The law and morality essay
The legal and moral aspects of the Citizen’s Gas Company case.
Why did the Citizen’s Gas Company ignore the rights of the two farm owners - Mr. Mander and Mrs. Kildare?
Why did this case become so public?
What does morality has to do with the pipe-problem?
Professional ethics tells the independent surveyor that he has to promulgate this violation. This “call of duty” is also supported by a subjective sympathy to Mrs. Kildare.
The law and morality essay
Table of contents:
2. Different perspectives of the problem:
b. Kant’s theory
d. John Rawls's approach
The given case concerns the Citizen’s Gas Company ignoring the fact that the border line between Mr. Mander’s and Mrs. Kildare’s farms as it had been declared by the independent surveyors in their report was not set right from the very beginning. Therefore the company has illegally laid the pipeline on Mr. Mander’s territory without announcing that the land suitable for the pipeline in fact belonged him and not to Mrs. Kildare, as it was indicated by the fence, which was standing incorrectly. The company used its possibility to conceal the results of the report and it brought additional savings to the Gas Company limited only with the cost of laying the pipeline and paying Mrs. Kildare for using her private property. The result obtained from the whole situation from the first glance is positive: Mrs. Kildare is not starving anymore; the company is providing gas to other regions and Mr. Mander had stayed away from the whole matter. Nevertheless, Mr. Mander without knowing it has become a victim of fraud. This is primarily due to the fact that the pipeline is laying on his territory and therefore goes against his will as a land-owner. So the company did not only ignore the report of independent surveyors but also went against the law and trespassed the property of a person without him acknowledging this fact. Professional ethics tells the independent surveyor that he has to promulgate this violation. This “call of duty” is also supported by a subjective sympathy to Mrs. Kildare. And as a matter of fact, it can be argued from different perspectives.
2. Different perspectives of the problem
The problem can be analyzed differently depending on the professional priority of the independent surveyors, as they were fulfilling their job. For instance, if the independent surveyors’ priority is Mrs. Kildare’s well being then their mission is complete, but if it was the proper borderline identification between both these farms, they have done it, too. As they have handled the report the surveyors therefore have given the company information about the discrepancy of the fence-line and the true borderline of the farms. So technically, the surveyors’ conscience is “clear”. At the same time the fact that Mr. Mander’s land is being used and Mrs. Kildare gets paid for it is completely improper. As this is just the top of the problem it therefore needs to be detailed and analyzed much deeper and it should be done in terms of different theories.
As the matter of fact, utilitarianism functions upon the principle: “The greatest happiness for the greatest number”. The base of the theory is the maximization the number of people obtaining “the good”, which is often interpreted as pleasure. John Stuart Mill interprets this “good” as the cultural and spiritual happiness, so the more people are spiritually happy – the best. Another interpretation of utilitarianism is its flip-side form, which proclaims the prevention of “the greatest amount of harm for the greatest number”. This case can be analyzed from two different perspectives of utilitarianism: the act and the rule utilitarianism.
According to the act form the surveyor should act in a way that everybody would feel happy. The rule utilitarianism emphasizes the fact that the happiness of the majority can be achieved only through following the general rules stated for people. From the “act” perspective the situation should stay the same, as all the parties are “happy”. The company has the pipeline right in the place it wanted it to be, Mr. Mander is calm, because the pipeline is “not on his territory”, Mrs. Kildare gets the money she needs not to just make ends meet, and the surveyor has to be calm because he has fulfilled the duty and carried out the task professionally right. If it has not been for a coincidence they would have never revealed the fact of the incorrect pipeline location. It does bring the surveyors certain distress, but they promulgate the fact it would lead to “harm” to all of the parties.
The Company will have to relocate the pipeline; Mr. Mander will be disturbed, Mrs. Kildare will lose the last hope to live better and not to starve and the surveyors will still feel bad for Mr. Kildare and their reputation will be damaged. So nothing should be changed from the act-utilitarianism perspective. The rule-utilitarianism claims the importance of the legal part of the case and the necessity to do what is legally right and that is to acknowledge Mr. Mander with the report and therefore with the enlarged sizes of his land property. He has a legal right to know about it and his further actions will be his own choice.
