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Moral Maze (100)





Combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week's news stories. #moralmaze

From Moral Maze at 2023-11-22 10:51:00

Identity Labels (p0gv5vj3.mp3)

Is it moral to attach identity labels to ourselves and others? We often label people by nationality, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, disability and many more categories. Is this a good and helpful or something that should be avoided? The King has said that he wants the UK to be ‘a community of communities’, whereas some commentators have said that this is a call for permanent racial division in our society. Have the use of labels increased or diminished racism and other forms of prejudice society? Labels can identify an individual as a member of a collective. Others want the unique identity of each of us to be respected for its differences from everyone else. If our loyalty should be to a group, should that group be defined by the colour of its skin, its politics or its passports? Panellists: Giles Fraser, Sonia Sodha, Tim Stanley & Ash Sarkar Producer: Peter Everett

From Moral Maze at 2023-11-22 10:48:00

Should politics be guided by public opinion? (p0gv5tzz.mp3)

Should politicians respect, despise, accommodate or ignore public opinion? Rishi Sunak is looking for a policy he can pop into place between now and the general election that will avoid a Labour landslide. He is being advised that abolishing inheritance tax will tickle the tummies of the Tory not-so-faithful. Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer wants government planners to “bulldoze” local objections when deciding where to put new housing developments. Can a government get away with ignoring public opinion? Well, it can in constituencies it’s never going to win. Politics nowadays is not merely ‘guided’ by polls, surveys, databases and focus groups… it is controlled by them. But is that good for the country? Is the advice they generate either wise or moral? Are the public obsessed with issues that don’t matter, while they ignore the ones that do? There is a case to be made against taking any notice of what the public thinks about anything. We know that the public thinks short-term, and that its opinions on political issues are ill-informed. Public opinion is inconsistent, incoherent and volatile. And yet democracy is built on the principle that the majority must get its way. And it’s not just politicians (and Simon Cowell) who flatter the electorate with talk of the ‘wisdom’ of the Great British Public. Lots of people seem to think that majority opinion will usually be wise, kind and helpful. But then, many also believe the moon landing was staged. Panellists: Anne McElvoy, Melanie Philips, Mona Siddiqui & Matthew Taylor Presenter: Michael Buerk Producers: Peter Everett & Jonathan Hallewell Editor: Tim Pemberton

From Moral Maze at 2023-11-10 14:41:00

How should we remember the dead and the living? (p0grygqq.mp3)

The Met police has warned of a "growing" risk of violence and disorder this Remembrance weekend. The Prime Minister has described a planned pro-Palestinian protest in London on Armistice Day as “provocative and disrespectful” to those who wish to remember the war dead “in peace and dignity”. The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said it was "a stain on our common humanity" that so many seem to have "lost sight of the moral distance between Hamas and Israel". Others, however, strongly refute the description of the demonstrations as “hate marches”, believing that the protesters should be allowed to campaign for a ceasefire and an end to the killing; and to show solidarity with Palestinians without undermining either the remembrance events or the humanity of Israelis. The polarising nature of the Israel-Hamas war and its repercussions in the UK has resulted in both sides accusing the other of ‘weaponising’ remembrance. Public attitudes to commemoration have changed over the last century and notions of a country honouring the ultimate sacrifice of its soldiers can be hard to disentangle politically from conflicts of the day. What are we really doing on Remembrance Day? While for some it is a deep expression of sorrow for the dead and a formal commitment to peace, others believe it risks celebrating past acts of killing, which translates into justifying present militarism and violence. If rising conflicts around the world suggest humanity has not learned from the mistakes of the past – what is the moral purpose of remembrance? How should we remember the dead as well as those who are living through conflict today? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-10-19 13:13:00

18/10/2023 (p0gmhkvt.mp3)

Live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week's news stories.

From Moral Maze at 2023-10-12 14:07:00

How should we think about our enemies? (p0gl2byk.mp3)

The surprise attack by Hamas was devastating, leaving hundreds of Israeli civilians dead, injured or taken hostage. Israel’s response was swift, with airstrikes on Gaza killing hundreds of Palestinians, including children. The scale of the attack was unprecedented, but the cycle of violence and escalation is all too familiar in this land that has been contested for more than a century. Now another generation sees the bloodshed at first hand. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, so for many Jews this is about survival. At the same time, many Palestinians have come to see Israel as a brutal oppressor. Each side sees the other as an existential threat. Even those who refuse to define their neighbours across the Gaza border as ‘the enemy’ may find themselves defined in those terms against their will – and threatened with death. How should we understand conventional rules of morality in such intractable circumstances? What is a proportionate response to an act of aggression? And what conditions are necessary for a realistic peace process to take hold? Perhaps the most radical statement in all of human history is “love your enemies”. Those who are pessimistic about peace in the Middle East might dismiss that as naïve. But there are some who can give us real-life examples of the human capacity to rise above anger and grief for a greater good. How should we think about our enemies? With Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, Atef Alshaer, Gabrielle Rifkind, Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramin. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-10-06 10:16:00

Is impartiality a myth? (p0gjv7rl.mp3)

The BBC has published new guidance on how its big name presenters can use social media. Those working in news and current affairs are still bound by strict rules on impartiality, which the BBC sees as being fundamental to its reputation, values and the trust of its audiences. But the presenters of other programmes are free to express their political views, as long as they don’t “endorse or attack a political party." While impartiality means not favouring one side over another, news broadcasters are subject to a subtler version of it: “due impartiality”. That means different perspectives don’t necessarily have to be given equal weight. But which perspectives and how much weight? That’s a matter of judgment. The changing media landscape has brought new challenges to the principle of impartiality. The media regulator Ofcom has recently investigated GB News. Among their alleged breaches of impartiality was an item in which the Conservative Chancellor was interviewed by two other Conservative MPs. The spiritual heirs of Lord Reith believe that media impartiality is a moral good and a central pillar of democracy in an age of populism and polarisation. Sceptics suggest that the pursuit of impartiality can create problems of its own, putting ignorance and expertise on an equal footing. Beyond broadcasting, how much should we as individuals strive for impartiality? Is it possible to look at historical events through an objective lens? While psychology tells us we all have cognitive biases, psychologists disagree about how much they can be corrected. Is it possible to be truly impartial about ourselves and others? Producer: Dan Tierney

From Moral Maze at 2023-10-04 17:19:00

The Language of Freedom (p0gjfg83.mp3)

Michael Buerk chairs a special Moral Maze debate recorded at 'HowTheLightGetsIn' festival of philosophy and music. The language of freedom permeates our political debate. In the US, it may be a decisive battleground in the 2024 presidential election. The problem is that people mean very different things by it. Is it freedom from government regulation or freedom to have an abortion? Freedom of speech or freedom from discrimination? Freedom to own a gun or freedom for communities to ban them? A distinction is often made between positive and negative freedom. Negative freedom is the absence of constraints (‘freedom from’) – while positive freedom is the possibility of acting in such a way as to take control of one’s life (‘freedom to’). Libertarians often see individual freedom - the private enjoyment of one’s life and goods, free from interference – as the most fundamental value that any society should pursue and protect. This view is challenged by those who believe wealth, health and educational inequalities inevitably mean some people are more free than others, and seek instead to promote the collective freedom of society as a whole. If a society in which there is a complete absence of restraint is as dystopian as one in which our every action is controlled, how should we navigate the trade-offs between individual freedom and other goods, like security and collective wellbeing? Is the language of freedom helpful or harmful in negotiating our political differences? Deeper question: what does it mean for a human being to be free? With guests: Konstantin Kisin, Sophie Howe and James Orr. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-09-21 15:45:00

Adults, Children and Power (p0gfyln4.mp3)

Labour has confirmed that it plans to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in elections, in line with Scotland and Wales. The idea, they say, is to empower younger people by engaging them in the democratic process. Some older members of the electorate might raise the question of whether people under 18 have the maturity to vote. It would be no surprise to hear that argument, we were all children once and we know that adults think they’re superior. It’s nearly fifty years since the concept of “childism” was first coined by psychiatrists, to describe the automatic assumption of superiority of any adult over any child. Now, perhaps, childism is the last permissible prejudice. Discrimination that would seem shocking if applied to any other group is exercised against children and regarded as quite appropriate. Children’s freedom is constantly restricted and their views are generally dismissed. They’re told what to do, what to eat, what to wear, even what to say. Is this just responsible parenting or does it verge on oppression? Children’s minds aren’t fully developed, and they’re less well equipped to make smart decisions. They also need limits and it’s surely the job of adults to impose them, but where should the line be drawn? We should keep children safe, of course, but after that… is it better to be strict or to allow them maximum autonomy? What’s the moral basis on which we make that judgement? Attitudes have changed over the decades. We’ve moved on from the axiom that “children should be seen and not heard.” A survey out last week suggested that parents in Britain place less importance on instilling obedience in children than parents in most other countries. But maybe a little obedience would be no bad thing? What’s the moral case for exercising power over children and young people? Presenter: Michael Buerk Producer: Jonathan Hallewell Editor: Tim Pemberton

From Moral Maze at 2023-07-27 12:47:00

Is idleness good for us? (p0g372z6.mp3)

School’s out for summer. For many, holidays are a chance to rest, unwind and empty the mind of work. For others, the long break brings additional pressures and stresses, such as childcare. It’s a period when inaction and inactivity are to be celebrated and envied. What does that reveal about our priorities? During the pandemic, many people got a glimpse of what it was like to live more simply. Aristotle writes that the greatest possible human good is contemplation, a life lived remote from endless activity. Economics has taught us that our time is money, which is a necessity. But for some it has turned human beings into ‘human doings’ – units of productivity. The philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote “In Praise of Idleness” in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, in which he called for nothing less than a total re-evaluation of work – and of leisure. Throughout history, however, idleness has, more often than not, had a bad press. St Benedict described it as “the enemy of the soul”. Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins – a failure to do what should be done. The greatest danger of idleness, some believe, is that it can slide from a state of inaction to a state of purposelessness. That’s why Christianity has long seen the positive moral value, the character-building nature, of hard work. Is idleness good for us? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-07-21 12:01:00

The Morality of Climate Activism (p0g25fg6.mp3)

Wimbledon, the Ashes, the Proms and George Osborne’s wedding have all been interrupted by ‘Just Stop Oil’ protesters in recent days. Several areas of London have been brought to a standstill, provoking the ire of motorists and leading to multiple arrests. ‘Just Stop Oil’ describes itself as a “nonviolent civil resistance group demanding the UK Government stop licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects”. The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he wouldn't be “giving in to eco-zealots” disrupting the British summer. The group’s supporters believe that blocking traffic, interrupting sporting events and vandalising artwork, are entirely proportionate in the face of an existential crisis bequeathed to our children and grandchildren. Right now, they argue, parts of Europe are literally on fire, and there is no more time left to wait for those in power to do the right thing. Their critics object to the fact that the targets of the protests are often ordinary people, who have more immediate concerns like the rising cost of living. Moreover, some believe the use of apocalyptic language is less likely to elicit a change in behaviour, since despair, like indifference, is not a good motivator. How might our descendants judge today’s climate activists? Successful movements for social change, like the Suffragettes, have historically been disrupters who, in the face of inaction, adopt increasingly radical tactics. For some, the spirit they embody is irrepressible and necessary, which means that their methods cannot always be peaceful. For others, social progress can only be fully achieved through conventional democratic means. Are acts of civil disobedience and sabotage by climate activists morally justifiable? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-07-13 11:50:00

Cluster bombs and the ethics of warfare (p0g0n3kq.mp3)

As NATO meets this week, the US is seeking to calm its critics over sending cluster bombs to Ukraine. Cluster munitions are banned by many countries – including the UK and most EU members. They are more indiscriminate and can leave unexploded bomblets scattered over a wide area, posing a lethal threat to civilians years after a conflict has ended. The US, which is not a signatory to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, argues that supplying these weapons is justified in the defence of Ukraine, that civilian areas would be avoided and that records would be kept to facilitate a clean-up operation after the war. While some see this as a clear concession of the moral high ground, others disagree. As one US congressman put it, “the only way it erodes the moral high ground is if either you're an idiot, or you're rooting for Russia in this conflict." What should be the ethical rules of conduct in warfare, when the goal of opposing armies is to perpetrate, and sometimes maximise, death and destruction? For some, the tragedy of war is the suspension of ethical norms. And yet, certain fundamental principles, such as proportionality of violence and discrimination between enemy combatants and non-combatants, have existed for centuries to prevent the ends being justified by any means necessary in battle. But what if the enemy has no regard for these rules? How should they be interpreted outside a philosophy seminar and in the chaos of war? While the character of war is changing, the fundamental moral issues have not. When, in warfare, is it acceptable to violate ethical principles in the hope of achieving a greater good? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-07-06 11:25:00

The Morality of Privatisation (p0fz8mm1.mp3)

Thames Water, which serves a quarter of the UK population, is billions of pounds in debt and on the brink of insolvency. The company has received heavy criticism, and calls for it to be nationalised, following a series of sewage discharges and leaks. The energy sector, railway companies, and the Royal Mail have faced a similar outcry in recent months. When it comes to the provision of services which are essential for our national life, the calculation is often utilitarian: which form of ownership, public or private, leads to the greater social good? Many believe that the private water, rail and energy companies are simply failing to serve the public. Meanwhile, although polling suggests most people want to keep the NHS under public ownership, many of the health outcomes of patients compare less favourably to other European countries. The privatisation versus nationalisation debate is about more than outcomes: it highlights competing visions of the good society. For some, the private sector gives us more freedom of choice as moral agents. For others, a ‘market mentality’ has crept into more and more aspects of our social and communal life, including education, and the result has been the erosion of our own moral obligations towards each other. Can the motivation for profit co-exist alongside a vision of the common good? What moral responsibilities should private companies have to society? And what are the moral limits of markets? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-07-05 16:35:00

The morality of news coverage (p0fz3lld.mp3)

Comparisons have been made between the news coverage of two tragedies at sea. The first was the capsizing of a boat off the coast of Greece, in which more than 500 migrants from the Middle East and Africa are thought to have drowned. The second is the catastrophic implosion of the Titan submersible carrying five people, including a billionaire explorer, who paid a huge amount of money to see the wreck of the Titanic. While the first story made the news, the second story was rolling news. Moral Maze panellist Ash Sarkar faced a backlash when she tweeted about what she saw as the “grotesque inequality of sympathy, attention and aid... Migrants are “meant” to die at sea; billionaires aren’t.” This raises the question of the moral purpose of the news – particularly when it comes to public service broadcasting – and the difference between reporting what people want to know and what they need to know. For some, the ‘ticking clock’ coverage of the Titan tragedy was ghoulish and sensationalist. For others it was merely a reflection of the trajectory of the story: the hope, the endeavour and the jeopardy. Then there is a question of scale – does a larger body count have a greater moral claim to be covered by the news? Or is it natural for British media to reflect a greater sense of empathy for British citizens? What makes the news, what is left out, and how it is covered, is a decision made by editorial teams and individuals with their own view of what is 'newsworthy'. But what about our responsibilities as consumers of news? Does the demand for immediate clickbait sensationalism over thoughtful analysis from the other side of the world create a news environment which is out of kilter with what matters? Is this simply human nature or something we should seek to redress? What news stories should make a moral claim on our attention? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-06-23 12:06:00

