Responding To Ethical & Legal Issues

There are many social views and teachings that offer a means for responding to ethical and legal issues. Social Darwinism is one as is social gospel. Tocqueville historically offered ways that ethics can be integrated and ethical dilemmas can be handled.

Social Darwinism was generally viewed in terms social policies that allow for no sympathy or support towards those unable to support themselves. This was not as inhumane as it sounds, however, because it tended to focus on issues such as free market capitalism, or struggles between racial groups instead of individuals. It was William Graham Sumner who connected it to his concept of “sociology” and who pointed out that social law often followed many natural laws.

Social Gospel, on the other hand, was a movement based on the Protestant Christian intellectual concept of applied ethics to answer social problems. Because it had a theological basis, which believed that the “Second Coming” could not occur until humanity was free of social evils, it focused all of its attentions on eradicating social injustice, crime, racial issues, slums, war, and the evils of unregulated labor. Two of its major advocates were Billy Sunday and Dwight L. Moody who were both evangelist preachers advocating the kinds of social and political changes required to meet the standards of the Social Gospel movement.

Tocqueville identified five values that he credited with making the American constitutional republic such a success. These, he also explained, were what made the nation so unique from the rest of the world too. For example, the rarity of the true equality in terms of income and economic opportunity was something that gave “honor” to manual labor. Coming from aristocratic France and old world values, Tocqueville could not help but notice the benefits of the eradication of traditional social arrangements and ethics in the transition to an entirely different system. He also pointed out that everyone in the United States was concerned with making their fortunes through hard work. This was something missing from Europe where inheritance and class distinctions prevented most people from developing any kind of work ethic.

Overall there have been many theories and viewpoints regarding how people should respond to different ethical and legal issues. There was Social Darwinism and then for religious groups there was the social gospel. Tocqueville provided ways that ethical issues and legal issues can be addressed as well by society.


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