2.b. Kant’s theory.
According to Kant duty should be placed on top of all the human longings. Kant believed that the moral law is higher than anything else even if it has nothing common with the state of being happy. This moral obligation Kant pointed out as the “categorical imperative” and stated that it is an unconditional obligation and has completely nothing to do with what a person wants or does not want to do and what makes the person happy.
According to Kant’s theory the surveyors not interfering in the matter is like “lying” to Mr. Mander and not fulfilling their legal obligation as of professionals. This certainly leads to a contradiction, because if everybody would conceal information for the good of one person (Mrs. Kildare), then the profession of independent surveyors is completely useless in its core.
The surveyors have to act along with the universal law, which proclaims the non-contradictional reality. Kant says that every person needs to live its life and not take the “cargo” of other people’s troubles. Those in trouble are not to sit and wait for help, which would make a contradiction, too. In this case the subjective attitude of the surveyors towards Mrs. Kildare should not be taken into count at all. “Sympathy” has nothing to do with obligation. And the surveyor’s good attitude towards Mrs. Kildare will remain what it is. The surveyors have to act the way their obligations dictate them. In this case it is doing all the further actions such as going to the Company’s office and fulfilling the professional ethical duty of making sure that the report results are known by all the needed sides, without feeling “sorry” for anybody.
The core of the libertarian theory is that all people should act according to their own will, and this is the main liberty in their life. The only condition is that these actions do not interfere with the liberty (including property) of others. According to the Libertarian theory the Gas Company as the embodiment of the Government is not an exception. In this case the Citizen’s Gas Company has interfered the liberty of Mr. Mander as it is using his property without him knowing it. Nevertheless, the independent surveyors have no right to keep silence about the matter as therefore they would use Mr. Mander’s liberty against Mrs. Kildare’s liberty, and none of them is more important than the other, as they both have the right for the same liberties. The fact that Mr. Mander was not polite and nice to the surveyors does not change anything. The surveyors should reveal the fact of concealing the information and if they really feel sorry for Mrs. Kildare they may turn to private charity and help her the way the want and can. It is their liberty to do it. The surveyors have personal responsibility for identifying the borderline properly; therefore they have to do everything possible to make the Gas Company use the correct results.
3.d. John Rawls’s approach.
It lies upon the understanding that people have to follow a set of general rules in order not to live in chaos. It is based upon the principle of social justice. This means that a person should choose the social relations, which fit his own justice principles. This is called the “original position” by John Rawls. The surveyors should put a “veil of ignorance” on and consider only the matter of the improper territory belonging. Their judgment should be completely objective, as it is their obligation to follow the rule of justice to do so. If they truly respect Mrs. Kildare they would treat her with all the justice and there is to be no place for pity. They need to counteract the injustice in the borders of the law. This counteraction needs to be aimed upon letting Mr. Mander know about the oppressive behavior of the Gas Company.
All of the listed above theories propagandize different values, nevertheless all of them talk about justice and morality, and therefore judge what is ethical and what is not. The aim of every single one of them is to achieve harmony, though the ways of achievement often differ. The best solution out of this difficult situation is the one provided by Kant’s theory and Libertarianism. One has to do what is his obligation to do and not to and helping others leads to a contradiction. Why to help only Mrs. Kildare and not Mr. Mander? Better to treat them objectively and fulfill the call of duty, as the silence would damage the surveyors’ reputation much deeper in case of somebody revealing the incorrect pipeline location.
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2. Longuenesse, Beatrice “Kant and the Capacity to Judge”/Princeton University Press/ 1998.
3. Friedman, Jeffrey ”What’s wrong with libertarianism”/ Critical Review Vol. 11, No. 3. /1997.
4. Rawls, John “A Theory of Justice” /Harvard University Press/1999.
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