Should science ever be stopped? (p0fwwy55.mp3)

Scientists have created the first synthetic human embryos using stem cells. The breakthrough could help research into genetic disorders, but it raises ethical questions about the creation of life without the need for eggs or sperm. While nobody is currently suggesting growing these embryos into a baby, the rapid progress has outpaced the law. This prompts a wider question: instead of society having to play catch up with science, should we be having a more frank conversation about the moral responsibilities of science itself? Some believe that scientists need their own version of the Hippocratic Oath, a regulatory system of ethical standards, similar to doctors. Others think that will stifle creativity, enthusiasm and academic freedom. The human drive for discovery is the engine of progress – and we have demonstrably never had it so good. But are there things we should not want to discover? Are we capable of making a conscious decision to say “no further” if the potential consequences of pursuing knowledge are both good and bad? For some, science is morally-neutral, its advancement is inevitable, and it’s down to society to set the rules about what to do with the findings of scientific research. For others, simply relying on the moral-neutrality of science could be humanity’s fatal flaw, and there should be more democratically-accountable oversight of the research. If that’s the case, where should the ethical lines be drawn? As well as the consequentialist arguments, some make the distinction between science as a means of discovering the natural world and ruling it; in religious terms, between seeking to understand God and ‘playing God’. When, if ever, should we apply the brakes on science? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-06-15 13:05:00

The Morality of Borders (p0fvc264.mp3)

It’s almost impossible to imagine why anyone would risk a perilous crossing over cold, dark waters in an inflatable dinghy. This is a story of humankind: the despair – or ambition – that drove them, the wickedness of the traffickers who exploited them, and the moral dilemma of those of us already living where they want to go. History is all about borders. Two cross-party reports out this week have sought to inform the political and moral response to the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’, currently making its way through Parliament, which proposes that people who come to the UK “illegally” will be detained and permanently removed. The Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights concludes that the bill, “breaches a number of the UK’s international human rights obligations”. Meanwhile, a Home Affairs select committee report states there is "little evidence" Albanians are at risk in their country and need asylum in the UK. Migration brings into focus the competing worldviews of universalism and localism. Universalists argue that the world is shrinking, and that pandemics and climate change reveal our interdependence as one global community. It is neither moral nor in the national interest, they argue, to erect bigger borders out of a sense of protectionism. Their opponents see borders as not just territorial or political, but intrinsically moral. Borders, in their view, create moral communities in which people feel rooted and valued. How much should a country be willing to compromise the integrity of its boundaries out of compassion for non-citizens? Is it unjust to see people differently, based on where lines are drawn on a map? Would a world without borders be a better place? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-06-08 13:15:00

Football: a moral force for good? (p0fszv7z.mp3)

Try telling the hordes of Manchester City fans heading to the Champions League final this weekend that the beautiful game has an ugly side. The team is on the verge of sealing an historic first Treble and glory awaits. Rival fans, however, claim they’ve bought success, with the wealth of their Abu Dhabi owners. The eye-watering sums of money invested in top-flight football raises moral questions for all fans, some of whom may feel they are entering into a Faustian pact. Newcastle United’s recent takeover by an investment fund with strong links to the Saudi state, has prompted concerns about ‘sportswashing’ – a means by which ethically dubious regimes direct attention away from their poor human rights records. Some worry that the commercialisation and uneven distribution of wealth in the game has priced hardworking fans out of watching their team, while leaving some community clubs on the brink of insolvency. There is unease not just about the institution of football but about its culture. Across Europe, high-profile black players are targets of racist abuse, there are hardly any openly gay footballers and female officials are subjected to misogyny. Others see football, on balance, as a moral force for good. Our society, they say, would be worse off without it. Far from encouraging a toxic tribalism, enthusiasts believe football brings communities together. They cite grassroots projects, funded by footballing authorities, clubs and individual players, which often go under the radar and transform people’s lives. For many fans, football is a language that knows no borders, and their home ground is a cathedral of collective transcendence. Football could be seen as a microcosm of life – the agony, the extasy, the drama, the messiness, the humanity – just ask the people of Wrexham, whose Hollywood owners, they believe, have not just injected money into their club, but meaning into their town. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-06-01 14:52:00

How should we understand ‘cancel culture’? (p0frp70q.mp3)

The gender-critical philosopher Kathleen Stock’s address to the Oxford Union this week has divided academics at the university. One group has signed a letter expressing concern that student opposition to her invite goes against free speech. A second group has written an open letter supporting the students and stating that revoking an invite is not the same as preventing someone from speaking. This case is seen by many as an example of so-called ‘cancel culture’. ‘Cancel culture’ has become such a common term that it is not always easy to understand what precisely it means and what its implications are for society. Media organisations have always made judgements about who should and should not receive a platform. What some view as censorship, others see as curating their own experience of who and what they interact with. Cancel culture on the left is often characterised as a form of secular puritanism denouncing the ‘sins’ of the age, while, as perceived on the right, it can have an overtly religious justification in the defence of so-called traditional liberal values. Those who view cancel culture as a threat to Western liberal democracy point to dramatic historic parallels: witch hunts, inquisitions, book banning. Others reflect that ostracization and social shunning have always existed as a form of accountability for an individual’s actions. Is there a difference between a person being accountable for their behaviour and being accountable for their ideas? If not, who decides what are ‘unacceptable’ ideas? Should we understand cancel culture as a deterioration of the public sphere, symptomatic of a growing illiberalism, or does it reflect the convulsions of a free society which is morally evolving into something better?

From Moral Maze at 2023-05-25 13:45:00

How should we talk about suicide? (p0fqcld2.mp3)

The tragic death of primary headteacher Ruth Perry, who took her own life when her school was set to be downgraded to “inadequate”, has prompted widespread anger from teachers and calls to reform or abolish Ofsted. Ruth Perry’s family believes that the stress of the inspection led to her suicide, and this week an article in the British Medical Journal argued that “every work-related suicide” should be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. While some see this as an important intervention in seeking to understand and prevent further suicides, others are concerned that speculation about direct causal 'triggers' can oversimplify a complex issue. The Samaritans’ media guidelines state: “vulnerable people experiencing similar issues are more likely to over-identify with the deceased when a single reason is given”. Moreover, others are worried about the ‘weaponisation’ of individual cases of suicide by campaign groups seeking to advance wider political aims. Suicide is a highly sensitive issue and the way we talk about it matters. Across different times and cultures it has been seen as both honourable and sinful. Today, most responses start from a place of compassion, based on a better understanding of mental health. While it is vital to understand, prevent and treat suicidal thoughts, should we ever seek to rationalise or explain suicide? That question is also pertinent in the debate around assisted dying. For some, choosing to end one’s life in this way is a rational decision we should be allowed to make in certain circumstances, for others, that social acceptance would have a far-reaching impact on people's perception of the worthwhileness of their life. How should we talk about suicide? Producer: Dan Tierney. If you are suffering distress or despair and need support, including urgent support, a list of organisations that can help is available at

From Moral Maze at 2023-03-31 11:40:00

AI - the end of humanity or the next evolutionary step? (p0fd33xp.mp3)

AI – the end of humanity or the next evolutionary step? Computers are becoming more powerful. Much more powerful. Last week, Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel Corporation died. A computer industry billionaire, he came up with ‘Moore’s Law’ which observed that the power of computers doubles every couple of years. Today a microchip can contain 50 billion transistors, each narrower than a strand of human DNA. The war of the robots has begun. Microsoft’s ‘ChatGPT’ and its rival, Google’s ‘Bard’ allow you to have a conversation with a computer, much as you would with another person. But it’s not just talk. As well as writing essays, presentations, legal documents and sermons, artificial intelligence can also produce art. We’ve accepted that machines can beat us at chess, but might they soon also beat us at poetry, painting and music? Could they make Shakespeare look second rate? Or will art without human input always be worthless? Some people are impressed by the quality of what AI can create, but others are scared. It’s one thing for computers to process our knowledge, but quite another when a machine starts to teach itself. If it behaves just like a real person, will we trust it more than we should? Can machines display morality and if not, is it safe to allow them to make decisions for us? We worry that AI might take over our jobs, but should we really be worrying that it might replace humanity altogether? Some see AI as the next evolutionary step, the latest development by mankind, with potential to transform lives for the better. But what are the risks in asking technology, however impressive, to solve human problems? Should we be excited by AI, or could artificial intelligence mark the start of the end of humanity? Producer: Jonathan Hallewell Presenter: Michael Buerk Editor: Tim Pemberton

From Moral Maze at 2023-03-23 11:15:00

Is Growth a False God? (p0fbgd14.mp3)

Is Growth a False God? Last week’s budget was, according to the Chancellor, about growth. Whenever politicians talk about their plans these days, it’s always about growth. The arguments are clear: Until we generate more growth, we can’t get any richer and wages can’t increase either. It’s urgent too: The UK will be the only major economy apart from Russia to shrink this year, according to forecasts from the OECD. But not everyone is convinced that increasing growth makes us happier, or even that it’s sustainable. Some believe the pursuit of growth attaches too little value to wellbeing, that it neglects what should be the real priority, people’s contentment and happiness. Government policies lead us, they claim, to work harder and for longer than we want to. They suggest it creates a culture that values our economic activity, earning money and spending it, over other important roles such as caring for children and elderly relatives, maintaining our community, or charitable work. Some ecological economists believe that endless growth is unachievable without climate breakdown, that it simply can’t be sustained without irreversible damage to the planet. What is the moral case for the pursuit of growth? The political orthodoxy is that a growing economy is good for everyone. Growth drives up pay; welfare payments depend on tax revenues; pension providers rely on stock market growth for their returns. So don’t we all have an interest in continuous growth? Or have we created a world where our leaders care more about GDP than our happiness? Has growth become a false God? Producer: Jonathan Hallewell Presenter: Michael Buerk Editor: Tim Pemberton

From Moral Maze at 2023-03-16 11:42:00

Is pacifism admirable, immoral, or just impractical? (p0f937zn.mp3)

Is pacifism virtuous, admirable, impractical, immoral or stupid? War and militarism are in the news every day. In the Budget, the Chancellor announced an extra £11bn in defence spending over the next five years, to counter threats from hostile states. It comes alongside news of a new defence pact with the US and Australia in response to Chinese military power. The war in Ukraine has seen advanced weapons rushed in by Western countries to support the fight against Russia. But alongside the talk of battles and territory won and lost, there is also talk of the horrors of war. There are renewed demands for peace, and some say it should be peace at any price. In Germany, protest marchers assert that sending more weapons to Ukraine pours fuel on the fire, causing more death, misery and destruction. They claim to detect a change of mood and point out that the latest film adaptation of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, a 1929 novel by the German pacifist, Erich Maria Remarque, has just picked up four Oscars to add to its 14 Baftas. Western leaders insist that Russia most lose the war, and be seen to lose, but is it really better to create more bloodshed, sacrifice more lives, in order to achieve something closer to justice? Forcing Ukraine to negotiate now and inevitably cede territory could bring the violence to an end and start the process of rebuilding. Or is that “giving in” and encouraging further aggression by Russia and others? Is pacifism virtuous and admirable? Immoral and stupid? Or is it, perhaps just impractical? What is the moral case for choosing peace over justice? Producer: Jonathan Hallewell Presenter: William Crawley Editor: Gill Farrington

From Moral Maze at 2023-03-09 19:02:00

Breach of Trust (p0f7v8sn.mp3)

Breach of Trust When the journalist Isabel Oakeshott broke her promise and passed Matt Hancock's personal WhatsApp messages to the Daily Telegraph, was she morally justified in doing so? She didn't just go back on her word to the former health secretary, but broke a legally-binding Non Disclosure Agreement. She claims that "no journalist worth their salt" would have acted otherwise and insists her obligations to Mr Hancock were outweighed by the public interest served by releasing the messages. But others see it differently. It was, they claim, a decision aimed at promoting her own view that government lockdown measures during the pandemic were excessive. Journalists often cite the "public interest" when it can seem that their actions are more about advancing a particular cause, or about selling their story because the "public are interested". Aside from journalism, when is a breach of trust justified in any human relationship? For many professionals, there's an understanding that confidentiality does sometimes have to be broken. The police, social workers, doctors, teachers and even the clergy grapple with often difficult judgements about the morality of betraying trust. At times, promises are broken with the justification that it's for "the greater good". But is there really no such a thing as a truly solemn "never to be broken" promise? Or are all our confidences, our shared stories and discreet conversations rather loose arrangements, conditional on other loyalties and pressures? In our personal relationships, should we be less ready to make promises we can't keep, and also avoid asking others to do the same? What are the moral limits to our obligation to keep a secret, and how can we know when it's right to breach someone's trust? Producer: Jonathan Hallewell Presenter: William Crawley Editor: Helen Grady

From Moral Maze at 2023-03-03 09:26:00

Leaders with faith (p0f6j3d0.mp3)

Leaders with Faith The first hustings in the election of the new leader of the Scottish National Party were held this week. The winner will become Scotland’s first minister. But so far the coverage of the campaign has been more about religion than policy. One of the three candidates, Kate Forbes is a member of the Free Church of Scotland and has faced criticism from within her party for saying that she would have voted against gay marriage, had she been an MSP in 2014. She also said that according to her religious beliefs, having a child outside of marriage was wrong. Several of her backers have withdrawn their support and others have questioned whether such views make her an appropriate choice to lead the country. But why should traditional religious beliefs like this be a barrier to achieving high office? Forbes insists that it’s possible to be a person of faith, while still supporting the rights of others. Although she would have opposed the legalisation of same sex marriage, she says that as a “servant of democracy” she would now defend the legal right to gay marriage “to the hilt”. Religious belief used to be seen by most people as a private matter. It was also generally regarded as a positive attribute in a senior politician, evidence perhaps of a strong moral compass. So what has changed in our attitudes to faith and should it affect how we choose our leaders? Producer: Jonathan Hallewell Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2023-02-23 12:17:00

How should Britain make amends for its colonial past? (p0f4xf86.mp3)

How should Britain make amends for its colonial past? Should museums in the UK return historic artefacts to their countries of origin? Many items displayed in museums were looted in colonial times and now there are campaigns for them to be returned. There's a related question of whether Britain should pay reparations for its role in the slave trade. Attitudes to both of these questions have shifted in recent years. Some of the Benin Bronzes, looted by the British Army in 1897 have been returned to Nigeria. The British Museum is now in talks over how the Elgin Marbles, removed from the Parthenon Temple in Greece in the 19th century, might be displayed in Athens. Recently the Church of England set up a fund, worth £100m, to address the past wrongs of its involvement with slavery. The church has expressed shame that it invested in, and made money from the slave trade. The fund will be used to benefit communities affected by historic slavery. Several universities have taken similar steps. But is this an appropriate way to acknowledge the suffering caused during Britain's colonial past? Some believe that while it's appropriate to openly admit Britain's role in slavery, it’s impossible to repair the damage done and it's wrong to expect British people today to pay reparation to the descendants of enslaved people. Others say that the economic cost of slavery is still being felt by those descendants. It's a debt that needs to be paid. It’s also suggested that paying reparation is a valuable step in tackling the racism that still exists today. What moral obligations of restitution and reparation do we inherit from our ancestors? What rights of redress can we claim for what was done to our forebears? How should Britain make amends for its colonial past? Producer: Jonathan Hallewell Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2023-02-16 11:22:00

