Ethics and moral are two frequently used words, and often together, and with a positive flavour. Un-ethical and immoral are adjectives that we use about behaviour and persons that we don’t like.
Here I use these words with the following interpretation:
An individual may belong to many groups, more or less overlapping, in different roles, and with differing ethical norms:
As competition develops within a group the individuals become winners or losers in varying degrees, and in different fields of competition. As conscious humans we have a faculty for planning for a time horizon beyond our life time. There is no limit to our desire for ’more’ and ’better’. The old saying ’mykje vil ha meir’ , (much wants more) expresses the old experience; There is no ‘genetic’ limit to human competition.
Over time the ‘winners’ will realize that they depend on the group, and that the ‘losers’ constitute an important part of the society. This realization inspires to develop patterns of conduct that constrains the competition and helps maintain the integrity of the group. It is such patterns of conduct that I designate ‘ethics’ here. It is initially shaped by the ‘winners’, because they, constituting a minority, have the largest benefit from a well functioning group. Unlimited competition will break up the group, and erode the foundation of the success.
A prerequisite for a group to function well as a whole, is that a majority of the members, including ’losers’, accept a common ethics. This is perhaps most difficult for the ‘winners’. Self-imposed competition constraint requires strong ‘moral’. This becomes more difficult with larger groups, and with larger differences between winners and losers.
To protect the majority against those with substandard morals, both on the winner- and the loser side, ’enforcing’ legal systems were developed, with Laws and Punishment for acts that damage the group or individuals in the group. This system allows the group to continue functioning, with greater winners and more losers.
Globalized trade removes economic boundaries, while retaining boundaries for people. The globalized resource base has no expansion potential.. The differences in living conditions are large. The losers become increasingly aware of the situation, and they find no reason to respect the competition ’rules’, neither ethical nor legal ones.
The judicial systems that we have developed to deal with local ethical deficiencies are too ’weak’ to deal with problems following the ’globalization’, commonly labelled ’terror’. One consequence of this is the desire for ’exception laws’ for the ’war on terror’, compromising traditional judicial rights of individual protection in some countries.
Global terrorism can be seen as a consequence of global competition witout a global ethics. It is the winners who have the responsibility for limiting the competition, and we are among them. We are more dependent on the losers than they are on us.
We must realize that we all live off the same nature, and that we have to limit our resource consumption. Lacking individual ’Enough’-genes we may have to rely on political/economical ’forcing’. This is a BIG challenge for our democracy!
Hans Ucko i Ethics, law and commitment (excerpt, my underline)
How are law and ethics related? One's interpretation of law will necessarily influence the interpretation of ethics, and vice-versa. Given a lack of consensus on what "ethics" refers to, we should not be surprised that attempts to chain this concept down long enough to see how it relates to "law" (itself no unitary, unequivocal notion) lead only to more questions.
Law and ethics form a problematic package but a package deal nonetheless. When Kant turns to explain what a legal duty is and how it should function, he appeals to much the same conceptual resources that he relies on when discussing ethical duties. Laws, he insists, must apply to everyone equally. It must also be possible for each citizen to embrace the reasoning behind the law, including any penalties for violating the law, and so on.
For Kant law functions as a system of externally imposed constraints on behaviour, whereas ethics functions as self-imposed constraints. Kant's description of persons as "self-legislators" when it comes to ethics is apt. Still, it may not get at the interplay of ideas and interests that arise in e.g. bioethics. Imagine the patient whose wish for assisted suicide is rejected by hospital staff and law. We face a challenge in understanding the magnitude of this philosophical problem if we restrict ourselves to Kantian terms of legislation, self-imposed or otherwise. And in the case of an apparent conflict between law and ethics, what is one to do? Kant lived and wrote in a time when protests against what might be considered an unethical law did not enjoy the social status that they do today. It is now almost taken for granted that one has an ethical obligation to protest against laws that are judged to be unethical. What is less clear is how we would distinguish an ethical law from an unethical one.