. Under what circumstances, if a parent has “lost” the right to parent for a while, should that right be re-instated? When should it not be?
B. What about conditions for adopting babies?
(1) Is it okay for gay or lesbian partners to adopt a child?
(2) What about adopting a child of a different race? Or religion?
(3) If the child is in permanent foster care because the parent has lost rights, can that parent nevertheless protest against the parents who would adopt that child on the basis of religion or some other ethnic criterion?
#3 Rehabilitation of Criminals: What kinds of efforts should we make to rehabilitate prisoners?
A. Is there an obligation to differentiate between violent and nonviolent crimes?
B. Regarding “cruel and unusual punishments,” what rights should prisoners have?
(1) should there be protection against homosexual rape?
(2) to what degree should criminals be supported in the right to appeal?
(What if they are in fact innocent?)
C. Is there a moral justification for capital punishment, also known as institutional murder?
(1) What degrees of defense and protection should there be to make sure the innocent are not executed?
(2) Would some punishments, such as flogging, be less destructive and expensive in the long run and more deterrent?
D. What kinds of moral obligations do we have not to release people on parole who have shown themselves to be fully rehabilitated? Or to release people who have not shown a continuing threat to society?
(1) How many chances should people be given for various problematic behaviors?
E. What about obligations for restitution to the victims of crime?