Why does God allow natural disasters to happen? (p0f3hf8b.mp3)

Why does God allow natural disasters to happen? The devastation following the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria has been appalling. Already more than 41,000 people have died. Extraordinary stories have emerged as people have been rescued after spending days trapped under rubble. Those small moments of respite have been greeted with heartfelt prayers of thanks for each life saved. The blame for the earthquake and the shocking loss of life has been placed not on God’s shoulders, but on the planning officials and builders who allowed fragile homes to be built. But if God really is almighty and good, why does he allow natural disasters like this to happen? It’s a recurring moral conundrum, but if God is given credit for the splendour and beauty of nature, why then isn’t he also held responsible for the destruction and suffering caused by forces completely beyond the control of people? Some see this as a compelling argument against the existence of a good and almighty God. Others suggest that we can never fully understand divinity and it makes no sense to apply such crude moral questions to God. What is certain is that religion provides many believers with great consolation in times like this, when sorrow and suffering are all around. Also, many of those providing support in the rescue effort do so inspired by their faith. Producer: Jonathan Hallewell Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2023-02-09 13:00:00

Morality and Money (p0f21yfb.mp3)

In her first public comments since leaving office, the Ex-PM Liz Truss has argued that her plans to boost economic growth were brought down by "the left-wing economic establishment". Losing the confidence of the financial markets at a time of global uncertainty has made us all more aware of our income and expenditure. If the news accurately reflected our lives, it would be hard to escape the conclusion that life is all about money - inflation, interest rates, pay demands and profits. The overriding objective of measuring economic growth is to help as many people as possible to have more money. But how have we become so pre-occupied with what is, after all, an artificial construct that is intrinsically valueless – paper and numbers in themselves morally neutral? The love of money may be the root of all evil, but its use demands trust and co-operation, its possession brings freedom and agency. Money may have given much of humanity richer lives, in every way, but it’s made us into transactional, rather than relational beings, and it corrupts as much as it enables; a tool that so often seems our master. It’s impossible for us to judge when we have enough of it. If the best things in life are free, can we imagine a world without money – and would it be better? With Charlie Mullins, Darren McGarvey, Tomáš Sedláček and Anitra Nelson Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-02-02 10:39:00

What is Evil? (p0f0jb1b.mp3)

Boris Johnson has described a chilling phone call in which Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike in the run-up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Almost a year on from the start of the war, it’s tempting to see it as a clear-cut conflict between good and evil; Putin the malign aggressor bent on destruction and conquest, Zelensky the courageous defender of liberty and his country. It may be true, or at least substantially so, but is it helpful? Seeing events through the prism of good and evil enables us to make moral judgements and define what we value. But it can also brush aside the ambiguities of complex situations and de-humanise both those we deem evil, and those we regard as good. Plato and St Augustine thought they were not opposites; that evil was the absence of good, a lack of moral imagination. Psychologists might prefer to dispense with the term ‘evil’ altogether, seeing it as human behaviour to be explained and understood. Does evil exist? If so, what is it? And how should we deal with it? With Ed Condon, Professor Scott Atran, Professor Lars Svendsen and Professor Tony Maden Producer Dan Tierney

From Moral Maze at 2023-01-26 10:16:00

Human Maturity (p0dyym6w.mp3)

Nicola Sturgeon has argued for a wider debate on teenagers' rights, as she defended plans to allow 16-year-olds to change their legal gender in Scotland. Each society settles on its own thresholds to determine when a person is old enough to make informed decisions about matters including voting, having sex or drinking alcohol. This is a collective agreement about the legal point at which human beings reach maturity. But what is human maturity in moral terms? Aristotle warned against trusting the judgments of the young, saying, “they have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations”. Meanwhile, psychological studies suggest that the period of adolescence among Gen Z has extended – ‘25 is the new 18’ – which means that ‘adult’ roles and responsibilities now occur later than in they once did. All this is evidence, according to some, that teenagers’ judgments are less likely to be sound than their elders, and rather than expecting them to be political beings, we should allow them to be kids. Conversely, there are those who argue that younger generations have been failed by a system that is rigged to favour the interests of older people; that they should play more of an active role in our democracy because their concerns are the concerns of the future; and that they are more likely to make better judgements about society because they are far more connected to the world and aware of their own values than previous generations. Should we trust children and teenagers to make good judgments about the future? Or, if active citizenship is the preserve of adulthood, what is an adult? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-01-19 11:00:00

Personal Debt (p0dxcxcd.mp3)

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” advised Shakespeare’s Polonius. These words seem hopelessly out of touch in cost of living crisis with soaring inflation and astronomical levels of personal debt. The charity StepChange has warned that money borrowed by UK households to pay for Christmas could take years to repay. Meanwhile, a study by the Resolution Foundation suggests the British public are the worst in the developed world at saving. How did we get here? For some, our eye-popping indebtedness begins with a failure of personal responsibility, an absence of prudence, and an inability to discern between our ‘wants’ and needs’. For others, the real problem is systemic, where borrowers are victims of a consumerist society that both pressurises and stigmatises the poorest. Pragmatists argue that debt itself is morally neutral and merely part of the furniture of modern life. Free market libertarians see debt as a democratising force, giving people greater personal agency. Whereas many religious and philosophical traditions have long believed that there is something intrinsically immoral about charging interest on lending. Is debt inevitable? Or a moral failing? If so, whose? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2023-01-12 16:50:00

The Ethics of the Family (p0dvzc94.mp3)

While no family is likely to have such a public falling out, anyone can surely relate the royal rift to tensions within their own family – the grudges, rivalries and feelings of betrayal. Prince Harry’s words, “I would like to get my father back, I would like to have my brother back”, reveal the depth of hurt experienced by all involved. Families are places of nurturing and wounding; moral networks where expectations of love and loyalty are tested. When the often inevitable strife ensues, are our moral obligations to our family conditional or unconditional? It’s often argued that there is something uniquely special about family bonds; that blood is thicker than water. Family members are the only people in our lives that are permanent and unchosen, they have known us since the beginning, and that connection can be grounding and valuable in helping us understand ourselves. We might feel instinctively that adult children have obligations to their aging parents, simply by virtue of them being a parent. Alternatively, we might see the relationship as contractual, where obligations are based on the love received – or the damage done – growing up. Or, we might believe we don’t owe our families anything, regardless of how much we have benefitted from the relationships, and that our ties with family are no different to any other friendship. Moreover, many philosophers challenge the idea that we have special duties to someone just because we share their genetic material – by that logic, adopted children would have obligations to their biological parents who they’ve never met. As the 21st century definition of ‘family’ widens, what are our ethical commitments to our family? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2022-12-22 09:52:00

Kindness (p0dqwv6r.mp3)

Thousands of complaints have been made to the press regulator about Jeremy Clarkson’s column in the Sun newspaper, in which he expressed his hatred of Meghan Markle. His critics say he crossed a line in portraying her as someone who should be treated as less than human. He says he was making a clumsy TV reference and he’s “horrified to have caused so much hurt”. For some, this is symptomatic of a wider culture which rewards extreme and unkind opinions, and that a right to free speech in a newspaper includes an obligation to uphold certain moral standards. Others say mainstream media commentators (and their editors) have no duty to be kind, only to tell the truth or present an honestly-held opinion. Kindness, courtesy and respect are notable by their absence in our so-called ‘culture wars’. Kindness can be seen as twee, while rudeness can be applauded. We might appeal superficially to kindness, but it can often be secondary to values of honesty, justice and responsibility. For some, the unkindness in our culture is a systemic problem, demanding a radical change in our technological, social and political structures. For others, it is fundamentally a human problem, requiring us to draw deeply from the well of ancient wisdom. The Christmas season approaches, when the ideal of goodwill is tested by the messy reality of human relationships. Is kindness the greatest virtue? What will it take for us all to be a little bit kinder? With Nana Akua, Alice Watkins, Edith Hall and Emily Kasriel. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2022-12-15 11:00:00

What do we work for? (p0dpbh6z.mp3)

Forget the advent calendar, it’s a ‘strike calendar’ we need to prepare for Christmas this year. Behind today’s window lurks not a festive chocolate but a list of public service stoppages; not a robin on picket fence, but a postie on a picket line. Seasonal jokes aside, perhaps the heavy flurry of industrial action is a symptom of a deeper unease about the value we place on work. Critics of the strikes believe we have lost a sense of duty in our public services, that the public service ethos no longer means very much, and that work today is largely contractual rather than covenantal. Supporters of the strikes say there is nothing self-interested about wanting to earn a fair wage and that it’s about recognising the value of public servants, over and above symbolic gestures like doorstep clapping. Some think we’ve placed too much emphasis on wealth as a measure of worth and that work should be about seeking to do something well, regardless of the monetary reward. Others believe that argument is laden with class-based assumptions and point to the disproportionately high salaries of bosses compared to their low-wage employees who don’t have the choice to be romantic about the idea of a vocation. What do we work for? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2022-12-08 10:57:00

Can ethics survive the death of religion? (p0dmsvxr.mp3)

For the first time, fewer than half of people in England and Wales describe themselves as Christian. For centuries in the West, Judeo-Christian values have underpinned moral reasoning and grounded our ethics. While ticking “no religion” on the census doesn’t necessarily mean having no religious belief, should it concern us that this central story of our culture is fragmenting? Implicit in utilitarianism is the idea that we can do ethics without metaphysics. The Enlightenment hailed the triumph of scientific rationality over sacred revelation. Whereas, the French sociologist Emile Durkheim argued that in any society in a state of ‘anomie’ – that is, lacking a shared moral code – there would be a rise in suicide. Secularists argue that the greatest examples of social progress of the last century have come about as a result of a loss of deference to religious moral authority. Religious leaders believe that it is precisely this moral authority that makes a society cohesive. Others think it doesn’t matter where you get your moral guide from as long as you’re looking for it. We live in an era of rapid social change, facing a new technological revolution, and all the ethical questions it poses. Does a religious-based ethics have the answers? Can ethics survive the death of religion? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2022-12-01 10:45:00

Human Rights (p0dl2vkr.mp3)

The largescale protests in China are not just a response to Covid restrictions but about fundamental human rights, including freedom of speech. They follow weeks of demonstrations in support of women’s rights in Iran, and LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar. We often speak about human rights as a self-evident truth – the right to life, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of conscience. Drafted after the Second World War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a milestone document seeking to protect the dignity of all human beings. Advocates argue that human rights are universal because the struggle for freedom can be found in every culture, despite being rooted in different philosophies and assumptions. They see a human rights-based approach to the world as the best way of identifying a shared humanity and improving human wellbeing. Sceptics, however, believe the global human rights movement can itself be a form of Western moral imperialism, or cite examples of atrocities justified with the language of human rights. Some believe that in order to hold powerful corporations and regimes to account, there needs to be a more expansive view of human rights. Others are concerned about what they see as the ‘mission creep’ in extending the legal framework of rights to encompass areas of moral life that shouldn’t be a matter for the law courts. What are human rights? Are they universal? Who should arbitrate when they are in competition? Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2022-07-29 17:34:00

The Morality of Snobbery (p0cpzm6t.mp3)

People like us... you know what I mean. Snobbery? It's everywhere, and most of us would admit to it, at least occasionally. But beyond the caricatures of snooty and disdainful types who enjoy looking down on the tastes, habits and backgrounds of others, there's the serious matter of how it affects people's life chances. The British Psychological Society has launched a campaign to make social class a legally protected characteristic, like sex, race and disability. It would force employers and others to tackle discrimination on the basis of class. The idea is to reduce the damaging effects of class-based prejudice across education, work and health, and create a fairer society. People from working class backgrounds are less likely to get into a top university or land a highly paid job, but how much of that is down to the snobbery of others? Is a change in the law really going to shift prejudices that have been embedded over generations? Is it right to use the law in this way? More broadly, what’s wrong with expressing a preference about how other people present themselves? Isn't some behaviour that gets labelled as snobbery just an attempt to defend high standards, whether in speech, writing, taste or manners? Is there a moral case for snobbery? With Bridgette Rickett, D.J. Taylor, David Skelton and Alex Bilmes. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2022-07-21 18:22:00

The Future of the NHS (p0cnc697.mp3)

The Future of the NHS Can the UK keep its promise of free healthcare for everyone? NHS spending is higher than ever, yet waiting lists are getting longer and patient satisfaction is falling. The worst of the pandemic may have passed, but weekly Covid admissions remain high and many services are still struggling. While many patients feel delighted with the treatment and care they receive, stories of missed targets, staff shortages and crumbling buildings are common. Whether its waiting for an operation, mental health support, getting a GP appointment or just hoping an ambulance arrives in time, our cherished and beloved NHS is letting many people down, in spite of the heroic efforts of its staff. The people vying to be our next Prime Minister have acknowledged the problems, but are not promising big improvements. Is it time for a new model? Some believe it’s about funding, and we need to accept that the NHS we want and need will cost us much more. But in a cost of living crisis, are people really prepared to pay higher taxes to improve the NHS, and if not, why do we still expect a Rolls Royce health system? Others think it’s a bottomless pit of demand and it’s time to reduce our expectations. Can we afford the NHS to be anything more than a safety net for the sickest and poorest? Is it right to promise care to everyone, even those who can afford to go private? Or, might the public’s willingness to pay for the NHS evaporate, if it's no longer there for all of us? We may love our NHS, but how much should we expect of it, and how much are we willing to pay? With Tim Knox, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Matthew Lesh and Prof Allyson Pollock. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2022-07-14 18:18:00

The Right to Abortion (p0clzstx.mp3)

The Right to Abortion This weekend thousands of people marched on the White House in support of a woman’s right to choose an abortion. That constitutional principle, established nearly 50 years ago in the case of “Roe v Wade” has just been overturned by the US Supreme Court and already many Republican states have banned abortions. As President Biden moves to try to protect abortion rights, campaigners in the UK have been stirred to action. There have been ‘Pro Life’ demonstrations outside clinics in Northern Ireland and ‘Pro Choice’ protests outside the US Embassy in London. The number of abortions in England and Wales last year, more than 214,000, was the highest recorded since 1967, when a new law allowed, in most cases, terminations up to the 24th week of pregnancy. This also applied to Scotland but was only extended to Northern Ireland two years ago. Public opinion is clear: 85% of people in Britain think women should have the right to abortion. But should rights also be afforded to the unborn, and if so, at what stage of pregnancy? Has anyone the moral right to dictate whether a woman can have an abortion? For many women, “my body – my choice” is a fundamental principle. With Madeline Page, Professor Ellie Lee, Professor John Milbank and Kerry Abel. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2022-07-07 08:40:00

'Unacceptable' Opinions (p0ckdc0k.mp3)

