Aristolelian ethics and federal budgeting



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Texas Tech University


The national debt tripled in the 1980s, particularly during the Reagan administration, and as a percentage of the gross national product became the largest in a peacetime U.S. economy. The federal deficits remained large even though almost every national leader seemed to believe that they should be reduced or eliminated. The budget impasse was puzzling as many policy analysts and decision makers had made serious efforts to deal with the deficits. Some observers suggested that the budget quagmire was due to inadequate leadership in the White House and Congress. Other analysts pointed to inadequacies in the U.S. governmental institutions, namely the budget process, as well as the constitutional structure. Many also looked to economic theories for explanations. Still others attributed the quagmire to ideology and partisanship. Probably all these questions are important and relevant in approaching the current problem of federal deficits. But are there other significant questions to ask as well? This dissertation explores the viability of an approach going beyond the institutional, economic, and ideological dimensions that predominantly condition the current debate in policymaking, especially federal budgeting. Building on the recent theoretical revival of Aristotelianism, with the rediscovery of and increasing receptiveness toward concepts such as "telos," "arete," "ethos," "eudaimonia," "practice," as well as "virtues," it posits the hypothesis that Aristotelian ethics can shed additional light on the policy problem of federal budgeting. This research identifies and aniculates specifically prudence, compromise, temperance, certain leadership traits, justice, courage, and integrity as personal virtues that can be applied to the phenomenon of federal budgeting.



Budget -- United States, Political ethics -- United States, Fiscal policy -- U.S. -- Moral and ethical, United States -- Appropriations and expenditures -- Moral and ethical aspects