Ethical Theories and Governmental Cuts

The British government is trying to make many millions of pounds of savings. It has decided to stop 700 new building projects for schools. However, it will continue to maintain the Trident nuclear submarine programme. If the nuclear programme was cancelled, there would be enough money to build the schools. Can we use ethical theories to test this government policy decision?

Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics offer possible ways of measuring this and you should review how those theories make moral decisions. In the meantime some background information is needed.

The argument for Trident is that it provides a military deterrent from possible future enemies. It gives the UK strength in global politics to argue for its point of view to be listened too. Against this is the argument that there are no clear enemies for such a deterrent as the USSR no longer exists and relations with Russia and China are good.

Some 700 new schools will be built providing state of the art facilities and essential replacement of buildings which in some cases are 60-100 years old. Those new schools will keep building companies in business. If each school has 1,000 pupils then the number of pupils who will benefit is considerable. A further 700 schools that were going to build have had their plans cancelled. So in some towns there will be brand new builds next to old leaky and crumbling buildings. Some children will get to go to the new buildings while others will not.

If it is true that there is not enough money to fund both projects, what should happen?

Apply two ethical theories to the policy decision and each of the projects. What is the moral thing to do? How effective are ethical theories in helping us judge political decisions?

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