“Unacceptable” Opinions Have you ever felt that you can’t say what you really think, that your honest opinions have become somehow unacceptable? It’s a common complaint that freedom of speech is being restricted, that more and more views have become inadmissible or rejected as intolerable. On social media, people expressing thoughts that would have hardly raised an eyebrow a generation ago, are viciously attacked and branded as bigots. If that is a problem - and opinions differ - the government may be about to make it worse. Its Online Safety Bill, going through Parliament just now, is aimed at making the UK the safest place in the world to go online, but there are concerns that it could involve more censorship and less freedom. It is surely good to have a diverse range of views openly and freely expressed in public, important for democracy for honest discourse and a sure sign of true freedom of speech. But others feel that cleaning up the public space of unsavoury, prejudiced and hateful views makes for a more civilised society. It creates safer, more respectful places for everyone. Offensive comments that were shamelessly expressed in the past about, for example black, gay or trans people are rarer now. Is this evidence that modern values like equality are being widely embraced, or a sign that people feel muzzled and their views, far from going away, are festering into conspiracy theories, extremism and even the threat of violence? Does it matter if the range of views we can express becomes narrower? With Eric Heinze, James Bloodworth, Joe Mulhall and Jeevun Sandher. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2022-06-30 13:08:00

Ukraine - what should western countries do next? (p0cj2jpn.mp3)

Ukraine - what should the west do next? It's 125 days since Russia's tanks rolled into Ukraine in a full scale invasion of the country. Since then the world has watched, appalled by the bloodshed, the destruction of towns and cities, the 12 million refugees. At first there was relief that the Ukrainians had beaten back the attack on the capital Kyiv. Now there is less optimism as Russia takes more territory in the east. From the start Britain and its allies have been clear: Russia must be stopped. Billions of pounds worth of weapons have been sent to help Ukraine fight back. With a unity that surprised many, western countries have imposed tough economic sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine says it needs more weapons, and more powerful ones, if it is to drive the Russians back across the border. Some observers do not think that’s a realistic aim in any case. The conflict has become bogged down and our own Prime Minister says 'we need to steel ourselves for a long war.' Global prices of food and energy have risen steeply, causing hardship in the west and the prospect of famine in Africa. What should the west do now? Is it time to supply Ukraine with NATO's most powerful weapons, short of nuclear missiles? Must Russia fail and be seen to fail? Or should we, as the French President has argued, be offering Putin an ‘off-ramp’? In any case, is it practical - or moral - to behave as though the choice between war and peace can be our decision? With Paul Ingram, Orysia Lutsevych, Richard Sakwa and Edward Lucas. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2022-06-23 10:33:00

The morality of striking (p0cgnj4m.mp3)

Is it morally acceptable to go on strike, disrupting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people who are uninvolved in a dispute? This week’s rail strike is expected to be the biggest in 30 years with only a fraction of services running and widespread disruption. But whatever the arguments behind the dispute, what’s the moral case for a strike? The right to withdraw labour is seen by many as fundamental, an essential last resort in a battle with employers where workers are trying to secure reasonable pay and conditions. Improved pay deals resulting from strikes are seen as clear evidence that striking itself is legitimate. But where should the limits be? The police and armed forces can’t go on strike but doctors and nurses can, as well as other essential workers. Is a strike still morally acceptable if it causes widespread misery or severely damages the economy, or if lives are lost as a result? Some feel that strikes are always unfair. The main victims are usually not employers but people uninvolved in the dispute. Also strikes by some groups of workers are far more disruptive than strikes by others. Has that unfairly driven up pay in some sectors? It is decades since widespread strikes were a common feature of life in the UK, but this year some are predicting a “summer of discontent”, a wave of disputes that could involve teachers, NHS staff, and others. Should tougher laws be introduced, to protect us all from the worst effects of strikes? Or is it essential that the basic rights of workers are upheld by the law? What’s the moral case for striking? With Paul Nowak, Caroline Farrow, Dr Sam Fowles and Benjamin Loughnane. Presenter: Edward Stourton Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett

From Moral Maze at 2022-06-16 17:11:00

Inequality: Is the gap between rich and poor in the UK fair? (p0cffb9x.mp3)

Is the gap between rich and poor in the UK fair? The soaring cost of living is raising questions about the gap between rich and poor. As prices have been forced up by global events, including the war in Ukraine, families on low incomes, who spend most of their money on basics, have been hit hard. In the last year, more than two million people in the UK turned to food banks. Stories of parents forced to choose between food and warmth, or skipping meals so their children can eat, have become common. Can the UK, one of the richest countries in the world, morally justify millions of its people relying on charity just to keep their children warm and fed? The wealthiest ten per cent of households own 43% of the country’s wealth, so is it naïve to suggest that the poorest should get more help and the richest should pay for it? The recently announced windfall tax on energy companies was an extraordinary moment: cash taken from big companies and handed to their customers. Is it time for more of this? Or are Robin Hood taxes, taking money from people who have earned it and handing it to people who haven’t, essentially unfair? Isn't wealth inequality the very driver of human effort? We work, so we can become better off. Remove that incentive, and what happens to economic growth, on which we all rely? What is the case for redistributing the nation’s wealth? Is it immoral to accumulate enormous personal wealth? Or is it acceptable for some people to become fantastically rich, provided that nobody is truly poor? Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2022-06-09 14:53:00

What is the future of the monarchy? (p0ccz15g.mp3)

What is the future of the Monarchy? A pageant, a star-studded concert, street fairs and picnics; it was a joyful four-day tribute to the Queen and millions revelled in her Platinum Jubilee. Seventy years of service, celebrated in true British style. But now the bunting is down and the carnival is over, how committed are we, as a nation, to the monarchy? A recent poll suggests that about 62% are in favour of retaining it, down from three quarters a decade ago. About 22% would prefer an elected head of state. It's all much closer among young people, with only a tiny majority of 18-24 year olds saying they want to stick with the monarchy. Many people love the Royal family and how the Queen has helped the UK to stand out in the world, providing long term stability, untainted by politics. Others despair at the behaviour of younger Royals, whose lives can more resemble a soap opera than the bedrock of the nation's sovereignty. But what is the moral case for the monarchy? For some, the very idea of an unelected figure with huge inherited wealth, enjoying the top position in the land, is simply intolerable. It legitimises, they say, the worst aspects of our age-old class system and should be abolished. As the tributes from around the world attest, there is deep and wide respect for Queen Elizabeth. But how might public opinion on the monarchy change in the future? Might a new system, with a democratically elected head of state be more morally defensible and serve the country better? With Tracy Borman, Martha Gill, Sean O'Grady and Richard Murphy. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2022-06-02 18:11:00

What's the point of university? (p0cbppf4.mp3)

Eight universities are under investigation for providing poor quality degrees. The Office for Students has sent inspectors in to investigate whether undergraduates are getting decent value in return for the huge debts they rack up to get their degrees. For years, there’s been concern about so-called “Mickey Mouse” degrees that do nothing to boost job prospects. But the expansion of universities was rooted in a grand ambition to create a better-educated workforce and to turbo-charge social mobility; a wider variety of degree courses, it was thought, would offer something for everyone. Surely it's positive that more young people now get an opportunity that years ago was offered only to a privileged few? University is about more than boosting the student’s future earnings; it’s about learning to think critically, gaining independence and broadening horizons. Some, though, believe we have too many universities competing for customers by offering firsts to failures. Standards have fallen, and so many people now have degrees that they don’t count for much any more. Young people, it's claimed, are being misled into taking on huge personal debts, in return for three wasted years that will do little to improve their employability. Have we reached peak-university? Is it time to go into reverse? Are we reducing the value of higher education, or is the university experience valuable for its own sake? What's the point of university? With Rachel Hewitt, Harry Lambert, Professor Dennis Hayes and Professor Edith Hall. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk

From Moral Maze at 2022-05-26 14:10:00

The Priorities of the Police (p0c98jgx.mp3)

Dame Cressida Dick, the newly-departed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, says policing has become ‘too politicised’. When her force has been criticised on the right for investigating ‘Partygate’ and on the left for letting the Prime Minister off too lightly, and when the Durham Police must now decide whether to end the career of the leader of the Labour Party, it’s hard to argue with her. The Public Order Bill, which had its second reading this week, will create new legal powers to prevent or punish disruptive demonstrations. That too, critics say, is putting politics into policing. Meanwhile, the newly-arrived Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Andy Cooke, has been talking about priorities. He predicted that the cost of living crisis will trigger an increase in crime and advised officers to ‘use their discretion’ when people are caught shop-lifting. One columnist wanted to know exactly how much he could nick without getting banged up. Police officers in Scotland have asked for guidance on how to enforce new hate crime legislation after being ‘inundated’ with complaints about posts on social media. At its conference last week, the Police Federation of England and Wales was given a list of horror stories about misogyny in ‘every single force’. This week the National Police Chiefs Council declared itself ‘ashamed’ about racism in law enforcement. Only six per cent of all crimes resulted in a charge last year. For reported rapes, the charge rate was 1.3 per cent. Some reformers want police priorities and targets set locally by the communities that are being policed. Others say it is precisely the new requirement that the police should be sensitive to everybody’s feelings that’s stopping them from locking up law-breakers. Where should the police's priorities lie? With Morag Livingstone, Dr Victor Olisa, Zoe Strimpel and Dr Roy Bailey Producer: Peter Everett.

From Moral Maze at 2022-03-24 10:04:00

Cleaning the Internet (p0bx6ys9.mp3)

For a brief moment this month Ukrainians were allowed to call for the death of Vladimir Putin on Instagram and Facebook. That freedom was subsequently withdrawn – “hate speech” isn’t tolerated on those platforms after all. But can Ukrainians really be expected to hold back on how they feel about the Russian military? And maybe we, as bystanders, could do with seeing that anger expressed without the filter of online ‘etiquette’ policies devised by a Silicon Valley CEO. Maybe our rage about Mariupol is all we’ve got, so is it wrong to share it. How should we strike the right balance between reason and raw emotion, without on the one hand caring too little, or on the other hand losing perspective. The trouble is, if we allow ‘hate speech’ about the Russian President, where do we then draw the line? And what about propaganda, misinformation and conspiracy theories. The social media platforms spend millions on trying to sort truth from lies, but why should it be an internet company that gets to decide? The just-published Online Safety Bill sets out plans to punish internet companies for failing to censor material that is ‘legal but harmful’. The aim is to protect us from the effects of dark images and suggestions. But is it foolish to imply that we can make the internet ‘safe’. And if we agree that the internet will always be dangerous, shouldn’t we cultivate a healthy suspicion of it, rather than a misplaced trust in its moderators. Might it not it be better, and more moral, to teach our children – and trust our fellow-citizens – to think for themselves? With digital researcher Ellen Judson; CEO of Index on Censorship Ruth Smeeth; internet safety expert Will Gardner and former teacher and author Joanna Williams. Produced by Olive Clancy

From Moral Maze at 2022-03-17 09:39:00

Refugees and borders (p0bvxwcn.mp3)

Nearly three million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian tanks crossed the border at the end of February. Some say the UK was slow to respond but many thousands of people are now signed up to a government scheme to turn their houses into homes for Ukrainian refugees - the first should arrive soon. There has been an outpouring of generosity and goodwill toward those suffering in this conflict, but uncomfortable questions remain. Are we really doing enough? Why such generosity now, when we have spent years discussing how to keep migrants out? Is it morally acceptable to feel more comfortable welcoming large numbers of Ukrainian - rather than Syrian or Afghan - refugees? Is racism a factor, or is it simply that these people are fleeing an enemy who threatens us too? Shortly the Nationality and Borders Bill will return to be voted on in Parliament. Campaigners say the bill is at odds with rhetoric about welcoming refugees as it could criminalise those who arrive to seek asylum in the UK without first filling in the correct forms. Is it right to put up yet more barriers? Perhaps it is a failure of moral imagination to turn away any individual who wants to make a better life? Some economists argue that the free movement of workers makes nations prosperous, but there’s more to Britain than its economy, and not everyone wants to do away with borders. How, without fierce gate-keepers, can we protect the places where we feel at home? With the human rights campaigner Bella Sankey; David Goodhart, who researches integration at the centre right think-tank Policy Exchange; the Chair of Britain’s oldest Immigration Museum, Susie Symes; and the former MEP and journalist Patrick O'Flynn. Produced by Olive Clancy

From Moral Maze at 2022-03-10 11:56:00

Sanctions, enablers and collective punishment (p0btln09.mp3)

We can’t help Ukraine with troops and planes, most politicians insist, but we can hit back at Putin by punishing his friends and choking the Russian economy. This week the long-promised Economic Crime Bill zipped through the Commons and could be law within a month. The Home Secretary said the legislation proves she’s determined to “hobble Putin and his cronies”. But it will do nothing to hurt their ‘enablers’ – the London-based accountants, lawyers and fixers who’ve helped the oligarchs to hide their money and muzzle their critics. Should we try to punish those people too, or does that cross a moral red line? We don’t need to wait for a new law before we start hurting ordinary Russians with economic sanctions. We’re already punishing extraordinary Russians, from Paralympians to opera singers, with bans and boycotts. Have they all deserved this for the crime of being Russian? Soon visa restrictions will start to trap Russian dissenters in a country that isn't safe for them. Is such "collective punishment" morally justified? What about our own economy, our businesses and their workers? Are we sure we will tolerate squeezing Russia when we have massive rises in the costs of energy and food? Some global companies are shutting down their Russian operations - at least temporarily. Others have not, though the pressure on them is growing. But is that a commercial decision or a moral one? Do we even want businesses to advertise their virtue, if (as the Nobel-winning economist Milton Friedman put it) the social responsibility of business is solely to increase profits? With broadcaster Isabel Hilton; journalist Niko Vorobyov; City University Professor of Finance and Accounting Atul K Shah and Economist Julian Jessop. Produced by Olive Clancy

From Moral Maze at 2022-03-03 09:52:00

Putin - did we help create a war criminal? (p0bs728y.mp3)

We don't know how the Ukrainian conflict will end. But how did it begin? The responsibility for the Ukraine conflict lies squarely with Vladimir Putin - described by some as cunning and crazy by others - this is his war. But was there a chance to prevent it? Would he have done this if the West behaved differently after the collapse of the Soviet Union when the new Ukraine was born? In these last decades, Russia built up its military strength while the European democracies made every effort to disarm. NATO might have trained Ukrainian troops and sent supplies right up to the invasion, but it repeatedly said it wouldn’t get directly involved. And now we have sanctions that could take years to act. Are the democracies weak? Or is despotism always doomed to fail in the end? What happens if, as seems likely, Putin takes Kyiv and installs a puppet regime. There will be a Resistance and our own Prime Minister is committed to helping it. How far should we go with that – food and medicine, of course, but will we potentially fund fighters who, to us, will be patriots but to the Kremlin will be terrorists? Russia is already waging “hybrid war” against the democratic nations. Should we try to beat Putin at his own game of cyber-attacks and deniable operations? To defeat a monster, must we become monstrous ourselves? With Alan Mendoza, Director of the right leaning think tank, The Henry Jackson Society; Political Scientist Yascha Mounk; Former MI6 officer Christopher Steele and Professor Janina Dill who researches the role of law and morality in International Relations. Produced by Olive Clancy

