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I Believe: A Code Of Ethics Essay, Research Paper
I Believe: A Code of Ethics
Fall Semester, 1996
I believe in the power of Mind…
I believe pitchers should bat…
I believe Oswald was a patsy…
I believe everything is a conspiracy…
I believe that people are responsible for their own actions…
I believe that The Who is the greatest rock band of all time…
I believe in tolerance…
I believe in capitalism…
I believe we are who we want to be…
I believe in choice…
I believe in love…
I believe that Bert and Ernie are televisions first gay couple…
I believe that the 1979 Orioles were robbed…
I believe that people who say they like Indian food are just trying
to be cool…
I believe that people get the kind of government they deserve…
I believe in the power of having no god…
I believe I can fly…
I believe that Barney is the purple Messiah…
I believe that the bible was a novel, written for profit…
I believe in the mother ship…
I believe the Mona Lisa was framed…
I believe in Pez…
I believe Darwin…
I believe in beauty…
I believe we have the worst justice system in the world with the
exception of every other system…
I believe in Wally and the Beaver…
I believe I didn’t learn anything in kindergarten…
I believe we are all in this together…
I believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day…
I believe the ozone layer is just fine…
I believe in dedication…
I believe my daughter is a prodigy…
I believe that Kathy Lee is the Anti-Christ…
I believe my dad can still beat me at arm wrestling…
I believe I wouldn’t want to beat him…
I believe you shouldn’t believe everything you breath…
I believe in the power of love to warp mens minds and make men
I believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the seventh inning
I believe in me…
I believe I’m done now…
Developing a code of ethics is the most important thing a person can do.
Such a code is necessary for humans because of our capacity to reason. Our
ability to apply rational thought to the conduct of our lives is what makes
mankind more than just an animal with an interesting thumb. These rational
thoughts could very easily lead us to terrible acts, for what is in our best
interest is often harmful to others. However there is another ability, peculiar
to humans alone, that keeps most of us on the right path. Our ability to know
what is right and what is wrong. It is our beliefs on this subject that make
up our ethics. And the best way to know what those beliefs are is to develop a
personal code of ethics.
My own code is one that defies definition by the standards of most of
the well known ethical theories. It consists of four simple and straight
forward rules, rules that do not alter or change with the shift of societies
values or the passing of time. The four rules are easy to remember but may need
a bit of explanation.
1) Mine first.
2) Serve the greater good (unless it violates rule number one).
3) Serve justice and obey the law unless the law does not serve
4) Respect the divinity of Mind.
The first rule, “Mine first” sounds harsh and egoist and to some extent
it is akin to enlightened egoism. What this rule means is that my wife and
daughter and what is best for them comes before any other consideration without
exception. This dedication to family is not a popular idea in these “it takes a
village” times. Today, people seem to have bought into the idea that there will
always be someone else around to take care of our responsibilities if we fail.
The government, charities or strangers on the street, many people today feel
that their responsibilities are those of someone else as well. But there is no
room for such ideas in my life. I do for mine. If that means that others must
do without so that my family can prosper, than that is how it must be.
Example: Suppose my daughter wanted a Tickle Me Elmo Doll this Christmas.
And suppose I found myself at the door to Toys-R-Us, next to a wheelchair bound
woman who was also trying to purchase an Elmo for her child. The two of us know
that there is one Elmo left in the store. When the door opens, what do I do?
To be perfectly honest I run as fast as I can and grab the doll. It would not
matter to me that the woman was in a wheelchair and unable to race for the doll.
My daughter wanted the doll and I would put her wishes above anyone else.
Of course, this is a silly example but it illustrates how this rule
works. The action would be the same if it were the last morsel of food in the
last remaining open store in a city buried in ten feet of snow. I do what is
best for my family even at the cost of others. I do not feel that this is
egoism. I truly feel that by applying Kants categorical imperative I can show
that this is utilitarianism. If everyone strived to do what was best for those
they loved, wouldn’t society be better off? Wouldn’t we have better provided
for and happier children with a greater sense of self worth? Wouldn’t we have a
closer knit family unit, something that our society keeps claiming is lacking?
