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Elections Ethics

Laura Baumgartner | Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Campaigning. Now there’s an interesting concept. We’ve all been exposed to our fair share recently with student government elections taking place on our campuses, and by now it’s probably safe to say people are getting a little tired of it.

This time, however, I want to talk about it with a twist.

Billions of dollars (and probably more) are spent each year on various campaigns around the world; whether they are advertising, political, public service, etc. Advertising, public relations and other related fields often come under fire because of the vast amounts of money spent to persuade people to buy a particular product or vote a certain way. The question that arises is ethics.

Is it ethical to spend astronomical amounts of money on packaging, billboards and television advertisements when people around the world and in our own country are living below the poverty level?

Is it ethical for cigarette companies to create advertising campaigns advocating the cause to keep children from smoking or to help current smokers quit?

Is it ethical for presidential candidates to be allowed to accept money from private donors who have connections with major companies, or for that matter to accept money from major companies because of loopholes in our legal system?

Is it ethical for government officials to create advertising campaigns that throw a negative light on their opponents, but then to turn around and be the first to complain when it happens to them?

Ethics, I would say, are like a conundrum wrapped in an enigma … and however else that saying carries on. Basically, they’re confusing and they’re subjective. I would think, though, that in a society as advanced as ours where we know more and are able to do more than we have ever before, that we would have advanced our morals as much as we have advanced our technology.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. People lie. People cheat. People distort laws and situations bending and stretching them so until they encompass their needs and actions. People spread rumors. People evade the truth.

Oftentimes, in the consumerist society we have created, the self-serving bias takes over. Human beings are competitive by nature; it’s part of our genetics. Sometimes people just go too far.

There should be a line where ethics takes over and people know to stop. Unfortunately moral compasses don’t always point north, and the line is either lost or smudged off the map. Depending on whom you ask, the line could be on different sides of the world to begin with.

Shouldn’t there be a point in a situation when a majority of people should be able to realize and agree that something is no longer ethical? Isn’t that why we come equipped with that little voice in our heads that tells us (hopefully) when we’re doing something that isn’t quite right?

Maybe it’s just the way of the world today, and ignoring ethics is something we all have to do to get by on occasion. I may be naive, but I’d like to think that there is hope.