From Moral Maze at 2022-02-24 11:00:00

What is the countryside for? (p0bqykhm.mp3)

We should all have a legal right to nature, according to a group of more than 60 campaigning charities who say we need better access to the countryside. They have written to the government, complaining that one in three of us lives more than 15 minutes’ walk from the nearest green space. But is nature there for our enjoyment? Is the countryside just a recreational resource, to be exploited by anyone in possession of a pair of wellies? If we are entitled to delight in the landscape, don’t we also share the moral responsibility for looking after it? Maybe that means leaving it alone. Or should we be doing more to encourage our city-dwellers and minority ethnic communities to feel included there? The UK’s countryside is about to live through enormous change, with farmers to be given taxpayer cash to ‘rewild’ some of their land. But what should rewilding mean to them and to the rest of us? Bees and butterflies are lovely, but is it worth the loss of a few lambs to see eagles back in our skies? How about a few hundred lambs? Maybe the countryside really belongs to those who for generations have worked it for a hard-earned living; and maybe they have a perfect right to sell some of it to developers who want to build much-needed housing estates. We want the countryside to be richly stocked with exciting animals and beautiful woodlands. We want badgers and beavers and some of us (not the shepherds) want wolves and wildcats. We can't have everything, so what should we do? With Dr Sue Young of The Willdlife Trusts; Farmer Gareth Wyn Jones; Director of Rewilding Britain Alistair Driver and Property Analyst Kate Faulkner. Produced by Olive Clancy

From Moral Maze at 2022-02-18 16:39:00

How do we make a longer life a moral one? (p0bpz5b8.mp3)

We can add ten years to our lives if we chose, we’re told this week by scientists who have measured the effects of tweaking our lifestyles. The downside is we’ll need to give up meat and eat a lot of lentils to do it. Oh, and start very young. It won’t be easy – but is there a moral imperative to do it? Elsewhere, science is forging ahead with new, possibly less onerous ways to help us live longer. Researchers in Japan this week unveiled a serum that can halt aging, though so far only in mice. And Silicon Valley is reported to be full of start-ups working on rejuvenation techniques. But is a longer life a more moral life? If we get those extra years will they be worth the effort? Was Kingsley Amis right when he wrote: "No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home" ? Or is it irresponsible to indulge in life-shortening activities that you happen to enjoy, if they increase the reliance you may (sooner than you hope) be placing on the state? As a society we’re living longer than our parents, and much longer than our grandparents. But there are wide disparities. On average the rich make older bones than the poor, and a BMJ article this week deplored the fact that life expectancy is actually in decline in many deprived communities in the UK. Perhaps we have a collective moral duty to even that out, but it will be expensive. Who’s going to pay for the pensions and the care homes? Is the individual ambition to live to 100 intrinsically selfish and immoral when it imposes such burdens on others? With Repotting Your Life author Frances Edmonds; Longevity expert and London Business School Professor Andrew Scott; Director of the Free Market think tank IEA - Mark Littlewood and Political Economist Jeevan Sandher. Produced by Olive Clancy

From Moral Maze at 2022-02-10 10:46:00

What's our moral responsibility to the future? (p0bnbrsc.mp3)

Levelling up - a brighter and fairer future is on the way according to the Government. But what is our moral responsibility to the future and how does it weigh against the needs of the present? Maybe the stars of technology, economics and politics really are now aligned to bring an end to post-code inequalities. Or is this another hotch-potch of plans that can’t be judged until a time so distant we’ll have forgotten why we dreamed them up in the first place. Are plans for the future destined to fail because we over-reach? Or do they fail because we don’t reach far enough, so preoccupied are we with the selfish here and now? Meanwhile the UK is committed to the ambition of going carbon neutral by 2050, something that requires the sacrifice of higher energy bills today. Should we be prepared to be individually worse off, to put up with inconvenience and sacrifice our comfort for the benefit of our grandchildren? Does that remain true as gas prices rocket and new price rises are inevitable? And isn’t it true that if our forebears had made the sacrifices and adopted a forward looking energy plan 30 years ago, we wouldn’t be in this mess at all. What is our moral responsibility towards the future? And does it outweigh our responsibilities to the present and the inheritance we have from the past? With author of End State, James Plunkett; Politics Professor Rosie Campbell; Journalist Ross Clark and Politics lecturer Dr Gareth Dale.

From Moral Maze at 2022-02-03 18:11:00

How Free Should Speech Be? (p0bm2jd3.mp3)

Yielding to the big star pressure of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, this week Spotify agreed to put a content advisory label on any podcast that includes material about Covid. Mitchell and Young removed their music in protest at Joe Rogan’s podcasts. These shows are extremely popular globally but they aired views sceptical of Covid vaccines. In an Instagram post Rogan himself said he'd aim for more impartiality in future, but Spotify’s shares are down and more artists are joining the boycott. Who is responsible for the content of Spotify or any other digital platform? Is Covid a special case or must they remove or add a warning about anything any listeners might object to? Is it enough to say sorry or offer to slap on a "contentious material" label? At what point do such safeguards become censorship? And what about other, more traditional, intermediaries? This week the poet and teacher Kate Clanchy said she considered suicide after parting company with her publisher. She’d been accused of racism in the words she used about pupils in her memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. The students have defended her in print and Clanchy has apologised. And yet the debate goes on. Are publishers morally responsible for their authors ideas and beliefs? If the publisher or internet platform truly disagrees with the material, is it enough to issue an apology or label the offending material as contentious? And does intent count at all? With Journalist Brendan O'Neill, Academic Julie Posetti, Broadcaster Inaya Folarin Iman and Poet Anthony Anaxagorou.

From Moral Maze at 2022-01-28 12:13:00

Ukraine - to intervene or not to intervene. (p0bkwkrb.mp3)

President Putin insists that he has no intention of invading Ukraine. In amassing troops and weapons along the border, the Russians are merely ‘protecting their national interests’. Meanwhile NATO, the US-European military alliance, is busy reinforcing its eastern member states with ships and planes. Our own Prime Minister has issued dire warnings that Russia will not be allowed to harass a smaller neighbour in this way. So, who is right? Is there a moral imperative for us to protect a fledgling democracy that seems to be under threat? What, if anything, can we – or should we – do to support Ukraine? And what moral arguments do we have, to help us decide? Perhaps this is just aggressive posing by both sides that will drift on and die down. But what if it becomes something more? What if it embroils us in a European war? And if that happens, who will be to blame? Given the record of the UK and the West in Afghanistan and Iraq, do we even have the appetite for another foreign intervention? Is the very idea morally dubious? And, in any case, doesn’t the size of Russia’s nuclear arsenal make it impossible for us to call Putin’s bluff? With Global Governance Professor Mary Kaldor; Russia Expert Keir Giles; Newspaper Columnist Simon Jenkins and Kyiv University Political Scientist Taras Kuzio. Produced by Olive Clancy

From Moral Maze at 2022-01-20 14:24:00

The Rules - Expectations and Apologies (p0bjc50n.mp3)

In spite of his apology the calls continue for the Prime Minister to resign. He did not follow his own rules so he must go, says a sizeable majority in the polls. But why must he go? Sympathy, understanding and forgiveness are all virtues to celebrate - unless we happen to be talking about people we don’t like. Most of those who broke the lockdown rules (maybe you, maybe me) got away with it. Some got a caution or a fine; very few lost their jobs. The charge against Boris Johnson is not so much that he broke the law as that he crossed a moral boundary. So, what are the moral rules he is accused of breaking? And why isn’t his very public apology deemed by some to be not good enough? Anthropology tells us that the basic rules of morality are universal. But sociologists say that cultural norms dictate how we’re expected to behave, and Britain is culturally diverse. Given that politics is almost by definition an interplay of pragmatism and integrity, perhaps we should learn to live with our politicians’ clay feet and look elsewhere for paragons of moral virtue? With former Conservative MP Edwina Currie, Anthropologist Dr Oliver Scott Curry, Political theorist Dr Stephen de Vijze and Philosophy professor Quassim Cassam. Produced by Olive Clancy

From Moral Maze at 2022-01-12 20:45:00

Direct Action (p0bgtc8j.mp3)

The so-called Colston Four did not deny pulling down a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston, but last week in Bristol they were cleared of causing criminal damage. They argued that they were protesting for racial equality, “on the right side of history”, and a jury found in their favour. The four were celebrated by crowds outside the courthouse, part of a tradition, it seemed, of activists bringing social change by whatever means necessary. Their critics, on the other hand, say this is an invitation to vandalism since it sends a message that it is OK to take whatever action you choose to promote your cause. If your right to protest allows you to march against injustice should it also extend to the right to glue yourself to a road or topple a statue? This is the latest in a series of cases where juries have cleared protestors, despite there being no dispute about the facts. When the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion was acquitted in case with many parallels, he said it showed that “ordinary people, unlike the judiciary, are able to see the broader picture.” While a jury decision cannot legally set a precedent or influence another case, several MPs have expressed anger and concern about the implications of this verdict. They argue that the case should have been tried somewhere neutral and that the ‘expert witness’ should not have been an historian but a specialist in property rights. Who is right? Is history a legitimate defence after protestors smash up something that offends them? Are the rules being bent? And if so, is that what juries are for? With Jeremy Black, Jen Reid, Steven Barrett and Kirsty Brimelow. Produced by Olive Clancy

From Moral Maze at 2021-12-29 21:00:00

Meaning (p0bc5yks.mp3)

The end of one year and the beginning of another can be an obvious moment for people to set goals and reset priorities. The pandemic, from which we are yet to emerge, has put much into perspective and has doubtless prompted many to ask the question: where am I going with my life? What’s it all about? While none of us can truly know the meaning of life, most of us are meaning-seeking creatures who have our own ideas about what gives life meaning – God, nature, the arts, human relationships, good food, scientific progress. Is meaning essential to a life well lived or do we put too much pressure on ourselves in trying to create it? For some, the stories we tell about ourselves are the most powerful way of addressing existential questions like the climate crisis. Yet meaning is subjective, and is often separated by national, cultural, religious and ideological borders. Can our disparate human stories be harnessed as a motivator for collective action on the climate? Or is it hubris to suggest human beings can find a solution, and the story we should be telling instead is one in which the cavalry isn’t coming? Michael Buerk chairs this special end-of-year debate with guest panellists: Rowan Williams, Alice Roberts, Will Self and Bonnie Greer. With witnesses: Emily Esfahani-Smith, James Tartaglia, Martin Palmer and Charlotte Du Cann. Producer: Dan Tierney. #moralmaze

From Moral Maze at 2021-12-23 11:34:00

Peace and Goodwill (p0bcr4zb.mp3)

Christmas is the season of peace on earth and good will to all people. While we naturally want to endorse this sentiment, it is also a yearly reminder of how conflict and bad faith exist in our homes and in wider society. While some families will celebrate a long-anticipated and joyful reunion, others will be trying to hold their tongue about divisive issues like Brexit or Covid until the same time next year. Surely, we could all benefit from a bit more listening, understanding and compromising? But what if deeply-held principles, make compromise impossible without sacrificing one’s own integrity? Is it better to say nothing at all for short-term peace or speak forthrightly not knowing if the long-term outcome for the relationship will be one of rupture or repair? Beyond the domestic setting is the question of how we address the cultural warfare we see in the public discourse around us. What will it take for us to come out of our ideological trenches and stop our sniping? Perhaps it starts by recognising that we all have egos that are difficult to tame, and admitting we’re wrong doesn’t make us weak. We hear the calls to ‘disagree respectfully’, but how? For some, the very idea solves or advances very little, particularly for the most marginalised in society. For others, the point isn’t to solve anything but to live together in difference while upholding each other’s humanity. With Gabrielle Rifkind, Dr Becca Bland, Rev Steve Chalke and Sarah Stein Lubrano. Producer: Dan Tierney

From Moral Maze at 2021-12-15 20:45:00

Do we get the politicians we deserve? (p0bb7xlh.mp3)

The Number 10 ‘party’ scandal has prompted questions not only about whether the Prime Minister is still an electoral asset but whether he and his government have the moral authority to lead us through the lingering pandemic. According to a recent YouGov poll, the level of trust in UK politicians has fallen to an historic low. Despite the scathing attacks from across the political spectrum, are today’s political leaders any morally worse than in previous generations? Some see morality as having been vacuumed out of politics over recent decades; where once politicians had principles, character and a sense of public service, there are now too many who are primarily seeking to boost their own status. Others point out, however, that we’ve always felt this way about our leaders, from whom we demand the impossible, failing to remember that they are imperfect human beings like the rest of us. Morality in politics is about more than parliamentary standards and the ethical conduct of individuals. Some blame the antics of politicians on the political and democratic system that underpins them; an electoral cycle which does not suit long-term visions for society and a disempowering voting system. Others argue that it’s not the system which is broken, but a polarised political culture which focuses too much on image-crafting, cult of personality and superficial soundbites, encouraged by both traditional and social media. Do we get the politicians we deserve? Producer: Dan Tierney

From Moral Maze at 2021-12-10 14:33:00

60 Years of the Contraceptive Pill (p0b98447.mp3)

It’s 60 years since the contraceptive pill was made available on the NHS. It has had a revolutionary impact on women’s lives and on society. In 1961 women often married at an early age and many were expected to stay at home and raise a family while men went out to work. The ability for women to have control of their own fertility meant they could choose to have children and a career on their own terms. The availability of the pill undoubtedly changed the nature of sexual relationships, even if it was not the single cause of the sexual revolution. While many view sex without the possibility of pregnancy as integral to a woman’s moral agency, social conservatives argue that separating sex from reproduction threatens the traditional family unit, which they see as the foundation of a stable society. More recently, there has been a backlash by some women against hormonal contraceptives to try to reclaim autonomy over their bodies. 60 years on, we live in a very different society but can we say we have made progress when it comes to attitudes towards women and sex? Teenage girls report sexual abuse in schools and on social media, while concern is growing among experts about the impact on children of readily-available pornographic images. If this isn’t where we hoped we might be, where do we go from here? Where now for women’s liberation? Is it time for another sexual revolution? With Dr. Sarah Jarvis, Caroline Farrow, Emma Chan and Louise Perry. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-07-29 09:31:00

The Morality of Partying (p09qr05d.mp3)

It’s easy to see how lots of people singing, shouting and smooching in a stuffy space would keep a virologist up at night. Within hours of nightclubs reopening the Prime Minister announced that full vaccination will be the condition of entry from September. The Netherlands recently tried reopening its clubs and quickly decided to close them again amid rising infection rates. We may be free to party, but we’re not free of the virus. Just because we can, does it mean we should? For some, there is a clear moral case for delaying our gratification that little bit longer. Another view is that we have to start living again; young people in particular deserve an escape after the months of sacrifice, and the fact that every adult in the UK has now been offered at least one jab should be an important part of the moral calculation. Others have gone even further than the Beastie Boys in suggesting we have not just a right, but a duty, to party. Is there an intrinsic moral value in revelry? Those partial to a bit of table-top dancing might argue that these are spontaneous and transcendent experiences of human connection; in theological terms, a celebration of the gift of life itself. Yet, many philosophical and religious traditions have been highly suspicious of hedonistic pleasures. Modern-day stoics and puritans might associate a “living for the weekend” clubbing culture with chaos, over-indulgence and a loss of self-control. Does the truest form of joy lie in self-restraint? Or should we follow Oscar Wilde’s advice: “everything in moderation, including moderation”? With Jeremy Gilbert, Prof Christopher Gill, Olivia Petter and Julian Tang. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-07-22 09:28:00

Animal Sentience (p09q3ch9.mp3)

The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, currently working its way through Parliament, would for the first time formally recognise that animals have the ability to experience feelings, including pain, joy and fear. If the law is passed, the government will establish an Animal Sentience Committee to scrutinise policy. Many hope it would offer animals greater protection - only this week, the BBC’s Panorama programme revealed that rules designed to protect horses from a cruel death appear to be regularly ignored at one of the UK's biggest abattoirs. Some want the bill to go even further by including invertebrates, which, for example, could ban the practice of boiling crustaceans alive. Critics of the proposals believe current animal welfare legislation is sufficient and worry about the unintended consequences for farming, fishing and countryside sports. They argue there should be no contradiction in the idea that a nation of ‘animal lovers’ could eat billions of them every year. The way we treat (and whether we eat) animals has important implications, not just for the status of animals, but for the status of human beings. A rights-based approach has argued that since the moral status of humans overlaps with some animals, we should consider those animals equally deserving of rights. Others believe that elevating the status of animals diminishes the uniqueness of human beings. Is it time to think of some animals not just as having rights, but as occupying the same moral universe as humans, worthy of our trust and capable of being betrayed? Or should the relationship between man and beast always be seen as one of human dominion? With Jim Barrington, Claire Bass, Dr Steve Cooke and Nick Zangwill. Producers: Dan Tierney and Phil Pegum.

