Sunday, January 07, 2007

Doing Wrong For the Right Reasons Is Still Wrong

What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious.
- Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator, writer (106-43 BCE)

"This may be wrong, but look at the benefits that will come from it! We'll be safe. (We'll be rich. We can retire. We can take a trip around the world. I can tell my boss to go to hell. We'll be the best again.)

As Cicero said and as my imagined rationales suggest, all reasons for doing something morally wrong in order to achieve a benefit are personal, not public. They may be stated as public benefits, such as "our people will be safe," but the deeper reason is always personal.

Yet these kinds of reasonings are given to people all the time, both personally and publicly. They come most notably from politicians, whose personal objectives are to gain popularity or stay in power. Or to justify some measure that would otherwise clearly be classed as corruption.

As Cicero said, merely believing that doing something wrong can somehow be justified as right is exceedingly harmful. When a politician thinks this way, you can be certain that something that will harm his people will follow.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine a light on some hidden truths.
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