Is being an effective ruler compatible with being a good person?

Yabloko

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This question popped in my head when thinking about bussinesses, where being ethical can cause a lack of competitiveness vs unethical bussinesses, and yet most would generally agree that being a good person is more important than the bottom line. But what about governments? If rulers find themselves in a position where taking an ethical stance can hurt their own people, what would be the correct choice? Can a bad action (think a raid, an embargo, a preemptive attack) ever be justified by the circumstances?
The XXI century so far has shown that a country can prosper without having to choose between a major and lesser evil, so maybe there's hope that things will only get better from here onwards. But what if this is just an unusual period of peace in our history? If you were ever caught in the middle of a major war would you rather have your government stick to a code of conduct at the expense of survival, or would you prefer cold hearted pragmatism?
 

Flin Flon

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Life/management is mostly decisions between two ’evils’, or a bit less dramatic, some kind of restriction somewhere (loss of a right or pleasure) in favour of someone’s else’s increase thereof. If you can clearly distinguish and prioritize them, then I'd always opt for pragmatism.

Rules and codes serve a purpose. It sounds ehg to maintain them if they stop serving said purpose.
 

Arvenski

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If rulers find themselves in a position where taking an ethical stance can hurt their own people, what would be the correct choice? Can a bad action (think a raid, an embargo, a preemptive attack) ever be justified by the circumstances?

If you were ever caught in the middle of a major war would you rather have your government stick to a code of conduct at the expense of survival, or would you prefer cold hearted pragmatism?
I would say that like many things in life, you have to find a compromise, a middle ground that works best. I would say I'd want my government to behave ethically while at the same time being realistic: I wouldn't want them to be like the Nazis and enact their own agenda at the expense of others, but I also wouldn't want them to use a rule or code as an excuse to bury their heads in the sand ("we can't intervene; it wouldn't be honorable") when the situation demanded that something be done.
 

Adorno

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Being an effective ruler is being ethical.

A smiling Nietzsche? That's a cursed image if I ever saw one.

Ethical issues are often situational, and requires pragmatism. Codes and ideologies can be good guidelines, but followed with ferver easily leads to paternalism.
I think we need an example to judge the issue.
 

Dusk Voyager

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You could also argue that not wanting to get your hands dirty when it's needed is a self-absorbed decision based on a sense of pride of "keeping clean", therefore not necessarily ethical.
 
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Eternal

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I agree with Niccolo Machiavelli and his book "The prince".

“it is much safer to be feared than loved because ...love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”
― Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
 

Kharille

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Worked for a company with a good boss. Company business model was wrecked though. He can't do much at his level. Also worked in a **** company which could make profit for some growth with some total lowlife *****. I don't think being an irritating turd helps your career really, regardless of any supposedly 'efficiencies' you think you're getting.
 

Kentucky James VII

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Define "effective leader"
Define "good person"
Both of these are entirely dependent of the culture and morals of the observer. If you have a fetish for authoritarianism and being dominated by a thickly-set head-of-state from which all morals flow, then the answer is yes.

So in short, yes.
 

Yabloko

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To give as broad a definition as possible: Consider an 'effective leader' as someone who manages to provide a degree of well-being, resources or benefits to those who constitute the respective country/polity.
Consider a 'good person' as someone who pursues policies that can be largely described as humane, compassionate or ethical.
 

Flin Flon

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Aaah. Then I'd go for the ethical. I do believe that you can prioritize human needs in a Maslowian fashion (person x being able to live period is a higher value than person y being able to live in luxury, if these are at odds with each other). You should obviously be as an effective leader as you can be, but as soon as your effectiveness demonstrably transgresses a higher (Maslowian) value, then you need to take a step back. Being able to recognize when a transgression occurs is both a personal as well as a societal responsibility, lest no one is responsible for the harm that occurs, and the harm perpetuates.

You cannot plead ignorance when harm is reasonably recognizable. Maintaining ignorance because it is not strictly your responsibility permits for the justification of harm; e.g., 'I didn't know that not vaccinating my child would result in his death!'. This person needs to go to jail if the bottom-line of our society is harm reduction. However, the jailing of her is harm in and of itself. So, if you can achieve the same harm-reducing results through different means, such as education, then you should opt for that. Usually, we opt for both educative and punitive measures, depending on the offence and the most effective means of achieving the desired result (harm-reduction).

