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A Kantian Approach to Ethical Leadership in Foreign Aid Policies

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A Kantian Approach to Ethical Leadership in Foreign Aid Policies
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    A Kantian Approach to Ethical Leadership in Foreign Aid Policies Collin T. Ulbricht The Pennsylvania State University  Ulbricht 1 A Kantian Approach to Ethical Leadership in Foreign Aid Policies Abstract: This paper will serve as a form of research, as well as a form of discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the Kantian Principles as it relates to ethical leadership in foreign aid. The assessment and discussion on the ethics of state leaders and the leaders of intergovernmental agencies will attempt to assess the validity of using Kantian approaches to ethical decision making. The choice of choosing an international view to this paper is due to the desire to assess the interaction of varying cultures versus ethical frameworks. Surely, everyone on Earth is human, yet culture has a large effect on the way individuals and different groups think about ethics. The simplest example is that some cultures might view a practice or event as a dilemma, whilst another group may not consider the same. The major point here is that many ethical frameworks are structured using the idea that some of these morals are inherent, divine, biologically encoded, etc. However, there are doubts about the nature of morality, and how inherent it is among all people. Using this analytical framework, and showcasing the foreign aid paradox, this paper will go into detail about how different groups of people view things differently, and how Kantian Principles would affect the ethics of leaders. The goal of this paper is to clearly show the differences among ethical frameworks due to different cultures, and thus, showcase the validity and weight of ethical frameworks compared to all, as well as how they impact leaders.  Ulbricht 2 A Kantian Approach to Ethical Leadership in Foreign Aid Policies For many, the most important leader is the one who directly leads them. Typically, most people consider their president or prime minister as their main “leader”. Depending on the culture, type of government, and social norms and constructs, many people expect different things from their leader. The one almost certain similarity among all of these state leaders is that the people expect them to lead in an ethical and fair way. However, what people consider “ethical” or “unethical” is an unquantifiable measure that is based off one’s own opinion, values, virtues, morals, and life experiences. Thus, what is ethical for a leader in one country, may not be ethical for a leader in a different country. It is here that lays the grounds for potential issues with leaders of multinational or intergovernmental organizations, corporations, and other types of institutions. There are many ways in which the expected ethical framework of leaders in global institutions effects the types of operations that they conduct, the manner in which they approach their operations, as well as the effectiveness of their operations. Intergovernmental agencies such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization have to delicately work with the intricacies of many different types of cultures. Because differences in cultures are reflected in the differences in of what defines “ethical” behaviors of leaders, this can be very challenging. In the case of organizations that work in a global scope, philosophical theories that allow for fluidity in morality based on economic, social, or geographical factors, is simply not a realistic structure for these. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are both notorious for their claim that universal ethics could not exist. They believed this to be true due to the idea that all ethics and philosophy are restricted and influenced by a nation’s social and economic status. Therefore, the ethics and philosophies must differ among countries that do not share these types of similarities (Orillier 2016). However, philosophical ways of thoughts and knowing, are typically structured around  Ulbricht 3 the innate and inherent human psyche. Therefore, for any philosophical theory to be proven, it must then be uniform among all people. This is particularly important surrounding philosophical theories that deal with ethical behavior. It would not be plausible for a proven philosophical theory to deem the actions of one person ethical, whilst considering the same action unethical for another person. This is really where the juxtaposition between human instinct and innate virtues intertwines with culture and societal influences, since culture and society shapes one’s ability to deem something is ethical or unethical. Hence, using the structure of international affairs and leaders of multinational institutions to assess the plausibility and the practicality of philosophical theories in practice, can prove to be an efficient way in which the relationship between culture and philosophy can be shown. For an ethical framework to be sufficient, it must apply to all people. If culture skews the interpretation or applicability, then that ethical ideology must be not be sufficient. The way in which leaders of multinational institutions operate, can provide a great deal of insight into the relationship among the effects of culture on morality and ethics, leadership roles, and the applicability and sufficiency of philosophical principles. One of the most common virtues among all people is the act of helping people in need. Generally, this is seen in among all cultures and groups of people. It feels “right” to help people in need, and not only does it feel “immoral” and irresponsible to help people in need, not doing so can be met with a lot of negative sentiments from peers, and inflict a lot of social backlash. This is an ideal that is heavily ingrained among and within cultures. Perhaps the roots of this is religion, as helping people is a staple among the world’s most practiced religions. One need just a look at really any culture and be able to reject philosophies that claim helping others is not inherent and natural. Claims that people only care about themselves, and that truly being able to  Ulbricht 4 care for the good of fellow man is simply illusionary, such as the theories expressed by Max Stirner, fall short here (Leopold 2002). However, helping people in need, no matter how innate and natural these desires are, can often have negative implications. Many of the world’s intergovernmental and non-governmental organization’s sole purpose is to provide resources, education, money, military force, and development to people in need. Most developed nations also have their own direct organizations that provide aid to foreign countries. Consider here the American policy of providing underdeveloped nations aid. This aid comes in the form of food, money, and military support. This is seen by most as “the right thing to do.” After all, nearly one-third of the world is severely impoverished, thus, developed nations “should” give support to those that aren’t. This is especially true considering that the approximately $37 Billion USD the United States spends per annum on foreign aid, is less than 1% of the federal budget (Gaskarth, 2017). Essentially, we provide aid, to help these countries but also make ourselves feel “good,” especially when it comes at such a low cost to us. The actual outcome of this aid has tremendous economic and social benefits for the United States. These include, protecting national security, as well as promoting our stance as a global leader. There is also a large economic benefit the United States acquires from providing foreign aid, such as some profit as well as providing jobs (Gaskarth, 2017). Thus, American leaders are acting ethically in the perception of the American people. Americans would think that any opportunity the President would have to promote political influence, increase economic productivity, and fortify national security, and taking advantage of those opportunities are ethical. In fact, not taking advantage of an opportunity that would provide so many benefits would be unethical.
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