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The relationship between law and ethics dictates that anything lawful is ethical and anything ethical is therefore always legal?
What is the rationale behind your answer?

  • HEALTH -

    This question is supposed to make you think. As a start, consider the laws concerning slavery before the Civil War.

  • HEALTH -

    Is this proposition true? For it to be true, BOTH parts have to be true.

    Is it true that "anything lawful is ethical"?

    Is it true that "anything ethical is therefore always legal."

    Because the words "always" is used, in the second part, and always means 100% of the time, if you can think of just ONE example of a behavior that is ethical but not lawful, then you have proved that part of this proposition is not true. And if part of it is not true, then it can hardly be held out as a "dictate" of a "law."

    If you are a Mexican boy with a toy airplane that sails across the border into the United States, so you cross the border to get your plane and then return to Mexico, what is unethical about that? You're just traveling 100 yards to retrieve your own property and take it home with you.

    But, is that legal behavior? US immigration laws require that any Mexican who wants to enter the US for a visit must obtain a tourist visa. Failure to do so is a violation of Federal immigration law.

    Obviously, it's possible for a question to pose a legal issue when it poses no ethical issue at all.

    Here's another example. You're in WalMart at closing time and you see a worker throwing fresh and hot pizzas into the garbage to be taken to the dump. So, you remove a pizza from the garbage and eat it inside the WalMart store. On the way out, you are arrested and charged with stealing pizza. If you had waited until the pizza was put in a garbage can on the sidewalk in front of WalMart, you would not have been guilty of any crime.

    So, does your behavior present any ethical issue. You ate something which someone else discarded and clearly had no intention of using. You took control of their property -- the pizza -- only after they had shown that they had no further use or desire for their property.

    However, there are laws that give WalMart the right to burn the pizza and throw the ashes in the garbage instead of giving it to you when you're hungry. So, isn't it clear that ethical requirements and legal requirements are not "always" exactly the same thing, 100% of the time?

    Since I can come up with one clear-cut and one arguable example of behavior that is ethical but not clearly not legal, I conclude that not all behavior that is ethical is also legal.

    One more scenario: You come to realize that 50% of the children in the the schools in your city drop out before graduating from high school and ninety percent of those who graduate are unable to read at a third grade level. But, your sister, who lives in a neighboring suburb, has neighbors who go to public schools there and whose children have been admitted to Harvard University, so wonderful is the education that they've received in the suburb. So, you register your child for school in the suburb by falsely claiming that your child lives at his aunt's house in the suburb.

    What you've done is illegal, but is it unethical? Why?

    Can you think of some examples of your own?

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