Series 'Ethical Annotations'

With the Ethical Annotations series, the Ethics Institute at Utrecht University aims to open up the insights of philosophical ethics concerning current ethical issues to a broad audience of students, policy makers, business leaders, politicians, journalists, activists, and other citizens.

To preserve this accessibility, the Ethical Annotations are concise and often present only the results of research. Those who seek more depth or wish to understand all the reasoning in detail are referred to the publications listed at the end.

The Ethical Annotations tie in with research done at the Ethics Institute. They appear on an irregular basis.

Together with Public Cinema, we created animations that introduce some of these Annotations in an even more accessible manner. See below for the animations accompanying EA#2 and EA#4.

EA#8: 'Public goods: why government should provide them'

Ethical Annotation #8: Public goods

Download Ethical Annotation #8: 'Public goods: why government should provide them' (pdf).

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, government in the Netherlands and abroad has played a much more central role in the lives of citizens. At the same time, its functioning has been strongly criticised. But what exactly is the role of government and why is it valuable? In this Ethical Annotation, Dr Maurits de Jongh analyses the government’s role in terms of the provision of public goods. Using three central values – economic efficiency, social justice, and democratic politics – it explains why government should guarantee and strengthen the provision of public goods.

EA#6: 'Unconditional basic income: why would we (not) want to have it?'

Ethical Annotation #6: Unconditional basic income

Download Ethical Annotation #6: 'Unconditional basic income: why would we (not) want to have it?' (pdf).

Unconditional basic income, or basic income for short, is a weekly or monthly income paid by the state to every citizen of a country. Unconditional basic income is an old idea, but is currently being widely discussed in public debates, both in the Netherlands and in many other countries. Proponents see it as a radical proposal that will restore real freedom to people living in a capitalist economy, or as a proposal that will put an end to long-term poverty. Opponents argue that it is an inefficient way to fight poverty and that the sustainable level of a basic income is too low to make a real difference. In this Annotation, Professor Ingrid Robeyns does not aim to argue for or against a basic income but rather to better equip the reader to form their own opinion.

EA#5: 'A Dutch bill on "completed life"'

Cover of Ethical Annotation #5, 'A Dutch bill on "completed life"'

Download Ethical Annotation #5: 'A Dutch bill on "completed life"' (pdf).

Should the government formulate laws to enable and legally regulate professional help to (elderly) people who consider their life ‘completed’ and wish to end it? The Dutch bill that answers this question affirmatively is controversial. In this Ethical Annotation, we address the political background of the debate, as well as discussions and controversies. What are the preconditions for developing a professional end-of-life practice as argued for in the bill? And what effects might such an institutionalised and public provision for assisted suicide have on the position of elderly people in society?

EA#4: 'The public role of corporations: power and accountability in a constitutional democracy'

Ethical Annotation #4: The public role of corporations

Download Ethical Annotation #4: 'The public role of corporations: power and accountability in a constitutional democracy' (pdf).

Corporations are increasingly being called on to account for their role in solving social problems. The political theory of constitutional democracies divides society into a private sphere, in which individuals are free to organise their own lives as they see fit, and a public sphere of (semi-)public institutions that guard the public interest. Normally, corporations are classified as private institutions, free to focus on profit or any other private objective. But does this status still fit with an institution as powerful and overloaded with public expectations as the modern corporation? Or are corporations perhaps (also) public institutions with public responsibilities? In this Annotation, Professor Rutger Claassen argues that the exercise of power by corporations is no more or no less problematic than the political exercise of power, and therefore deserves a similarly serious treatment.

Animation: the public role of corporations

EA#3: 'Inheritance and inheritance tax'

Cover of Ethical Annotation #3 – Inheritance and inheritance tax

Download Ethical Annotation #3: 'Inheritance and inheritance tax: an ethical analysis' (pdf).

Inheritance tax is possibly the tax that inspires most resistance. Still, inheritance tax might contribute to important moral goals, such as equality and fairness. In this Ethical Annotation, Dr Sem de Maagt and Professor Ingrid Robeyns analyse and evaluate the most important considerations regarding the question whether inheritance tax is just or unjust. Rather than arguing for a specific perspective on inheritance tax, their inventory is meant to allow readers to reach their own judgements.

EA#2: 'Moral responsibilities towards refugees'

Ethical Annotation #2: 'Moral responsibilities towards refugees'

Download Ethical Annotation #2: 'Moral responsibilities towards refugees' (pdf).

Wars and crises worldwide force millions of people to flee and seek refuge, often outside their countries of origin. What moral responsibilities do states have towards refugees? In this Ethical Annotation, Dr Jos Philips and his co-authors zoom in on the responsibilities of EU countries. They consider arguments in favour of and against admitting refugees and argue that EU countries must do at least at much as they can do at little cost, and perhaps even more.

Animation: moral responsibilities towards refugees