Ethics and Morality Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3006 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Economics


The chapter in which Greider begins in earnest to lay out his theories and philosophy is "The Soul of Capitalism"; he writes about the "nature of American capitalism" and "why it generates great injury and destructive consequences right alongside the material abundance." And with that as an editorial backdrop, Greider asserts (25) that "American capitalism is ripe for reinvention," and that though this idea has been a "taboo subject," and in fact during the Cold War era discussing such a reform of capitalism was bordering on being "vaguely subversive," it may now be "the patriotic thing to do."

While he sounds idealistic in much of what he writes, he also has roots in the political realities which, in large measure, will prevent the very re-inventing of capitalism that he believes should happen. Those roots are seen on page 32, as he discusses the Clean Air Act of 1970, and the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still "not permitted to impose emissions standards on hundreds of older power plants that were 'grandfathered' in as exempt under the original law." He correctly points out that these plants "now generate the bulk of America's electricity -- and the bulk of its air pollution."

He goes on to say that it is "obvious" that "protective laws are highly vulnerable to political mood swings, not to mention the swarm of lobbyists and lawyers and old fashioned forms of corruption." So, readers know he's not an idealist blind to the realities of making dramatic changes to capitalism.

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But what he does not mention (this book, being published in 2003, went to press perhaps too early for the following to be noted) is that the current administration in the White House has unilaterally changed regulations within the Clean Air Act, dramatically amended regulations, allowing polluting power plants even more carte blanche than Greider discussed.

To wit, in August, 2003, the EPA essentially repealed the "new source review" provision of the Clean Air Act, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council

Term Paper on Ethics and Morality -- Ethics Assignment

(NRDC), which has more visibility and credibility than any environmental advocacy group in the U.S. The EPA, according to reports published in the mass media and reprinted by the NRDC, basically exempts "17,000 older power plants, oil refineries and factories across the country from having to install pollution controls when they replace equipment -- even it the upgrade increases pollution -- as long as the cost of the replacement does not exceed 20% of the cost of what the EPA broadly defines as a 'process unit.'"

What that means is, for example, upgrades at nine Tennessee Valley Authority power plants would be allowed, even though those plants "increased air pollution by hundreds of thousands of tons," the NRDC reports, they would not have to install modern pollution controls, expensive pollution controls, because they "cost less than 20% of the replacement value of the process units."

In addition to the obvious results of dirtier rather than cleaner air, and the not-so-tacit cooperation between the current administration and utility / power companies, the General Accounting Office (watchdog over government agencies) found that the EPA "lacked hard data to support its revision last year of clean air ruled in favor of utility plants and refineries," the NRDC reported. The GAO statement asserted that the EPA "relied primarily on anecdotal information from the industries most affected," in making it's ruling in favor of polluting power plant owners. In other words, the EPA was using justifications (for leniency regarding Clean Air Act regulations) provided by the industry.

And why this matter with the EPA and the Clean Air Act is important, in terms of an analysis of Greider's book, is that given the new post-9/11 powers in the executive branch of the U.S. government -- partly "given" to the White House by the Congress and in part simply accumulated by the executive branch in the name of "fighting terrorism" -- making any concrete changes to America's system of government is not going to be easily accomplished. (This paper does not intend to enter into the entire question of the changes in the U.S. political system following 9/11, but it is worth mentioning, and clearly has allowed the White House a free hand in making numerous decisions.)

And if the failure to enforce laws that protect citizens from unhealthy air (and it is pivotal to realize this administration has also made dramatic and unilateral changes to the Clean Water Act, and has made other unilateral decisions that are highly questionable in terms of protecting the environment, such as allowing the bulldozing of new roads in National Wilderness Areas, in spite of previous regulations preventing those new roads) can be so cavalierly brushed aside, with scant protest, why does Greider feel that there is the possibility of changing the enormous, well-engrained system of capitalism to any degree at all?

In his final chapter, Greider states (325) that though America "has its full quota of fools and scoundrels," as a whole, "the people are quite remarkable, resourceful, and serious about their lives, often courageous in the worst circumstances." And he goes on to state that America is "not a nation of addled sheep (at least not most of us)." But, the bigger question has to be, are there enough sheep (voters) to go along with government as usual, business as usual, or will enough people rise up to follow Greider's lead, as he talks on page 336 about "a platform for life that everyone shares from the start, regardless of circumstances ... "?

Peter Singer

Peter Singer begins his book, One World: The Ethics of Globalization

, with a very sharp contrast in recent events: the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, and carbon dioxide belching out of the exhaust pipes of gas-guzzling SUVs. One event, the terrorist attacks in New York City, was very easy to define and analyze; the other, carbon dioxide and it's evil result, global warming (the greenhouse effect), is not so easy to come to grips with. However, Singer quickly points out the global connection with the fact of driving cars that get poor gas mileage: "When people in rich nations switch to vehicles that use more fuel than the cars they used to drive, they contribute to changes in the climate of Mozambique or Bangladesh ... " And, he continues, those changes "may cause crops to fail, sea levels to rise, and tropical diseases to spread," as the world continues to warm up due to mankind's (especially the highly industrialized nations) continual contribution to global warming.

He quotes current President George Bush -- leader of the nation that produces by far the largest concentration of greenhouse gas emissions -- as saying, in rejecting international cooperation to control global warming: "We will not do anything that harms our economy, because first things first are the people who live in America." Hand in hand with this mentality, Singer notes, is the refusal by the U.S. Congress to reject legislation that could force automakers to raise fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

Singer does not mince words, nor does he ever really back down from his view that "globalization" should not only mean an internationally connected series of economies, but an international, united way for all people on the planet to work together to make the world a better place. In Chapter 2 he discusses the atmosphere; in Chapter 3 he looks at the economy (" ... The World Trade Organization's critics all agree that the trade body has done more to help huge global corporations than to help the poor ... "); he also discusses, in succeeding chapters, law, community, and ends with his ideas on how to create "A Better World."

In his final chapter, he criticizes the U.S. very severely, saying (198) that America, which has not paid its dues to the U.N. (owing $1.07 billion at the time the book was published), " ... arrogantly refuses to give up any of its own rights and privileges for the sake of the common good -- even when other nations are giving up their rights and privileges." What's the answer? A global kind of federalism, with laws and policies that could bring economic and social justice, and freedom, to the planet. It's idealistic, but worth discussing, as are all the ideas presented in the books reviewed for This paper.


Biswas, Basudeb. 2002. Development as Freedom. American Journal of Agricultural

Economics 84 (February): 252-255.

Davidson, Andrew. 2002. Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom. Social Analysis 46

(Summer): 161-166.

Greider, William. 2003. The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy.

New York: Simon & Schuster.

Natural Resources Defense Council. 2003. EPA Officially Rolls Back Clean Air Act

Protections [online]; available from

Singer, Peter. 2002. One World: The Ethics of Globalization. New Haven: Yale

Basudeb Biswas, "Development as Freedom," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, February 2002, 252.

Andrew Davidson, "Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom," Social Analysis, 46 (Summer 2002): 161.

William Greider,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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