Explaining the Relationship between Ethics and Responsibility
Ethics is the concept of right and wrong. Ethics is a relationship between ones moral conscience and their willingness to understand that they can a will affect another's well being. This text states that (Cooper) "the normative standards of conduct derived from the philosophical and religious traditions of society" (p. 1) which is a good way of saying we ought to do what's right. What is right, of course, will vary from person to person and from culture to culture. When you look at the "consequentialist theories" of ethics and (Fieser) "consequentialism: an act is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable." My question is: to whom are they more favorable and unfavorable for instance to murder someone here, in the United States, or any other Judeo-Christian culture, it is morally reprehensible, and of course, ethically and morally wrong. If you live in a Muslim country where they believe in the literal meaning of the Koran, strapping a bomb to your chest or the chest of a child and murdering someone is okay as long as it furthers the cause of Allah (Koran) Surah 9:123. To a westerner this sounds crazy, but to them it is great and wonderful "Shahada".
Responsibility, on the other hand, is the action taken in response to an ethical problem. (Williams) "What is a person accountable for? Is a question most often asked by philosophers in connection with causation and accountability." This means to me that a person must be accountable to themselves and to society for their actions. To be responsible in our society, a Judeo-Christian society, we must not murder. However, to be responsible in an Islamic society one must be willing to murder, in the name of Allah; if the person does not agree with you, who is commonly referred to as an infidel. Therefore, ethics is the mental state, while responsibility is the action taken in response to the mental state, which holds one accountable to their ethics and morals.
The ethical responsibility of government is to protect its citizens from invasion and to protect our natural rights, such as the right to free speech, the right to assembly, the right to be safe from government intrusion into our homes. The purpose of government is not to regulate the amount of water in your toilet. Government is not to tell us what kind of light bulbs we can have. Government must be limited to the bare necessities of protecting our liberties, then get out of the way and let us grow. Government is limited to 20 enumerated powers in Article I; Section VIII of the United States Constitution. It is not the purpose of government to protect our economy, because government is incapable of doing that. Government can only destroy an economy, and our government is destroying ours. When we have over 80 thousand pages of tax regulations, many of them conflicting; that drives companies out to other countries. When we have the highest corporate income tax in the world; that drives companies to other countries. When we have administrations that have energy policy's that boast stupidity, then we stifle creativity. Jimmy Carters energy policy was a sweater, while Obama's energy policy is a tire gauge. When we have a president that says "read my lips; no new taxes" then raises them, that breads distrust. When we have a president that states under oath "I did not have sex with that woman", then the woman proves he lied; that fosters class division.
Government's ethical responsibility to its citizens is in relation to fostering an environment where opportunities can happen, meaning that government gets out of the way and lets people do what people do best, which is to think and create. The best description of this I have ever heard or read, written almost a century ago, comes from Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged part Three character John Galt. John Galt takes over the airways and delivers a speech on what people are responsible for and what responsibilities government has to its citizens. People are responsible for themselves and they have a brain in which to think. If we had a candidate that would talk like that and mean it, then that candidate would become president.
Cooper, Terry, L. The Responsible Administrator. (2006) Jossey-Bass a Wiley Imprint. San Francisco CA. www.josseybass.com
Koran "believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them." Surah 9:123
Fieser, James. University of Tennessee at Martin (2009) http://www.iep.utm.edu/ethics/