Global Ethics Corner: U.S. Elections and World Opinion

October 17, 2008

Should the opinions of the world be important in American elections? This is a crucial question in applied ethics as we choose a president. Let's frame the question as two poles.

First, the choice of the president is the single most important decision in international relations. The president makes decisions that immediately and directly impact everyone, affecting the deployment of the world's most powerful military; global growth; or the stability of the international financial system. Others have a stake in this choice. Furthermore, America is integrated globally through economics, the environment, and basic human values. Of the many criteria for choosing a president, judging candidates by their global impact is a prerequisite of the 21st century.

The polar position is that U.S. elections are about America. Voters are not obligated to look abroad. Americans need to take care of business at home. International problems can't be mended while downplaying domestic issues. Deploying the military should depend on America's security needs, not on others' interests. When our financial system requires overhaul, the primary objective should be ensuring American (and hence global) prosperity. Candidates need to be judged by their ability to be effective American presidents. Then, they can also be global leaders.

Your views may be somewhere in the middle, but this polarity suggests an important choice.

By William Vocke

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