Human Rights & Pluralism

Carnegie Council President Joel Rosenthal on Global Ethics

Transcript of an interview by Zach Messite, KGOU local public radio, Norman, Oklahoma.

ZACH MESSITE: What does it mean to have global ethics? How do you describe this concept?

JOEL ROSENTHAL: The way to begin the conversation is the fact that we live in a globalized world. We all live within systems that are global. We can feel this in our daily lives. We’re part of a global economy. We’re part of a global climate. We’re part of a global information system. Whether we want to be or not, or whether we admit it or not, we live in a global world.

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Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism

Let me begin with a simple claim. We live today in a globalized world that challenges us morally. While globalization may be a fuzzy concept, globalization is indeed something very real, something we can see and measure, and it is certainly a force that shapes our choices and expectations. Globalization challenges us in terms of our identity, our responsibilities, and our ways of thinking about government and accountability.

Intense flows of capital, of information, of people, and of pollution raise profound issues of human concern and human values.

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The Politics of Moral Absolutes

Over a year ago, President Bush and his foreign policy team took office determined to carve out a path different from their predecessors. Emphasizing core national interests over humanitarian concerns and nation building, they would stay focused on managing relations with key countries such as Russia, China, and Mexico.

But with the launching of the war on terrorism, the Bush administration has abandoned its rhetoric of arch-realism for one of robust moralism. President Bush explains the anti-terrorism offensive as good versus evil.

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Evaluating Justice and Reconciliation Efforts

There seems to be a great desire for what some people have called “moral accounting” at the end of the 20th century. For example, the Canadian government has reached a settlement with aboriginal peoples in Canada; Japan has apologized for atrocities in World War II, particularly to Korea; and the fledgling democracies and post-conflict societies—South Africa, Guatemala, Argentina, and so on—are all wrestling with the concept of reconciliation.

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