Situation Ethics

–By Ben Gilmore

“When you choose an action, you choose a consequence.” So said my friend, Harry Conn. Consequences follow choices like a caboose follows a train. You cannot manipulate consequences. It is like pushing on a rope!

When you tell a lie, you are trying to manipulate consequences. It may even seem to work for a while – but – the consequences are always bad!

Some folks say, “There are no absolutes.” Of that, they are absolutely sure! They can’t live consistently with their beliefs.

A friend from the south east journeyed to California twenty years ago to attend an American History and Government Study Seminar,” hosted by ACH Study Groups. He returned home and became a state and local political researcher and leader.

He phoned the other day to discuss how to apply sound principle rather than situation ethics as he advises influential state leaders. Our discussion prompted this column.

If you make choices focusing upon the results, you are pushing on a rope!

What is your alternative? Evaluate choices upon sound principles and let the results take care of themselves! That is called “principle ethics.”

For example: Some years back voters got tired of lawmakers, governors, judges, and even presidents making careers out of politics. By granting favors, and using name recognition and campaign funds, not available to challengers, they kept getting reelected. The voters began imposing “term limits.”

The root problem: Folks were “selling” their vote for favors, ignorantly voting for a recognized name, or believing phony political ads. In short – “voting dumb!” After “term limits,” apparently folks are still voting dumb!

Sure, we dump bad politicians. Granted: We also dump the good ones. Voting dumb just exchanges one bad guy for another! Term limits is “situation ethics.” What we are really doing, is violating the individual liberty of a future voter, to make his own mistakes! When you take away the opportunity to fail, success has no value!

Then there are “unintended consequences.” Since there are no longer any experienced lawmakers (They were all termed out!), the hired hands around the seat of power, have all the experience. More often than not, the elected lawmaker becomes a “figurehead,” useful for speeches and fund raising, while the staff runs the show and makes the decisions.

If the root problem is dumb voters, the solution is to raise the voters’ understanding. A tough job, but a real solution. Let’s, each of us, get on with the task!

Bottom line: If you have not learned to apply a sound set of principles, you are stuck with situational choices. You may luck out, now and then, and make a good choice, but —

Rather: Stop. Learn a set of sound principles and how to apply them. Life will become a lot simpler when you don’t have to worry about negative results.

For His-story & Government!!!

Ben Gilmore
ACH Study Groups

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