From Moral Maze at 2021-07-15 08:46:00

The Future of Work (p09ph40w.mp3)

Is it time to rethink our attitude to work? Nearly half of employees care less about their careers since Covid, according to a survey this week of 2000 staff of large companies. Four in ten said they are concerned about work-related burnout and a quarter of women said the pandemic has had a negative impact on their work-life balance. The lockdown has disrupted long-existing patterns of work for some and exposed the work-based inequalities of others. As we’re about to unlock, many believe this is the moment to re-negotiate the role of work in our lives. Some believe that employers should be more adaptable to the individual circumstances of their employees, seeking as far as possible to eradicate work-related stress for the sake of their mental health. Others think greater flexibility based on people’s lifestyles could foster a culture of entitlement and we should accept that a certain amount of stress is inseparable from productivity and creativity. What about the value of work itself? For some, the goal should be to do less and less of it. Trials of a four-day week in Iceland were described as an "overwhelming success" and led to many workers moving to shorter hours. Radical advocates of leisure time defend the ‘right to be lazy’ and view idleness as central to creativity. While others believe that work is intrinsic to a person’s sense of purpose and dignity. Is there a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ work in an economy that has seen billionaires get richer while some families have struggled to put food on the table during the pandemic? Should we work to live or live to work? With Philip Booth, Matthew Garrahan, Will Stronge and Otegha Uwagba. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-07-08 09:55:00

Justice and Peace (p09ns20v.mp3)

Northern Ireland's largest cross-community victims' group, Wave Trauma Centre, has written to Boris Johnson opposing the idea of a “de-facto amnesty” for Troubles-related prosecutions, after the cases of two Army veterans facing murder charges were dropped. It follows reports that the government has been considering a ban on all prosecutions prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement under a statute of limitations, focusing instead on information retrieval for the families of those killed. Most people will never be in a position to understand the pain of losing a loved one unlawfully. How do we weigh their need for justice, against the need to build a lasting peace in the community? Many families regard immunity from prosecution as an insult to victims on all sides, and a betrayal of those who are committed to justice. While others believe it is time to put future peace ahead of past injustice, with an 'amnesty' that centres on 'truth recovery'. Are prosecutions always central to any notion of justice? Does the pursuit of justice or peace always require trade-offs or is it impossible to achieve one without the other, as the anti-racist slogan “No Justice, No Peace” suggests? What role, if any, does forgiveness play? What lessons can be learned from post-conflict societies around the world? With Brian Rowan, Sandra Peake, Bonny Ibhawoh and Selina Stone. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-07-01 08:25:00

Patriot Games (p09n2fj8.mp3)

It’s that time every two (or three) years when St George’s flags flap out of car windows and red cross bunting festoons the front of the houses of England football fans. At any other time, such behaviour might be greeted with suspicion, even concern, such is the pejorative perception of patriotism expressed by the English. Why does English patriotism have such bad PR? Patriots see their cause as unifying; a positive sense of the nation as something which holds us all together in our different tribes. Others reject being coerced to love their country, whether they like it or not, just because that’s where they happened to be born. Patriotism can’t escape the past. For those on the right of politics it’s often about celebrating one’s national story; for those on the left it’s about reckoning with it. Patriotism has always been inescapably political, but there is a sense on both sides that it has now been co-opted into the ‘culture wars’. Calls for schoolchildren to sing a ‘One Britain, One Nation’ song is seen as a disingenuous dog whistle for right-wing nationalists and racists, while criticism of the inclusion of ‘Rule Britannia’ during the Last Night of the Proms is, for others, a sign of ‘wokery gone too far’. Is English patriotism now intrinsically divisive and threatening, incapable of disentangling itself from authoritarian nationalism? Or can it be reclaimed and redeemed from what it has become in many people’s eyes? With Dia Chakravarty, Robert Beckford, Billy Bragg and Gavin Esler. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-06-24 10:32:00

Rights and Rules (p09mdqly.mp3)

The New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard looks set to make history after being confirmed as the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games. Hubbard previously competed in men’s events before transitioning in 2013. She is eligible due to a change in International Olympic Committee guidelines on testosterone levels in 2015, and after qualifying requirements were modified by the International Weightlifting Federation. For many campaigners this is a landmark moment for trans people, whose participation at grassroots level sport is shamefully low. Moreover, while there are many different male and female body types, they see elite sport as reflecting society’s obsession with gender stereotypes and worry about the implications for anyone who does not meet ‘conventional standards’ of femininity. Opponents think that allowing transgirls, who were assigned male at birth, to compete with cis girls is unfair. They argue that, in the vast majority of cases, males are stronger, faster and more powerful than females – if that were not the case we would not have had to segregate sport in the first place. The New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive, Kereyn Smith, said this complex issue required, “a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play”. This raises a deeper philosophical question: what is the relationship between rights and rules? And which of these is best placed to achieve fairness – not just in sporting competition but between competing demands? When should rules and laws be challenged and when does a person’s sense of their natural rights go too far? With Dr Dafydd Mills Daniel, Joanna Harper, Debbie Hayton and Adam Wagner. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-06-17 10:03:00

The Morality of Swearing (p09lqsz1.mp3)

Strong swear words are becoming an increasing part of everyday life, according to research from the British Board of Film Classification. Six in ten of us are now comfortable cursing. A third of us have a greater propensity for profanity than five years ago. What has not changed is the desire to censor swearing in age-restricted cinema and DVD releases. This seems almost quaint in an internet age where almost no content has a gatekeeper. It does, however, point to contradictory attitudes to bad language. Those who dislike swearing think it is vulgar, morally corrupting and intellectually base; the words themselves can be seen an aggressive act, unacceptable in any context. Some see swear words as morally neutral, where any real or perceived harm is entirely dependent upon the intent of the speaker. Others think they can even have a moral power as an expression of strong sentiment and solidarity. Others still, see the creative influence of swear words as linguistically and culturally enriching. Have we become too complacent about bad language? What do generational attitudes to swearing reveal about wider social change? Why have some strong obscenities become more acceptable, while slurs have become less acceptable? How do we negotiate a public discourse in which everyone draws their own lines about the acceptability of swearing? Frankly, should we give a damn? With Peter Hitchens, Dr Rebecca Roache, Esther Rantzen and Simon Donald. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-06-10 13:12:00

The Morality of Taxation (p09l35dh.mp3)

The G7 group of advanced economies has reached a deal to make multinational companies pay more tax. It is a cause which has focussed minds in the wake of a costly global pandemic. For centuries, taxation has been seen as a moral, as well as an economic, principle. At a national level, some see this as a moment for the government to be bold in recouping wealth from those who have become richer during the Covid-19 crisis, and redistributing it to redress the social and economic inequalities the virus has exposed. Those who argue for high taxes on the rich believe that no one achieves their wealth on their own; rather, their wealth is a product of the society they live in, and taxation is a moral mechanism to recognise the people and infrastructures that enabled that wealth creation in the first place. While some see taxation as raising revenue for public goods, others see it as plunder and theft. Low tax enthusiasts don’t view taxation as a moral obligation at all, since there is no choice involved, and they often object to the way in which their money is spent. Moreover, they don’t believe that higher taxes are intrinsically more moral since public spending can relieve people of personal responsibility and limit their ability to spend their own money on the charitable causes that matter to them. Would a truly fair and equal society need to tax its citizens? What constitutes a fair tax system? To what extent is the contents of our pay packet ‘ours’? With Dr Eamonn Butler, Dr Philip Goff, James Quarmby and Carys Roberts. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-06-03 11:29:00

Happiness (p09kfn53.mp3)

Philosophers and artists, from Epicurus to Ken Dodd, have grappled with the secret to happiness. Now, neuroscientists at University College London suggest the answer could lie in the equation: (t)=w0 +w1∑j=1tγt −jCRj +w2∑j=1tγt −jEVj +w3∑j=1tγt −jRPEj. While hardly rolling off the tongue, the formula roughly translates to mean that we should lower our expectations to be happy – but not so low, and for so long, that it makes us unhappy. This appears to fly in the face of a celebrity culture that chases fame, status and success as ends in themselves. Self-help books and "positive psychology" promise to train us into a happy mood. While the wellness industry is booming, so is the prescription of antidepressants, increasingly for teenagers – according to The National Institute for Health Research. What does this reveal about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? What is wrong with personal happiness as a life goal? Some think that there is too much stuffiness about happiness, that there is nothing selfish about self-care, and that people should be free to set the bar as high as they wish and explore personal fulfilment however they chose. Others believe that life should be about more than seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, that the conscious pursuit of happiness can make us more miserable, and that happiness – rather than being an expectation – should be a by-product of a life well-lived. How useful or desirable is it to measure happiness, particularly when it comes to the wellbeing of a nation? As some economists have observed, beyond a certain point, GDP no longer captures the nuances of citizens’ happiness. Is it time to consider Gross Domestic Happiness? Or is there something dystopian about a government defining what happiness means, since our moods are fleeting and we all have own definition of a happy life? With Dr Andy Cope, Dr William Davies, Dr Ashley Frawley and Sir Anthony Seldon. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-05-27 13:49:00

Is it immoral to refuse the vaccine? (p09jsbp3.mp3)

According the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the “vast majority” of people in Bolton who have been admitted to hospital after contracting the fast-spreading Indian variant of Covid-19 had been offered a vaccine but hadn’t taken it. Attempts to persuade vaccine uptake have focussed on public health, social freedom and economic recovery. What about the language of morality? Is it immoral to refuse the vaccine? We are social beings, and the definition of morality is behaving in a way that is good for others, not just ourselves. How are we to make moral judgments when there are many reasons for vaccine refusal and hesitancy: conspiracy theories, false information, health concerns, religious objections as well as cultural and language barriers. Some people justify their refusal precisely because they believe it to be moral. It could be argued that to be moral isn’t always about doing the right thing, it’s about seeking to do the right thing, and even if you have reached the wrong conclusions, this doesn’t make you bad person. Vaccine refusal often involves a group dimension above and beyond individual choice. A potential consequence of moral condemnation is the scapegoating of entire groups. While it is true that vaccine uptake is greater among white adults, it is also the case for the vast majority of adults across all social groups. Nevertheless, if there is a connection between vaccine hesitancy and certain religious or ethnic groups, how should we respond without risking further stigmatisation? To what extent does this issue raise wider questions about social integration and trust in British institutions? With Dr Rakib Ehsan, Dr Alberto Giubilini, David Halpern and Dr Travis Rieder. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-04-01 14:43:00

The Meaning of Easter (p09chkjl.mp3)

Easter 2021 comes at the end of an annus horribilis. We are meaning-seeking creatures, and the symbolism is everywhere if you want to find it. There’s the re-birth associated with the Spring equinox, the hope in the Christian account of the resurrection, the freedom marked by the Jewish Passover, and the reflection and restoration embodied in the Muslim observance of Ramadan. While many faith and spiritual groups instinctively see this is a powerful moment in the calendar, for many people, the Easter bank holiday weekend means very little other than gorging on chocolate eggs. What should Easter mean? In Christianity, it’s more important than Christmas, and no story has had a greater influence on Western civilisation. While we are no longer a ‘Christian’ society, should Easter be more of a moment of national unity, which transcends the cultural and faith traditions of Britain? We all instinctively know what is meant by the ‘Christmas spirit’, but should we be re-imagining an Easter equivalent, based on values like sacrifice and forgiveness? Or does the very fact of having designated time off work to spend how we chose provide meaning enough? Some people think we need to come together more than ever as a means of channelling our soul-searching following the existential insecurity of the last year. Others are more sceptical about the insistence that crises like pandemics naturally lead to deep moral or spiritual introspection, and question the value of collective gestures like clapping the NHS. As a nation and as a society should we invest more in the meaning of these moments as a basis for dialogue and togetherness? Or is any national endeavour of this kind bound to be seen as coercive and rendered meaningless? With Julian Baggini, Ronald Hutton, Rev Rachel Mann and David Mills. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-03-29 17:55:00

Moral certainty in a pandemic (p09c5j3t.mp3)

The mathematician John Allen Paulos once said, “uncertainty is the only certainty there is”. One year on from the beginning of the first lockdown, never has this felt more true. In light of this, how certain should we be in our judgments about the decisions that were taken by those in power over the last twelve months? One strongly-held view is that had the government and its advisors been more decisive, acting with greater moral clarity in the early stages of the pandemic, more lives would have been saved. While for others, hindsight is 20:20 and context is everything, and any decisions taken in the midst of extreme uncertainty must be judged accordingly. In the last year we have witnessed anything but moral clarity in our passionate debates about the balance of harms and the clashes of good versus good. Public health has been pitted against livelihoods, family life, culture and the right to protest. What lessons should we take from the pandemic about the moral value of certainty? Uncertainty, particularly if it is prolonged, is psychologically bad for us and something we instinctively want to avoid for the sake of our mental health. In leadership, we admire those who have a clarity of vision, who are not paralysed by indecision and who keep their doubts to themselves. Others, however, believe that the reason society is so polarised is because too many people are certain they are right, and that moral certitude often has the effect of pandering to one group of people while alienating another. Is it a moment to embrace complexity, humility and self-reflection? Or has the last year provided a moral clarity about all sorts of things, notably injustices, that must now push back hard against any lingering doubt? With Raghib Ali, Lord David Blunkett, Jonathan Calvert and Quassim Cassam. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-03-18 17:28:00

