It is not always easy to choose between one’s interests and morality. People tend to do many things they can benefit from; thus, in this case, they are guided by the ethical egoism. Its main idea is to do everything for one’s self-interest because it is something people should do; it means that egoism becomes an ethical guide of a certain person. Many people nowadays follow this theory because they think it simplifies their lives greatly.
It is always easier to justify one’s action by saying it was done for one’s good. Ethical egoists state that nobody else would care for a person, but the person him- or herself; for this reason, it is in a person’s best interests. This theory may seem attractive to many people because of its accent on human desires; this way any behavior is ethical as long as a person has a profit out of it. The theory of ethical egoism is a core for individualist anarchism; because people state that there should be no restrictions over their freedom. It is also connected to right-libertarianism because it promotes people’s advantage over civil laws. This is directly connected to the criminal justice system because people who follow the ethical egoism principle can use it as an excuse not to follow the laws.
The ethical egoism theory does not always mean that people act against others or do things that would harm other people, but it makes a certain distinction between a person and a greater good. Since a person acts according to his or her own desires, he or she may do many things that contradict society and may not be accepted by the rest. It also allows a person to do immoral things as long as they are beneficial and a person would not get caught doing them. Things like that have a strong connection to a criminal justice system because whenever a person does anything illegal even in one’s best interests, such action should be punished.
Ethical egoism can be applied to both ethical and unethical behavior in the criminal justice system. Interestingly, it can also be applied to people that represent opposite sides of the system; it can be adjusted to both criminals and lawyers because all types of people may use this theory.
Criminals may use ethical egoism theory to justify their actions. It can also be a reason for such behavior in the first place. A criminal or a convict may act unethically and do illegal actions because they are beneficial for him or her; there is also room for avoiding punishment. The interesting thing about ethical egoism is that a person avoids doing anything that may cause damage in the future; thus, if a person knows about the high possibility of punishment for certain doings, he or she may avoid doing it. On the other hand, if a person knows that he or she may not get punished, he or she can outstep the legal side of the action. Therefore, a person decides to act according to ethical egoism principle; ironically, it does not bring any benefit in the end.
This theory may be used by criminals, but it may also be used by the people who represent the law. For example, a lawyer wants to be promoted or to gain fame after successful case. In order to achieve these things, he or she needs to finish the case and to make one’s client win. Obviously, it is hard to blame a person who wants to achieve success in one’s career, but this success must not contradict the morals, ethics and the law. On the contrary, whenever a person follows an ethical egoism principle, he or she will do anything to win the case. For example, a lawyer knows that a client is wrong and should not win, but since the lawyer wants to succeed badly, he or she will hide the truth. As a result, the lawyer may win the case and gain some personal achievements, but it would be wrong and unlawful. It would be quite hard to prove that the person did something illegal and to prove him or her guilty, but it does not change the fact that it is immoral.
Another thing that may be a result of ethical egoism is corruption, and bribery is its primary appearance. There are many different types of people connected to the criminal justice system; there are lawyers and advocates, judges and policemen. Obviously, these people work to make society just; furthermore, their main goal is to make the laws work. On the other hand, if these people followed ethical egoism theory, the effectiveness of the criminal justice system would be impossible. The system would not work because people whose primary interests and tasks were to keep it working would be following their own selfish goals.
If a judge considers his or her own interests above all, then how can this person be objective and make adequate decisions? This situation would be impossible because a judge would only use one’s personal needs, and pay no attention to the other ones. A bribery, which was mentioned before would be a good example. Whenever a judge would need money, he or she would do anything to gain them. If somebody offered the judge money as a bribe for certain decision or ruling, the latter would gladly accept because he or she cares about personal interests only. Obviously, the judge would weigh all the pros and cons in this situation; whether there are chances to get caught and how to avoid such consequences. If the person finds the current situation safe, he or she will definitely take the bribe and use it for selfish reasons.
This case is a good example when a person abuses his or her authority for personal benefits because of an ethical egoism. A person who is in power may use one’s abilities, not for the right reasons, but for individual interests and would even justify one’s acts as moral because of the used theory. As long as a person does not get caught, he or she will keep on doing things like these; and there is very little that society can do about it because it is unaware of such actions.
On the contrary, the authority maybe not only a source for selfish abuse of power; it may also be its main opponent. The higher the position a person has, the more responsibility he or she has to take. Official responsibility can be viewed as an antidote to egoism because it puts a lot of pressure people must meet; also, it reminds people about official punishments that follow the illegal actions. One can turn an example of a corrupt judge into an absolutely opposite perspective; because the judge may not take the bribe specifically because of his or her high rank. A person may be an egoist, but with the career progress, his or her egoism will transform into a devotion to a job and workaholic attitude. This way ethical egoism will be thrown away by a person as an ineffective theory that has nothing to do with the work.
Another link between ethical egoism and the criminal justice system is the effect that the theory has on punishing people for their egoism; in this case, egoism has caused a certain damage in society. Egoism may lead to irresponsible actions of a person, and this person should definitely be punished for the wrongdoing. On the other hand, punishing somebody is also egoism, only in this case egoism applies to an unjust system of punishing the criminals. There is a question of morals when speaking about capital punishment. It can be an example of state egoism, according to Souryal. Many people support the idea of capital punishment; they state that certain criminals are not going to change; moreover, they will keep doing crimes, so they are a huge threat to society. It is for a reason that these people should be sentenced to death because a state is better off without them. On the other hand, this view can be considered ethical egoism because this way society and its criminal justice system act only according to their needs and do not take into consideration the other side of the issue (criminals and convicts).
Although the ethical egoism is the basis for individualist anarchism, it actually justifies the criminal justice system. If a person, who acts according to ethical egoism theory, gets caught, he or she should receive the deserved punishment specifically because of the theory he or she follows; since this theory clearly shows that person’s actions were absolutely free and unpressured, and everything that person did was an act of his or her own will for personal reasons. This way a person could not be justified because everything was one’s own fault.
There are many different approaches to the criminal justice system, but despite that one cannot argue that its main goal is to provide justice for everybody who lives within a certain society. Ethical egoism as a form of worldview may be widely spread in society, but it should never contradict the criminal justice system. The law cannot make an altruist out of an egoist; it cannot force a person to act unselfishly when he or she is unwilling to do so, but the law can influence people’s actions by providing just laws and deserved punishments for those, whose egoism has gone too far. Even if a person wants to keep personal freedom, he or she must still follow the rules and the laws of the state. Good citizens understand that laws do not restrict their freedom, but make it possible. For this reason, ethical egoism and desire not to follow the rules seem impossible since they are conflicting with the legal side of the issue. A person should definitely act according to personal needs as long as they do not harm anyone else and do not break any laws. People should keep in mind that despite egoism, there should be respect for others. Those who forget about it will be punished.
This post was written by Bridget Curry.
She is a writer at dissertationmasters.com