With everyone doing what is in the best interests of their own families,
wouldn’t we have very little need for welfare or charities? And wouldn’t such
family dedication, if it were all encompassing, serve to better society by
eliminating the need for government assistance in the raising of children? This
rule is utilitarian in nature and coincides with the second rule of my code.
Serving the greater good, part of the foundation of utilitarian ethics,
is a rule that everyone should have in their own personal code. Society is home
to all of us. We are all here together. So those things that we do that serve
to better society, serve to better ourselves as well. So we should always
strive to do things that serve the cause of society.
So does this mean that I give money to homeless people on the streets
and support programs that give money to the poor? No. It is my firm belief,
based in libertarian ideals, that people must be allowed to live their own lives
even if they live them poorly. The greater good of society is not served if we
encourage people to live off the sweat of others by continuing to give them
handouts. Every quarter given to a homeless person adds to the bottom line of
what he will expect to collect the following day. Soon he will come to feel
that he is entitled to that amount as he is increasingly led to believe by
modern social programs. It is only by forcing people who are able to fend for
themselves that society can be bettered.
This is not to say however that people should not help each other. For
instance when a friend comes up short on the rent and needs a loan, I will give
him the money. If another friend needs help moving into a new apartment, I will
help. Or if a stranger is broken down by the side of the road and I am able to
help (and feel safe in doing so) I will. It is these small acts of human
kindness that serve to better society by improving a persons attitude about its
Of course, rule number two includes the caveat of not allowing this rule
to interfere with adherence to rule number one. So, if the friend needed a loan
for the rent but my daughter needed shoes or school supplies in the same amount,
my friend will have to do without. If a friends moving day fell on the same day
as my daughters swim meet, the friend would just have to find someone else to
help move. And if my daughter was in the car as I passed the broken down
stranger, no matter how old, frail and disabled that stranger was, I could not
take the chance of my daughter being harmed. The stranger would have to wait.
Rule number three is another rule that should be universal. As a devout
atheist, I feel that the law is what society has devised to keep it’s members on
the right path in the absence of god. As such, the law becomes The Law, a very
serious matter to me in exactly the same way that the teachings of Christ are
important to other people. Obeying that Law is not only a legal matter, but to
me, a moral one. Mankind has gone and educated himself out of the god mind set.
We have explored the heavens and he wasn’t there. We have split the atom and no
god was found. We have cut and probed the deepest recesses of the human body
and found no soul. God is dead and we are the killers. The law is all we have
left and it should be treated with the appropriate respect.
So does this mean that I would have been one of those rednecks who
arrested Freedom Riders and dragged black people away from lunch counters?
Would I have been in favor of returning escaped slaves to the south because it
was the law?
Of course not. Rule number three also includes a caveat. It states
that if a law does not serve justice, it should not be obeyed. So this sparks
the question “how do I know if a law is just?” The answer can be found in rule
The last rule of my personal code of ethics is the most important
because it is the measuring stick by which the variables of the first three
rules are measured. This rule requires that the human Mind be respected for
its power and its supreme value, a value greater than that of anything else in
the universe. Respecting the human Mind means believing in the principle that
people are worthy of respect. Holding reason and intelligence as divine above
all other considerations, leads to just thoughts and actions. Respect of Mind
requires the discounting of those factors that cause prejudice. Reason and
intelligence has no color, religion or sexual preference. Mind is sexless. It
is classless. And it is not susceptible to the fickle human idea of physical
But how to know if a law is just? If it serves to protect, promote and
respect the human Mind. If a law or an act works against the cause of Mind than
it is unjust. Such laws must not be obeyed and indeed must be worked against.
But how is one to know the extent of such civil disobedience? In my case, the
answer is found in rule number one. So long as I do not put my family at risk
of losing a husband and father, justice must be served. It is through this kind
of meshing of the four rules that ethical quandaries can be answered.
Noticeably, the rules of the code, while existing to serve the cause of
good and avoid evil, do not make it clear how to know which is which. There is
no specific rule that gives a clear definition of what is good and what is evil.
This is because the rules, when properly applied to an ethical problem, will
lead to the action that is good.
So then what is good? What is evil? Good is somewhat easier to define
in that it is directly related to the last three rules of the code. An act
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