Case Study – Patriot Act essay

CaseStudy – Patriot Act

ThePatriot Act came into existence upon signing into law by thePresident George Bush. This Act of the Congress was meant to unitethe Americans as they fight and intercept the different acts ofterrorism (Doyle 2). Through the act, appropriate tools necessary forthe execution of the mandates were provided. The act allows theempowered surveillance bodies to search for the different businessrecords, rove through the wiretaps and carries out surveillance onthe persons who are suspected to be terrorists or linked toterrorist-related activities. Owing to the powerful nature of theact, several issues have been raised concerning the validity andappropriateness of the act. Most of the issues raised point towardsthe morality aspect of the act. One issue of concern is privacy ofindividuals as far as the execution of Patriot Act is concerned(Doyle 2).


Accordingto simple subjectivism, the moral judgments of individuals largelydepend on the talking point of individuals (Stecker 455). Therefore,if one says that behavior is wrong, or right then the individuals aremerely expressing themselves, and it is not a fact. It is merely anopinion and not a fact. Therefore, simple subjectivism is just acognitivist view through which individuals can air their viewsregarding facts. Therefore, the views that individuals hold regardingpatriot act are a mere expression of their personal subjective stateof mind. This means that the views of the individuals in regards tothe Patriot can either be true or false depending on the state of themind. Therefore, moral judgment is only considered to be true if thereport of the one’s mind is accurate (Stecker 456). In instanceswhere moral judgments made do not correspond to an individual’sstate of mind then it is false. Therefore, the moral facts that existaccording to this theory are based on the mind.

Eventhough the Patriot Act has numerous benefits, viewing it from thesimple subjectivism perspective presents a dilemma. The Americangovernment wonders whether to protect its populace, which is itsmandate or rather to allow the population enjoy their freedom withoutinterference. According to simple subjectivism, sentiments ofindividuals are significant rather than any moral standards (Rachelsand Rachels 11). Therefore, even though the government and thecitizens who are the stakeholder in the process may have differingopinions, they remain as such. The government viewing Patriot Act aseffective in curbing acts of terrorism, according to this theory isjust an opinion. On the other hand, the thought of the citizens thattheir privacy is interfered with is just but an opinion that can becontested. By the citizens claiming that Patriot Act infringes ontheir privacy, the theory treats the citizens as expressing theiropinions and cannot be the basis for any moral judgment. This thenpresents a challenge for a government on the course of action totake. In fact, the claims that individuals and the government makeregarding the working of the Patriot Act is because they have a rightto make personal expressions. The implications of the theory areenormous. Therefore, the execution of Patriot Act whether it stemsterrorism or infringes on the privacy of individuals is a matter ofdiscussion and cannot be criticized objectively.

Eventhough the public may dislike the Patriot Act, it continues to beexecuted by the government because the public is just expressingopinions. Nonetheless, the theory is attractive to the Americanpopulace as it advocates for independent opinions. To some extent,the bills that are viewed to be invading the privacy of individualslike the Patriot Act are not favored, though will still operate asthe citizenry are viewed by the same Act to be expressing theiropinions and not facts. The actions of by the Americans citizens andgovernment to allow the operations of the Patriot Act can then bejustified by the theory. The theory allows individuals to do what istrue. The dilemma is that doing what is true according to thecitizens may lead to breaking of law. It gets to a point when the lawhas to override the theory.


Accordingto this theory, ethical sentences do not express the propositions ofindividuals rather they express the emotional differences (Stecker461). For the government, having Patriot Act will help curb terrorismand terrorist related activities, however, abiding by the emotivismtheory, there is more than just curbing terrorism (Doyle 3). Theadditional action would then be an infringement on people’s privacyas depicted by the citizens. On the other hand, the citizens see thePatriot Act as an infringement on freedom through privacyinterference, which according to emotivism there is a deeper reason.The reason, in this case, can be indeed curbing terrorism. This thenleaves the execution of the Act in a dilemma. According to thistheory, every other affected party is brought on board. Owing to thedifference in these groups of individuals, there are twodisagreements within attitudes and disagreements about attitudes. Forthe case of Patriot Act, seems there is disagreement about attitudes.The American citizens and the government agree that terrorism is verybad and has to be curbed. Unfortunately, what they do not agree on isthe manner in which terrorism has to be curbed, especially throughthe administration of the Patriot Act. The government feel thatthrough the act, they can get surveillance on more crimes of terror,can have a follow up on terrorists and even conduct theirinvestigations without tipping the terrorists. On the other hand, thecitizens opine that while in the verge of getting the information,the government infringes on their privacy and if anything should onlyconcentrate on the real suspects. This theory subjects individuals tothe dilemma as attitude cannot be true as feelings have no standardof rightness or wrongness to conform to. Emotivism may not besufficient, as it does not provide grounds for moral judgment, ratherit concerns expressions of attitudes of people.


Thistheory advocates for the perceptions of the beliefs, values andpractices of definite culture from the perspective of the culture.Therefore, the beliefs of individuals, as well as their activities,need to be comprehended by others as defined by the culture in whichthey come from (Rachels and Rachels 33). According to this theory,individuals need to acknowledge the fact that people can make theirrational choices and maintain rational standards, be open-minded andeven avoid some of the potentially dogmatic arguments. Notably,presenting it, at this level still is a challenge and offers ethicaldilemma as the urging the government to be open minded might open aloophole for terrorist activities to take place. Also, allowing thegovernment to proceed with the execution of Patriot Act withoutquestion, as the citizens are required to be open-minded, may end upgiving the government a lot of power, which if not checked or debatedcan be used in bad taste. According to this theory, individuals havedifferent perceptions regarding the basic moral beliefs. Thus, thepractices of individuals need to be appreciated and applauded as theydo not negate the moral beliefs. Owing to the fact that the theoryadmits differences in the perceptions, there is obviously a dilemmaas the stakeholders, the government, and the citizens have differentperceptions and moral standings.

Fromthe theories, one cannot make a decisive conclusion in regards toPatriot Act and the moral issues that arise. The theories aredifferent in substance and material and hence have differingstandings and perceptions in regards to the Act. The conclusionarrived at may be same as for all the cases, the ethical dilemma ispresented, but the reasons behind each conclusion are different. Thestakeholders, the government, and citizens, in this case, are atloggerheads over the execution of the Patriot Act. The citizens feelthat the Act will lead to infringement of their privacy while thegovernment opine that the act is adequate in stemming out of theproblem of terrorism. These antagonizing positions ultimately lead toethical dilemma.



Rachels,James, and Stuart Rachels. &quotThe elements of moral philosophy.&quot(1993).

Stecker,Robert. &quotThomas Reid on the moral sense.&quot&nbspTheMonist&nbsp70.4(1987): 453-464.