I understand that the problem occurs when you have equally powerful competing forces (nations), and where ethical concessions can mean that YOU are going to perish. Here still, I'd (normatively) argue that we can prioritize human needs and that ethics exist for a reason that can be characterized as egoistical, i.e., for your own sake (e.g., I don't want to die, thus, I won't kill, because people reciprocate; if I normalize killing, I will be killed). Transgressing on our understandings of justice means that you are no longer playing by the rules, thus anything goes. Anyone is now justified to murder and steal from you, because, why should they adhere to justice if they are not extended any? What is the value of justice at that point, right? That aside, nations are not people. Killing civilians to protect civilians makes no sense in light of that no one determines where they are born, and that no human life is (in our moral construct) more valuable than another's. Again, maintaining otherwise means that you're going to start justifying (measurably harmful) nationalistic and supremacist ideas.

But where a history and series of mutual military aggression exists it's usually not clear who transgressed a higher value first. It is here that our understandings of reciprocating justice are broken (which is why you are entirely in your right to fight fascists or anyone endangering live). Where the will of the people is to go to war, they have consciously transgressed the notion of that life must be protected, hence retaliation against those people is entirely justified. However, can the retaliation be targeted exclusively against the people that willed war? No. As soon as you retaliate, and given the destructive force of violence, innocent people will perish, thus now YOU have transgressed our values. I am inclined to say that should the violence be strictly isolated to militaries and the people that will war, then you are hypothetically justified to be killin' each other. However, in reality, collateral damage and civilians exist, and tolerating almost purposeless, large-scale violence cultivates a toxic culture in the long term, hence I don't think it's a defensible position.

Are Iran and the US justified to be killing each other's military guys? I don't think they should be, but also wtf where do I even start.
 
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Bromden

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Rams, for being a person who is against violence and holds human life above everything, you are pretty quick to find excuses to reciprocate with violence against people who did violence or planned to or just said something that may suggest future harm to others. Eye for an eye don't work well together with unconditional love for humanity.
 

Brynjahr

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One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter
Gandhi slept with children but was supposedly an amazing person or so you're taught
Everyone perceives ideals and actions in different ways because their own personal experience and mindset
 

Flin Flon

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Rams, for being a person who is against violence and holds human life above everything, you are pretty quick to find excuses to reciprocate with violence against people who did violence or planned to or just said something that may suggest future harm to others. Eye for an eye don't work well together with unconditional love for humanity.
I don't have unconditional love for mankind. :p When I say that protecting life is our ultimate goal, I mean that it has the utmost priority. It logically needs to be because we can't experience the world if we're dead.

I think we misunderstood each other. Reciprocating violence is usually justified if all things are equal, i.e., there is no unequal power dynamic between us; neither is stronger or has an advantage over the other (what I mean when I say 'excluding mitigating factors'). But most people are a product of circumstances (like poverty, for example), thus people aren't as equal as they seem to be.

Killing is literally legal if done in self-defence or pre-emptively if there is no other course of action to protect yourself, right?

Imagine there are no legal institutions and no well-understood societal concepts like 'killing is bad'. Two cavemen coming together may as well start hammering each other because the other guy has something you want. But this sort of behaviour is destructive to the point where I will endanger myself should I uphold it, thus killing should be avoided. This understanding that killing should be avoided is then culturally adopted. However, if a person decides not to uphold our understanding that killing is bad, whilst also profiting from it, then why should I uphold it? This person is taking advantage of the understanding and putting me at a disadvantage by doing so. The understanding has lost its original value, thus I will no longer uphold it because it has no purpose anymore.

We shouldn't kill each other. But as soon as someone transgresses that understanding, we are, (all things equal) justified to kill him. However, because things aren't equal, and because I don't want to normalize killing, I will opt for alternative measures.

If I ask you three times 'why (is killing bad?)', you'll end up with the same answer. If you disagree, then my question is: why is killing bad? 'Killing is bad because killing is bad' is not really an answer, right? You can tackle the question however you like; through feelings, empathy, etc. Genuinely, you can think of it however you like, I'm curious. But all things end up at their fundament at the egoistical argument of 'I don't like killing because that means I can be killed'.