The Morality of Masculinity (p09b3v3s.mp3)

The abduction and murder of Sarah Everard has provoked widespread anger, fear, solidarity and soul-searching. While some may see elements of a moral panic, how are we to deal with the uncomfortable truth that, despite progress in so many areas of life, the overwhelming majority of domestic abuse, sexual assault and violent pornography is perpetrated by men against women? Is there something intrinsically wicked about men? That’s a very stark question, which invites deeper exploration. For some, the problem starts with the very idea of ‘masculinity’, which they regard as a social construct; a self-perpetuating myth; a set of harmful descriptors about how men should behave. Others believe that ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are not arbitrary categories, that they usefully describe fundamental biological differences, and that to view the male propensity for violence solely as a ‘masculine’ problem wrongly demonises all men. Assuming there are ‘toxic’ aspects of masculinity, how should we deal with them? For some, it starts at birth with the compartmentalising of boys and girls into the clothes they should wear and the toys they should play with. The inherent misogyny behind this social-conditioning, they argue, pressurises many teenage boys into not displaying so-called ‘feminine’ traits. Is it time to re-define masculinity or scrap it altogether? Others warn against the dissolution of gender binaries and believe it is possible to celebrate male strength and competitiveness without encouraging pathological behaviour. While others argue that we need to address the relationship poverty that cuts through society: from the absence of paternal role models in the home to educating public school boys about consent. With Madeleine Kearns, Dr Lucy Nicholas, Tom Ross-Williams and Dr Andrew Smiler. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-03-04 16:07:00

Conditions on living in a post-vaccine world (p098pw4d.mp3)

The Covid vaccine has given us a ‘roadmap’ out of the lockdown but it also provides us with a whole new set of moral conundrums. The virus will likely be with us forever, so the question becomes: how will we live with it in the medium and long-term? We’ve all accepted conditions on our daily lives, with the view that they would be temporary, but should we have to get used to them? Downing Street says the idea of a "Covid passport" app is still under review. Should we make the ability to travel, socialise in public or even go to school and work conditional on having been vaccinated? Those in favour, say it’s a pragmatic route to normal life in a world of vaccine hesitancy. Others base their argument on the principles of safety and fairness: there is a good reason to treat people with immunity differently if they are not a risk to others. The 200,000+ people who signed a recent online petition urging the government not to introduce vaccine passports are worried about their impact on civil liberties and social cohesion. Sam Grant from the human rights organisation Liberty said they would, "create a two-tier society where some people can access support and freedoms, while others are shut out - with the most marginalised among us hardest hit." For many, conditionality is an issue of trust, fairness and proportionality; it is part of the give and take of the responsibilities and rights of citizens. In welfare, for example, they believe people should demonstrate their commitment to finding work in order to receive benefit payments. For others, conditionality undermines social cohesion, because it comes with an implicit sense of blaming victims. Rather than further stigmatising people by attaching conditions to their daily lives, they believe we need to understand better why they are not pursuing a particular course of action. What, if any, conditions should be applied to living in a post-vaccine world? With Silkie Carlo, Matthew Oakley, Prof Julian Savulescu and Dr Beth Watts. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-03-02 16:52:00

Free Speech at Universities (p098hpdn.mp3)

The government has announced a series of proposals to “strengthen free speech and academic freedom at universities in England”, with a “free speech champion” investigating potential infringements on campuses. The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson warned of a “chilling effect” where students and staff feel they cannot express themselves freely. Many believe these measures are a welcome legal intervention following claims of increasing numbers of individuals being silenced, no-platformed or sacked. Critics, however, say the threat to free speech on campuses is grossly exaggerated and the government is cynically stirring up a culture war to distract from its own failings in tackling Covid. Moreover, they claim these proposals actively undermine free speech because they are just another way of controlling what is 'acceptable' speech, the impact of which is to discipline those who are defending others from racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. Students have a right to physical safety and to expect not to be subjected to hatred, but some worry about a ‘concept creep’ in which the definition of hate speech has widened to include any opinions that go against the prevailing orthodoxy. Academics’ own experiences are mixed: some say they feel no pressure of censorship, others believe their colleagues are in denial about the regression of academic freedom. Universities have long been seen as places of intellectual danger, where people go to be shocked and changed. Is this idea in retreat? Or are universities still the vibrant and stimulating places they always were, with a generation of students who are merely less tolerant of intolerance? With Jonathan Haidt, Zamzam Ibrahim, Prof Eric Kaufmanm and Prof Dr Alison Scott-Baumann. Producer: Dan Tierney

From Moral Maze at 2021-02-18 12:50:00

Personal Responsibility (p097clcs.mp3)

We’d probably all be able to give the government a score out of ten for its handling of the pandemic – but how many of us have even thought of subjecting ourselves to the same level of scrutiny? From illegal raves, house parties and large family weddings to the everyday decisions not to wear a mask or socially distance, how much should the public take a share of the responsibility for the spread of the virus? The author and commentator Matthew Syed claims that personal responsibility is “in retreat”. Citing a new drug to tackle obesity by hijacking the brain’s appetite-regulating system – while evidently good news – he cautions against the pernicious effects of easy fixes on human character and our sense of self. When a homeless person dies on the streets, many will view that tragedy as a “failure of the system”, and it would be unpopular to suggest the cause lies, even in small part, with the individual. Yet, individual autonomy is today’s sacred creed and it’s argued that with rights come responsibilities. Others believe there is a flaw in that logic because, as the pandemic has shown, we don’t all have the same resources or enjoy the freedom to pursue our lives as we would choose; that we are all products of our social background and no choice is made in a vacuum. What has our response to the pandemic revealed about the value we place in personal responsibility compared to other countries and cultures? Have we made too much or too little of the idea? And what does this tell us about how we should be tackling all kinds of social issues? Does an emphasis on free will, choice and responsibility help us to understand them better, or can it obscure what’s really going on? With Prof Sally Bloomfield, Dr Alexander Brown, Dr Deepti Gurdasani and Prof Sir Michael Marmot. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2021-02-10 20:45:00

The ‘Age of Impunity’ (p096lyq4.mp3)

“America is back”, said President Joe Biden, ushering in a new era of US foreign policy. There is a lot in his in-tray. Having announced an end to US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, he faces a coup in Myanmar, Russia’s election meddling and the “very credible case” of genocide against the Uighurs in China. There has been a sense for some time that liberal democracy is in retreat, politically, morally and perhaps also militarily. The result, according to some, is that we have become toothless in holding aggressive actors and rogue regimes to account. David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee, has described this as the ‘Age of Impunity’, where “war crimes go unpunished” and “militaries, militias, and mercenaries in conflicts around the world believe they can get away with anything”. Others might argue we have short memories, and the last century is full of tyrants we neglected to confront, atrocities we failed to prevent and conflicts we made worse through our morally-motivated interventions. If the US is resetting the global democratic order, recommitting to alliances and international agreements, what should be its guiding principles? Is there a place for morality in global affairs, or has it always been about realpolitik and enlightened self-interest? As a nation and as a group of nations, is it time to assert strong moral values on the global stage, whatever the consequences, or is it better to be pragmatic and honest about the problems we can and can’t solve? With David Miliband, Dr Joseph Nye, Prof Adrian Pabst and Prof Patrick Porter. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-12-02 20:45:00

Christmas 2020 (p0909x7q.mp3)

The ethical calculation families across the UK have to make about seeing loved ones this Christmas could have far-reaching and potentially fatal consequences. The government has laid down the rules, but the moral choices lie between the gaps. Those who urge caution, even a postponement of Christmas, say it’s about taking personal responsibility to make everyone safe, and that it would be wrong to let our guard down now that the vaccine ‘cavalry’ is just over the other side of the hill. The other side of the argument is that, at the end of a terrible year, we deserve something to celebrate with family and friends, even if that means taking greater risks for a limited period of time. Do we have a right to Christmas? At what price? What is certain is that Christmas this year won’t be business as usual. So perhaps it is an opportunity to re-evaluate how and why we celebrate it? Some believe the pressure to conform to Christmas as we know it is psychologically bad for us. They are critical, sometimes for religious reasons, of what they see as months of build-up, driven by consumerism, all for a couple of days of rampant excess and dashed expectations, putting a strain on relationships. Is this a moment to reflect on the things that really matter; empathy for others over individualistic materialism? Others resist the call to simplify Christmas or to go back to its ‘original meaning’. Since time immemorial, Northern European cultures have celebrated a mid-winter festival, and before the Victorians re-invented Christmas, the season has always been somewhat raucous. Many think it should be a time of joyful celebration in the middle of dark nights and dark times; a gesture of companionship and welcome in modern, multi-cultural and multi-faith Britain. With Prof Linda Bauld, Ronald Hutton, Laura Perrins and Dr Steve Taylor. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-11-30 17:29:00

The Morality of Vaccination (p0901j6f.mp3)

It’s hard to remember what normal life feels like, but for the first time since the start of the pandemic, there are reasons to be optimistic about when we might return to it. It looks increasingly likely that by the New Year at least one highly-effective Covid vaccine will be available. Despite this promising news, any new vaccines will be rationed, cost money and carry some degree of risk. This prompts a number of ethical and moral considerations. For some, this as a matter of global justice; they believe it would be immoral and counterproductive to distribute a vaccine on the basis of whichever countries have the biggest pockets. Others think it’s perfectly reasonable for any state to prioritise the health of its own citizens, particularly the vulnerable. There are those who have concerns about the speed of the vaccine trials, and believe that if we’re going to inoculate billions of people, many of whom are asymptomatic or unaffected, we’ve got to make sure we’re not cutting corners and causing harm. While, for others, normal rules shouldn’t apply during a crisis, and the faster you can get the vaccines out, the better. And what about those who refuse a Covid jab? There have been calls for emergency laws to stamp out anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories online. Last year, NHS chief Simon Stevens warned that large numbers of parents rejecting vaccines for their children was a "growing public health time bomb". Is there a moral case for compulsory vaccination? Or is it an unjustifiable infringement on civil liberties and parental rights? With Prof Helen Bedford, Matthew Lynn, Dr Julian Sheather and Prof Tom Solomon. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-11-26 14:17:00

Defence versus Foreign Aid (p08zq1cv.mp3)

The Chancellor’s spending review this week has thrown up competing moral visions for Britain’s place in a post-Covid, post-Brexit world. On the one hand, there will be a boost in defence spending on drones and cyberwarfare; on the other, speculation about the UK’s foreign aid commitment has prompted ex-prime ministers, charities and religious leaders to speak out against any proposed cuts to the aid budget. Symbolically, if not practically, defence spending and overseas aid are seen to be in competition since they are both projections of global Britain. If so, how can we assess their competing moral worth? Is using taxpayers’ money for defence any morally better or worse than for foreign aid? One worldview contends that prioritising investment in defence is jingoistic and problematic, while funding international development is benign and benevolent. Others, meanwhile, consider there to be a greater moral obligation towards those closer to home in response to changing threats from malicious regimes, and question whether the distribution of public funds in the form of overseas aid is incorruptible. Or are the two sectors inextricably linked? Some see international development almost as a branch of national security, exercising soft power and helping to shore up unstable states, while others point out the role of the armed forces in peacekeeping, delivering humanitarian aid and combatting the drugs trade. Both military personnel and aid charities are guided by a moral code and, in both cases, include individuals who have fallen short of that code. When it comes to the daily motivations of human beings on the ground, is the ethos of the armed forces any different to the ethos of international aid workers? With Dr Sabina Alkire, Ian Birrell, Prof Michael Clarke and Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-11-11 21:00:00

Democratic Legitimacy (p08y4kpd.mp3)

Donald Trump is refusing to concede the US election, making unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud and planning rallies across the country to build support for the legal fights ahead. The ‘leader of the free world’ is having a wobble and it is a testing time for democracy. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to unify a country that has become so polarised that even the choice about whether or not to wear a mask during a pandemic is seen as political. What do the deep divisions, and even the denial of the outcome of the vote, mean for the democratic legitimacy of the office of the president? Many of Mr Biden’s followers believe there is now a moral imperative for all Americans, regardless of their politics, to support him in his attempt to unite the states of America. Many Trump voters, however, say they feel not just forgotten, but despised by the opposition, and see the appeal to unity as another way of telling large swathes of the electorate to ‘get with the programme’ or to ‘see the error of their ways’. Democratic legitimacy can be a slippery concept. Many have argued that there is no such thing as the ‘will of the people’, or even, depending on voter turnout, the will of most people. As Brexit trade talks resume this week, there are still those who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the referendum and believe the concerns voiced in the last four years about the social, political and economic impact of leaving the EU change the democratic, and moral, equation. Their opponents denounce them as democracy deniers. How long after a democratic decision is made are we compelled to be loyal to it? While we can all be pious about democratic legitimacy, can we also be guilty of playing fast and loose with it when it suits us? With Prof Matthew Goodwin, Dr Jan Halper-Hayes, Prof Allan Lichtman and Prof Bo Rothstein. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-11-04 21:00:00

The Morality of Mortality (p08xd2rl.mp3)

The Prime Minister said the second lockdown in England was necessary to avoid the "medical and moral disaster" of the NHS being overwhelmed. In starker terms: many people will die if nothing is done, and not just of Covid-19. Depending on one’s perspective, the government’s strategy has either been too concerned, or not concerned enough, with the avoidance of death above all else. What has the crisis revealed about our attitude to our own mortality and how we value human life? Some are accused of being too blasé about the fact that many who died in the first wave of the pandemic either had ‘underlying conditions’ or, more bluntly, would have died soon anyway. Others, who believe the second lockdown should have been sooner and more severe, are accused of giving in to fear – as one lady quipped in a TV vox pop: “I’m 83 and I don’t give a sod”. Nevertheless, the coronavirus has made many people face death far earlier than they were expecting. People have died alone and their loved ones have grieved for them in isolation. For some, the pandemic has highlighted how inadequate we are at confronting death more generally. Medical progress has given us longer and healthier lives yet there are many who believe that we have focused too much on prolonging life rather than making the time we have left meaningful. We also live in an age when some think the prospect of ‘defeating death’ is in touching distance. Is death the ultimate taboo in our culture? If we can’t medicalise our way out of it, how can we live – and die – well? With Prof Michael Hauskeller, Kathryn Mannix, Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy and Prof Ellen Townsend. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-10-28 21:00:00

Celebrity Power (p08wqf4r.mp3)

Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free meals for vulnerable children during school holidays has received widespread support from both the public and the media, with some describing Rashford as rising from sportsman to statesman, the noble quest of a celebrity footballer taking on the might of the Government. Whether he succeeds remains to be seen but it demonstrates the growing power of the celebrity. Advertisers and charities alike have long understood the power of associating celebrities with a product or a cause. They can guarantee visibility and familiarity and their likeability, attractiveness and success are known to influence the way many think and act regardless of whether the celebrities themselves know much about the cause they are championing. But when it comes to public policy should politicians be held to ransom by the power and influence of celebrities? Shouldn’t it be up to Government how it spends its money not the celebrities who are not accountable for their actions? Yet the relationship between politics and celebrities are becoming increasingly blurred. Celebrities are often asked to endorse political campaigns. In America, the history of politics is populated by celebrities themselves achieving political success from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Ronald Reagan and now Donald Trump to name but a few. Some would argue this has reduced political success to whether you like or dislike a politician not on well-rehearsed political arguments or ideologies. Others would argue that it degrades the moral status of government and is a danger to democracy. So who has the moral authority – the politician or the celebrity? With Paul Cullen, Dr Mark Harvey, Prof Natasha Lindstaedt and Brendan O’Neill. Producer: Amanda Hancox

