This is an absolute approach to ethical analysis and leaves no room for consideration of exceptions for extenuating circumstance where the better outcome could be achieved by violating a rule to which adherence is more beneficial, generally (Mihaly, 2007). As applied to persuasion, strict rule utilitarianism would lead to a different result in both of the situations outlined in connection with virtue ethical analysis. It would require a true answer to the murderer because society is better off generally when citizens are truthful and it would prohibit lying to the kidnapper even to spare the lives of his hostages (Mihaly, 2007).
Unethical Approaches to Persuasion in Contemporary American Politics
Unfortunately, contemporary American politics and big business often demonstrate the moral corruption of persuasive argument tactics, such as where business organizations tout their stated commitment to ethical responsibility while simultaneously exploiting moral loopholes in statutory law and policy (Svensson & Wood, 2008). The recent Republican shenanigans in relation to their political opposition to healthcare reform and to the fiscally (and morally) sound decision to allow the 2001 tax cuts to expire on schedule would be just two glaring examples of many.
In the first case, various Republican elected representatives and pundits argued disingenuously (and very deliberately) that “Obama Care” would be the equivalent of “Socialism”; that it would mean a “government takeover” of healthcare; and that it would result in “death panels” to determine which individuals had outlived their productive lives and would be barred from medical treatment and allowed to die, even against their will. In the second case, any of the same individuals argued, unashamedly, that allowing the 2001 tax cuts to expire on schedule was the equivalent of “increasing taxes” and argued vehemently that committing billions of (borrowed) dollars to the wealthiest 0.5% of the population (earning in excess of a million dollars annually) was more beneficial to the prospect for a national economic recovery.
In both cases, those arguments were completely unethical; moreover, both virtue ethics and strict rule utilitarianism would characterize those arguments as being immoral. The virtue ethics analysis would focus on the economic harm (and the fundamental unfairness to 99.5% of Americans) associated with the intended outcome of the persuasive appeal (Mihaly, 2007). The strict rule utilitarian ethical analysis would focus on the detrimental effects on society of promoting deliberately disingenuous and dishonest argument over genuine good-faith, honest argument (Mihaly, 2007)
Mihaly, M. “Moral Theory: The Fundamentals.” Ethics & Behavior Vol. 17, No. 4;
Stevens, B. “Corporate Ethical Codes: Effective Instruments for Influencing Behavior.”
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