My normative ethical position has a simple side-constraint which is that it is immoral to enslave people or to impose costs on them. Enslaving people entails using them for one’s own ends, and it is a violation of rights of others. Each individual has a right to his body, labor and talents. Using a person in service of one’s own ends is impermissible. Here nothing is said about what ends one may pursue. The only imperative — a categorical imperative and not a contingent imperative — is that enslaving others is a violation of their rights to self-ownership.
I subscribe to deontological ethics. That means, one is morally obligated to do one’s duty, whatever that may be. This is distinct from consequentialist ethics which hold that the right thing to do is whatever has good consequences. One variety of consequentialist ethics is utilitarianism which views moral actions to be those that result in the greatest good for the greatest number. Continue reading