Exhausting moral resources

Lack of a common ethical system and emphasis upon money and power are major causes of double standards and hypocrisy. In order to win credibility, individuals and groups may advocate morals though in reality promote corruption and other unethical practices. With time, hiding behind and maintaining such moral facades may become more difficult to handle, cover up, or justify.
Prominent theatres in which to witness the exhaustion of moral resources are political organizations, government institutions and the business community. Indeed, it is often considered a political art to espouse the highest of aims and principles while engaging in the lowest of deals and in breaking the same principles. Moral stances may thus be reinvented to prevent the public from finding out such activities and venting their anger accordingly. The public dilemma is often not whether the misconduct was committed but rather whether is was sufficiently serious, inappropriate or unreasonable to make an issue out of it which could rule someone forever out of public office.

Examples of how moral resources may be exhausted include methods such as tax evasion, nepotism, looting the national treasury, political bribery, unequal distribution of government contracts, unjust financing of political parties, unjust election administration, use of espionage (especially for domestic purposes), secret police and intimidation. This may lead to political blackmail and corruption in other spheres, to the encouragement of organized crime and violence, lack of credibility in institutions, alienation, apathy, subversive activities, revolution, disintegration, foreign intervention or stagnation. Politicians may take bribes, payoffs, letting companies or other outside interests to pay speaking fees, trips, accommodation, "gifts" and "income" from joint business ventures, or simply act in ways which would be usually excused in people other than those officials of high fiduciary rank and trust.

Since politicians are protected by parliamentary immunity, amongst many reasons, little effort is made to investigate many of such accusations, some of which may be marked by efforts of the police to suppress evidence and to avoid any further action. However, investigations have uncovered the extent to which ethics have been abused and exhausted in order to perpetuate immoral activities. For instance, the major "Clean Hands" investigation into corruption in Italian politics from 1992 resulted in 30% of the the members of parliament and senate being implicated in some form of scandal by 1994; five former prime ministers and many ministers were implicated. At the regional level many cases were documented of cozy relationships between businessmen seeking public works contracts, organized crime and politicians seeking votes (in exchange for favours). By a system known as lottizzazione, political parties divided up patronage and illicit earnings from government-owned corporations.

France in 1993 contained the largest number of indicted government ministers in Europe. Many politicians at national and local level were under investigation for organizing systems of rake-offs from public works contracts for party funds. In the period 1991 through 1994, the Japanese political system was subject to major disruption by scandals at the highest levels, notably implicating several prime ministers and political power brokers.

The operation of double standards in diplomacy may be used and often considered so commonplace as to fail to attract criticism. There are numerous instances of a government denouncing an oppressive regime or unwarranted invasion, only to be followed by the reopening of friendly relations or a foreign intervention of its own under a different name. Complete silence on human rights violations is a second tactic, and a third variation is to give less vocal criticism of neighbouring atrocities than those in more distant countries. Egypt indirectly accused the USA of applying double standards after its missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in 1993, noting that it had not taken military action to defend Muslims in Bosnia from attack.

Western countries are also considered to have long used double standards in relation to their strategic allies and trading partners, notably Israel and South Africa, and more recently the supply of weapons of mass destruction by Germany and Switzerland. Within countries such as the USA, there had been a double standard up to 1954 in connection with the notion that all men were equal, and subsequently in the denial of civil rights to black Americans until 1964 and 1967. In relation to environmental issues, the USA criticizes Brazil on the shameless destruction of its tropical rainforests, while less than one quarter of Hawaii's original forest remain and most of the tropical forest of Puerto Rico has also been cleared.

Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy