Accommodating the Two Traditions

Contemporary democratic society has been unable or unwilling to reconcile the deontological and teleological traditions or to choose between them. So our ideology accommodates both. The American political system operates according to two dif- ferent ethical standards within constitutional and legal limits. Teleology’s utilitarian principle is deeply embedded in American culture and politics, as illustrated by the widespread use of formal and informal cost-benefit analysis. The Bill of Rights

Act utilitarianism triggers concerns of fairness, equity, and responsibility. Rule utilitarianism eliminates certain objections (such as the insurance offset) but, as important as it may be to a public servant, it hardly satisfies grieving stakeholders unimpressed by seemingly formalistic statute and regulation and personally searching for something emotionally more satisfying. And last, from a duty-based or deontological approach, it appears that the fund is compassionate but misguided; its very structure violates the notion of respect for people simply as people by discriminating among them through a differential valuation of loss.  Because this case presents real ethical dilemmas, no formulation may satisfy all ethical objectives and objections. This defines the reality of the job for many professionals in public service.

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