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Sacrificing morality for beneficial ends?

Published: March 3, 2006
Section: Opinions


So, the other day I offered my sexual services to this girl who got a high number in the housing lottery. I dont think it was immoral. See, my friend received a number that is three centuries into the future, 2317, and I thought Id use my talents to help a friend. Needless to say, she had heard about my reputation, and lets just say my friend is Mod-bound next year.

Heres the question: was I being immoral, or just playing by the rules, to get an ultimately beneficial goal? I realize this was a ridiculously idiotic example, but this question has pervaded two recent political decisions.

The most recent example involves Googles business with the Chinese government. Into its search engines, Google is building in filters to remove content having to do with criticisms of the Chinese government and such concepts as democracy. The gut-check reaction is that Google is abandoning its principles, helping the Chinese governments oppressive rule. But a second look, and it is realized that, if not Google, someone else will provide the service. Overall, at least the Chinese citizens will get some of the Internet: half of Google is better than none, or better than another company performing the same task. Hopefully, it will give Chinese citizens a taste of the Internet, and lead to pushes for free-speech reform.

A similar issue was presented to the Bush administration this past fall. News was leaked that the American government was paying certain newspaper writers in Iraq to cover the good as much as the bad. Of course, the morality of that payment in my mind has to do with whether the writers were making up stories from that payment, or simply moving a story about a new school or happy Iraqis from the middle of the paper to the front page.

Its obvious to say that forging articles is immoral, but, considering the layout of news articles is purely subjective, bribery for certain placement may not be immoral. Others would disagree, that any payment used to influence writing crosses the line. As an administration official, though, one has to realize that part of the war is in the newspapers. The insurgents already have the front pages, considering those who are in charge of the publications. In order to win, we must partake in the propaganda war.

In a perfect world, where morality is all that matters, Google should not filter democratic content for the Chinese government, America should not be bribing newspaper reporters, and I should not sleep with girls for housing lottery numbers. But, in a world where one must play by the rules that have been set by the other side, not the optimal moral rules, sometimes one must be realistic.

It might be needed to make the ultimately moral choice in the end, such as giving the Iraqis freedom, granting the Chinese freedom of information, or helping out a friend.