Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Beyond the Confines of Compliance and Virtue: Honing a Set of Global Ethics for South Africa and the United States of America

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Beyond the Confines of Compliance and Virtue: Honing a Set of Global Ethics for South Africa and the United States of America

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Another practical frontier of ethics is global ethics which this article examines in terms of South Africa and the United States of America. Both nations wish to entrench ethics and ethical behaviour in their societies in general and their public sectors in particular. The author devoted special attention to the notion of a global ethic as a possible alternative approach to embedding ethical behaviour in the two countries. Notwithstanding the glaring differences between the USA and South Africa in terms of socioeconomic development, few can dispute the need for an ethical society in both nations. He argues that the proper yardstick to judge American and South Africa's morality will be, or should be, a global one, especially if South Africa, just as the USA, hopes to compete on a global scale for trade, investment, and other types of bilateral or multilateral agreements. There is a need for a transcultural corporate ethic which is a business and governmental ethic that is acceptable across the borders, traverses and transcends nations and nationalities.

A huge development in post-apartheid South Africa is the focus on th global ethics that is a honing and refining of a set of "universal" ethics for the "new" South Africa (Hilliard and Kemp, 2000c). South Africa is now functioning and doing business in a global environment; since 1994 it has once more gained legitimacy in the international arena. In the wake of large-scale globalisation of all facets of human endeavour, speculating about the need for universal, global or cosmic values and norms is appropriate. If judged by international development, South Africa may, consequently, not want to be isolated from international developments again. Therefore, the possibility of introducing new or adapted normative guidelines for South African public servants and society at large is essential. Although conditions are quite different, such a global ethic will also be a good fit in the USA where the other approaches to ethical conduct have already been tried and tested and, in some instances, found wanting.

INTRODUCTION

This article examines the various approaches used by South Africa and the United States of America to entrench ethics and ethical behaviour in their societies in general and in their public sectors in particular. The author devotes special attention to the notion of a global ethic as a possible alternative approach to embedding ethical behaviour in the two countries under discussion.

In this article, the author regards the USA as a developed nation while he sees South Africa as a so-called emerging or developing nation. Although South Africa manifests many of the characteristics of First World nations, the Third World elements are gradually starting to overtake the First World features. In terms of its socioeconomic circumstances, South Africa is a poor nation in comparison with the USA where some of the wealthier people on earth live. Although poverty is a relative concept, thinking of South Africa as a wealthy nation just because it has gold and diamonds is foolish, given the per capita income of R13,000 per month in South Africa-approximately $1857 per annum or $155 per month (Hilliard and Nkayitshana, 2000).

Besides socioeconomic poverty, more significantly, South Africa is also morally impoverished. Many attribute this "moral bankruptcy" to the legacy of the apartheid ideology that resulted in the majority of the population (notably blacks) not only lagging far behind the white segment of society in terms of the development of their skills and expertise but also their station in life. The social and moral backlog of problems caused by apartheid will not dissipate overnight. Indeed, these backlogs could take years to recoup. Notwithstanding the glaring differences between the USA and South Africa in terms of socioeconomic development, few can dispute the need for an ethical society in both nations.

NEED FOR ETHICAL BEHAVIOR IN NATIONS

Unethical behaviour is probably one of the biggest threats to the stability of any society, South Africa and the USA included. …

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