Ethics matter. This is not only the tag line for the Carnegie Council. It is also the proposition of my work. Many writers take up ethical issues. But few have the vantage point of the Carnegie Council — a place where leaders from around the world come to share ideas, reflect on their experiences, and engage in public conversation.

Posted here are lectures, articles, and reviews reflecting my engagement with the Council’s activities. If there is a pattern, one might say it is opportunistic, seeking to add the ethical dimension to debates ongoing. One might also see a thread of realism. In my view, power and ethics are inseparable and are best considered together. …

Obama and God

As President Obama completes his first year in office, little attention has been given to a question that sparked raucous argument during the campaign. How would Barack Obama’s religious beliefs affect his performance as president?

During the campaign, the question of Obama’s long relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright loomed large. In some quarters, so did Senator Obama’s middle name. The Obama candidacy was widely and deeply opposed by religiously-inspired groups against abortion rights and gay marriage. There was similar strong opposition from those arguing for “moral clarity” on the war on terror, calling into question Obama’s credentials to fight Islamic religious extremism.

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Is Peace Worth Fighting For?

Transcript of a speech at a August 18, 2010 Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics event, “Is Peace Worth Fighting For?“

“My remarks today are inspired not only by this convening and my respect for my two distinguished co-panelists, but also by two additional Scottish gifts to the world of ideas. Those two gifts are the legacy of Mr. Andrew Carnegie and the ongoing Gifford Lectures in philosophy, which as many of you surely know, attract some of the world’s greatest living philosophers to Scotland on an annual basis.  Both Mr. Carnegie and the Lectures have been sources of creative thinking when it comes to the issue of ethics in war.”

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Can We Succeed Where Carnegie Failed?

The same Dunfermline-born Andrew Carnegie who spent his wealth on funding libraries and other grand institutions across Britain and America died a disappointed man, having failed to achieve the one greatest vision of his later life—a way of preventing war.

Carnegie had always made a clear distinction between philanthropy and charity. Where charity was about the relief of immediate suffering, philanthropy was about changing lives for the better. His investment in libraries was about helping people to help themselves towards a better life.
A Scot who had made his millions in America, he foresaw globalisation long before anyone had thought of giving it a name.

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