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Kantian deontology vs. Mills utilitarianism in medical science

It’s a seemingly simple concept: evaluate an act to decide whether it is a moral act or an immoral act. Without difficulty we accept that the answer is one of degrees - some acts are deeply immoral, others are inspirationally moral. But what does it mean to be moral? When we judge an act, which specific element are we judging? Should we attend to the motive of the act? To its outcome? To the deftness with which it is executed? These are the questions that John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant grappled with in defining theories of morality. Kant, writing earlier, proposed the theory that the motive of an act is the only basis upon which its morality can be judged, and further that morality can only be achieved when the motive is duty. A moral act is one executed in dutiful adherence to a personal moral law, and motivated only by duty and not by desire or inclination. The moral law must not be particular or specific to the circumstances of the act; Kant’s formulations of his theory, known …

Official surveillance and the illusion of privacy

The United States intelligence community confidently explains to the American people that we face a world of unprecedented threats; that the modern tools of warfare are mobile phones, laptops, Facebook profiles and Internet chat rooms. To protect us they need access to every data element generated or touched by a potential terrorist or enemy actor. Any attempt to block their efforts to fully penetrate the datasphere is characterized as aiding the enemy, or at least making America more vulnerable. But arguments in support of the surveillance state suffer from critical weaknesses of sorts philosophical, political, technical, legal and operational. We hardly need to establish that the principle of government “total information awareness” is flawed in each area in order to determine that it is deeply contrary to the interests of society. And this contrariness is ultimately the crucial point: ubiquitous monitoring itself damages society by weakening our defenses, degrading public trust in …

Size, Democracy & Political Control

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Size, Democracy & Political Control: Measuring the effect of community size on local political autonomy
“…The institutions of a township are to freedom what primary schools are to science; they put it within reach of the people; they make them taste its peaceful employ and habituate them to making use of it. Without the institutions of a township a nation can give itself a free government, but it does not have the spirit of freedom.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
If democracy in government is understood as the personal involvement of citizens in the functions and power of governance, then the strongest democracy can be found where power and the responsibility of decision making are the least delegated by citizens to their representatives, and where individuals are most able to personally interact with and control the levers of government. This is reflected in Frank Bryan's “Real Democracy” (Bryan, 2004) and his body of work on town meetings in Vermont; smaller poli…