Discussion Forums » Topic of the Month

Topic for May 2021 - Morality and Ethics in Public Life

    • 127 posts
    May 18, 2021 3:35 PM BST

    Agenda - Morality in Government, Parliament and our Democratic System


    • What is the difference between ethics and morality? (See definitions below)
    • What common examples of ethical and unethical behaviour can we identify in politicians and others in Public Life? How much do ethics and morality in public life matter?
    • The Seven Principles of Public Life (reproduced below). Are they sufficient in theory and in practice? How well do our politicians and others in Public Life measure up to each of them?
    • Government is meant to enforce the ethics and morality of the society it governs. Does it?
    • Are some aspects of morality more important than others in politics? Are the personal lives of people in power relevant?
    • We all have different perceptions of ethics and morality e.g. abortion, divorce, promiscuity. Do we handle this well enough? How should we handle it?
    • Morality and law-making. The law is inefficient in enforcing ethics and morality. How can we address this?
      • ‘The law does not fully represent ethical and moral standards. Perceptions are a great threat to the government’s role. This is due to the fact that certain parameters which are legal are sometimes perceived as violating ethical and moral standards.
      • ‘As much as the law might not be the perfect tool of enforcing ethical and moral values, it remains the governments’ chief weapon against unprincipled practices and immorality’.
    • How do adversarial politics, unbalanced argument, distortion and omission, opposition for opposition’s sake, attacking the individual, inflating the negative to the limit of credibility, tittle tattle, fit with our perceptions of morality?
    • What is the role of the media in holding public figures to account? Is the media itself an exemplar of ethical and moral behaviour?


    Ethics and Morality

    The two terms are often used interchangeably. According to Moral and Ethical Role of Government (ukessays.com) morality goes deeper than ethics in defining human behaviour and conduct. Ethics refer to the standards that make the society a better place for all while morality provide for more deeper considerations that amount to religion and spirituality.

    According to What’s the Difference Between Morality and Ethics? | Britannica while understanding that most ethicists (that is, philosophers who study ethics) consider the terms interchangeable, both morality and ethics loosely have to do with distinguishing the difference between “good and bad” or “right and wrong.” Many people think of morality as something that’s personal and normative, whereas ethics is the standards of “good and bad” distinguished by a certain community or social setting.


    The Seven Principles of Public Life

    The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. This includes all those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in the Civil Service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), and in the health, education, social and care services. All public office-holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources. The principles also apply to all those in other sectors delivering public services.

    • Selflessness

    Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

    • Integrity

    Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

    • Objectivity

    Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

    • Accountability

    Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

    1.5 Openness

    Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

    • Honesty

    Holders of public office should be truthful.

    1.7 Leadership

    Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.




    This post was edited by # Probably42 at May 18, 2021 3:35 PM BST
    • 127 posts
    July 3, 2021 10:42 AM BST

     Output of our discussions is now available at: Morality and Ethics in Public Life