From Moral Maze at 2020-10-22 13:17:00

Global Capitalism and the ‘Lost Generation’ (p08w0wmw.mp3)

By November, 1 million young people in the UK will be unemployed, according to a report out this week from the newly-launched Alliance for Full Employment. It has the backing of the former Prime Minister and Chancellor Gordon Brown, who warned of a “lost Covid generation” of young people with no prospects and nothing to do. The cost, he says, is more than just a financial one: “It destroys self-worth; it hurts family life; it shatters communities”. So what should our moral obligation be to this generation? A parallel has been drawn with the post-war period which saw the birth of the Welfare State. While there is widespread support for short-term financial help, there are those who caution against what they see as writing off an entire generation as ‘lost’, or institutionalising state dependency; they believe that the pandemic has merely accelerated inevitable economic change from which a brighter future can emerge. There are many young people who don’t share that optimism, and point to how the Covid crisis has exposed pre-existing health and wealth inequalities, which, for them, raises bigger questions about the morality of global capitalism. This is the moment, they argue, to change capitalism so that it focuses on what humans really want and need, and to actively promote the things we value beyond financial success and economic usefulness. Capitalism’s supporters, however, see our quality of life as being intrinsically bound up with markets and economic growth. For them the moral response to Covid is to kick start the consumer boom and allow people the freedom to make money unconstrained. Is it time for a radical challenge to unbridled capitalism for sake of the young, or is the ‘invisible hand’ still the best way to get a leg up? With Grace Blakeley, Ian Goldin, Daniel Pryor and Jamie Whyte. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-10-14 21:00:00

The Moral Authority of Organised Religion (p08v92gt.mp3)

A damning report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse describes a culture of deference in the Church of England which meant that perpetrators were allowed to hide and, when exposed, were often given more support than their victims. This was a scandal in which the “moral authority of clergy was widely perceived as beyond reproach”. This pattern of behaviour and cover-up is shocking but depressingly familiar. Following decades of such revelations, there is a growing belief that Britain’s churches have lost all moral credibility as a result of their repeated inability to practice what they preach and get their house in order. Others point out that, while reparations are needed, all institutions – whether religious or secular – are made up of human beings who are capable of terrible crimes, and that the good done by organised religion in tackling poverty, comforting the bereaved and showing strong leadership on some of the key moral issues of the day, should not be overlooked. Whether or not such institutions still command moral authority, formal religious affiliation is nevertheless in decline. Is this to be welcomed or lamented? For many people, rules-based religion has had its day. They see the churches as being out of step on many progressive issues like gender equality and same-sex marriage; they look elsewhere for sources of morality, or they see morality, faith and spirituality as subjective and personal. Others, meanwhile, still see religious institutions as the bedrock of a cohesive society; an inherited, shared source or moral and spiritual guidance, spanning centuries. They caution against the jettisoning of absolute moral rules and view the belief that we all have our own ‘truths’ and ways of knowing as deeply unhealthy. With Dr Ed Condon, Rt Rev Philip North, Prof Francesca Stavrokopoulou and Rev Stephen Trott. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-10-08 19:10:00

Lived Experience (p08trr0t.mp3)

Donald Trump claims to have a better understanding of coronavirus following his own diagnosis and treatment. In a video message he said, "I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn't the let's read the books school. I get it and I understand it.” There are those who believe that directly experiencing a social issue makes for better, more empathic, political decision-making. Critics of the President’s handling of the crisis, however, would argue that it should not have taken a threat to his own health for him to “get it”, and that empathy is something you’ve either got or you haven’t. This has wider implications; “lived experience” is a central tenet of social justice. It has become an established part of the way we interact, debate and reason in the public square. Is there something irreplaceable about experiencing what others merely intellectualise about? Should lived experience play a greater role in policy-making? It is often argued that someone’s opinion lacks legitimacy if they have not been directly affected by the issue at hand – whether poverty, racism or disability – and that it is often through emotional human stories that these issues can be truly tackled. Others believe that while subjective experience can illuminate a problem, it can also cloud moral judgment and should not be presented at the expense of objective evidence. Moreover, the idea that only certain people are allowed to opine about particular subjects, some say, is potentially divisive and dangerous. To what extent should the lived experience of a person give them moral authority? With Alan Johnson, Prof. Jonathan Portes, Ash Sarkar and Prof. Sharon Wright. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-08-05 20:45:00

Moral Lessons for a Post-Covid World (p08mvj3f.mp3)

The past five months have turned our lives upside down. In the early days of the lockdown, idealists saw the pandemic as an opportunity for moral improvement; they thought it would reinforce our shared values and confirm our common humanity. As it has turned out, Covid-19 has not been the great leveller they were hoping for. You could argue that, on the contrary, it has taken our social inequalities and made them worse, adding a greater danger of death to the burden already borne by the most disadvantaged. It has escalated the culture wars and eroded our collective trust in authority and in each other. Optimists still see opportunities for a better world, as long as we draw the right lessons from this unsettling experience. It may have things to teach us about the right balance between social responsibility and individual freedom, between amateurism and expertise, between community rootedness and global collaboration, or between the nation’s wellbeing and the health of its economy. In this 30th birthday edition of the Moral Maze, each of our four panellists will propose one moral principle, relevant to the crisis, that they believe would serve us well in a post-Covid world. With Lord Andrew Adonis, Professor Linda Bauld, Ross Clark and Geoff Norcott. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-07-29 21:00:00

The Death of the City? (p08m5sgk.mp3)

Our normally bustling cities have been eerily quiet for months. It’s reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic horror film, ‘28 Days Later’. The lockdown is proving costly; Westminster Abbey has lost more than £12 million in revenue this year and is set to lay off one in five of its staff. Theatre bosses say they must reopen without social distancing in time for Christmas or face oblivion. Restrictions are beginning to ease but for many cafes, pubs, shops, clubs and restaurants, the pandemic could be terminal. Museums, galleries, churches and office developments will struggle to justify their continued existence; should they be bailed out by the taxpayer? Perhaps each of us has a moral duty to head uptown on a shopping spree, take in a show and dine out? Yet this is about more than jobs and tourism; it raises bigger questions about the value we put on cities. If a ghost town is sad, a dead city is surely a tragedy. Since ancient Athens, cities, for many, have been the cultural jewels in civilisation’s crown, creative cauldrons of multicultural mingling and springboards to success. Others cite London, for example, as a social, cultural and economic drain on the life of our country. They believe that declining big cities give us an opportunity to revive towns, to end the suburban commuter crawl, beef up provincial culture, restore lost industries, embrace home-working and cut carbon emissions. Are big cities an unquestionable moral good, worth preserving in their current state? Or, in the new post-Covid world, is there a better way of organising the way we live? With Richard Burge, Paul Chatterton, Tom Cheesewright and Dr Jonathan Rowson. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-07-22 20:45:00

The Morality of the British Empire (p08ljzkk.mp3)

Campaigners are calling for an 'empire-neutral' public honour to reward front-line coronavirus workers in the Queen’s birthday honours list this autumn. It’s thought that some nominees will refuse to accept the traditional Order of the British Empire (OBE). The Black Lives Matter protests have sharpened the debate about our colonial past. Oxford professor Nigel Biggar has suggested that academics now put their careers at risk if they say anything positive about the British Empire. It’s an important moment for education, but the issue has become toxic. There’s general agreement that most British citizens have for too long been ignorant of the dark and shameful parts of their history. But was the Empire, as many passionately contest, predominantly a system of racism, slavery and exploitation? Other historians - while not disputing the violence and cruelty that disfigured the imperial project - point to the advances in health, education, the rule of law and economic prosperity that it brought to many parts of the world. How should we weigh up the transgressions and the triumphs of the past? Is it helpful to mark the Empire on a moral balance sheet with ‘shame’ and ‘pride’ columns? Does the obsession with viewing Britain’s history as either glorious or heinous stoke present-day hostility between identity groups? Or, since many British citizens are children of empire and their ancestry is woven into our collective tapestry, should we all focus instead on learning more about our shared past, warts and all? With Professor Nigel Biggar, Dr Nadine El-Enany, Janan Ganesh and Professor Alan Lester. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-07-15 20:45:00

How and why we educate (p08kwb1m.mp3)

Universities are counting the cost of COVID-19. They’ve lost revenue from international students, they’re struggling for investment and some of them are finding it hard to meet their pension commitments. As many as 13 of them may no longer be financially viable, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The question of whether or not cash-strapped universities should be bailed out is moral as well as financial. It summons conflicting arguments about the social value of these institutions and the role they have in wider education. In the 1970s and 1980s between 8% and 19% of school-leavers went on to higher education; today it’s 50%. Should we be proud that at least half our young adults are engaged in self-directed learning? Some say yes, it’s a moral achievement and well worth holding on to. Others observe that whereas we may now have more graduates than ever, never before have their qualifications been worth so little. How we view universities has implications for schools, where hitting grade targets is the de facto measure of success. The pandemic has exposed the weakness of this approach, according to its critics, because it relies too heavily on testing as an end in itself. While some decry the lockdown as a disaster for a ‘lost generation’ of young people, others see it as a once-in-a generation opportunity to re-think not just how we’re educating our children but what education should be aiming to achieve. With Nick Hillman, Sir Anthony Seldon, Niamh Sweeney and Tim Worstall. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-07-08 21:00:00

Gambling (p08k6vbm.mp3)

Years of soft-touch regulation and the universal adoption of smartphones have created a “perfect storm of addictive 24/7 gambling”, making “the lives of two million people miserable” – according to a House of Lords Select Committee report looking into the betting industry. Its 66 recommendations include a ban on “loot boxes” in video games, which can often be bought for real money and offer a randomised reward; many see this as a dangerous gateway to gambling for children. It wants to ease the industry out of sports sponsorship; half the Premier League football clubs are currently supported by betting companies. It wants new taxes on gambling with the money used to fund addiction clinics. What, if any, is the moral equivalence between problem gambling and other forms of addiction to recreational activities like drinking and smoking? If it’s a public health issue rather than a matter of individual free choice, how heavily should gambling be restricted? Perhaps, because gambling addiction can often have a wider social impact, hurting families and friends as well as the addicts themselves, it should be compared to drug abuse. If that’s reasonable, why not just treat gambling like any class A drug and make it illegal? Gambling enthusiasts and libertarians see it as a leisure activity which offers harmless fun to the vast majority of punters. They believe there is nothing intrinsically immoral about the industry, although most admit that betting companies do have a duty of care to vulnerable clients. Are problem gamblers the hapless victims of a heartless racket or does that rob them of moral agency and free them of personal responsibility? Is problem gambling a disease, a moral failing or just the downside of freedom? With Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Brigid Simmonds, Christopher Snowdon and Matt Zarb-Cousin. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-07-02 16:47:00

‘Groupthink’ (p08jp1g9.mp3)

Major changes in the Civil Service are needed to tackle metropolitan ‘groupthink’ in government, according to Michael Gove. Sceptics are worried about the impact of all this on the political neutrality of our administrators. Beyond the walls of Whitehall, there are those in Britain who believe that ‘groupthink’ has become pestilential. The word was coined in the 1970s by social psychologist Irving Janis. It has come to refer to people who are passionate about a particular view of the world and who treat those who don’t share their values with contempt, or even hostility. Today, commentators talk also of ‘cancel culture’ – public denunciations of high-profile individuals whose beliefs are deemed to be incompatible with the prevailing moral orthodoxy. When ‘unacceptable’ private thoughts are made public, reputations can be trashed and jobs are sometimes lost. Those accused of this kind of ‘groupthink’ reject that criticism and believe that all public figures should be held accountable for their views. Once made public, they argue, those views can have a direct and adverse impact on people’s lives, so they become everybody’s business. Should a person’s legitimacy in public life be judged as much on what they think as how they behave? Is it possible to separate thoughts from deeds or are they intimately connected? Has social media robbed us of the ability to tolerate diversity of opinion, or is this talk of ‘the thought police’ hysterical? Is ‘groupthink’, as we have come to understand it, irrational, divisive and dangerous? Or does it merely describe an age-old phenomenon: a group of like-minded people uniting to campaign for a better world? With Dalia Gebrial, Paul Taylor, Rt Rev Dr David Walker and Toby Young. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-06-25 18:17:00

China (p08j0q5b.mp3)

While the rest of the world is poleaxed by the pandemic, China is becoming increasingly assertive – if not downright aggressive. In the past few days it has annexed 60 square kilometres of the Himalayas, leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead. Meanwhile, Beijing is rushing through stringent security laws in Hong Kong, threatening Taiwan, sabre-rattling in the South China Sea and incarcerating 1.5 million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. China’s recent behaviour challenges the values that underpin liberal democracy, so what should the international community do about it? The problem is moral as well as geopolitical. Some say the UK has been sleepwalking into economic dependency on China, with talk of a “golden era” of UK-Chinese relations. The time has come, they suggest, to disengage and denounce. For others, the priority must be our economic self-interest. They believe that imposing tough sanctions on Beijing or spurning Chinese investment in the UK (including Huawei’s role in our 5G networks) would inevitably hurt Britain in a post-Corona, post-Brexit world. Despite different traditions of governance, is it possible for China and the West to co-exist without trying to damage one another? History tells us that when powerful states become more oppressive at home and more aggressive abroad, military confrontation is never far away; under what circumstances might such action be needed? Or should we be concentrating instead on winning hearts and minds, worrying first about how our own nation could set a better moral example in the world? Within the long history of the rise and fall of global superpowers, how are we to deal with 21st Century China? With Dr Philip Cunliffe, Tom Fowdy and Isabel Hilton. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-06-18 18:18:00

Racial Justice (p08hcg5r.mp3)

The anti-racist protests of the last two weeks, and the far right backlash against them, have revealed something significant about British society. Over and above the rights and wrongs of toppling statues, scribbling out street signs and cancelling old comedies, is surely the deeper question of how we should understand what is happening? Racism exists and there is palpable anger at the injustices black and minority ethic people are experiencing. Yet, at the same time, there are concerns about how the serious fight for racial justice can become an over-simplified battle of competing and increasingly polarised identities, based solely on skin colour. How racist is modern Britain? How can we truly get to grips with the complexity of this question? Once we have a greater understanding of how we got here, what should we do to address the racial inequalities we see in health, education, housing, employment and the criminal justice system? Are some individuals and organisations more concerned with demonstrating their own virtue than doing the hard work required to bring about lasting change? What does the ‘hard work’ look like and who should be doing it? Does the cause of racial justice justify rage and a ‘zero sum’ approach? Or can meaningful social change be negotiated in a spirit of understanding and honesty on all sides? With Dr Dominic Abrams, Dr Jason Arday, Jude Blay Yawson and Inaya Folarin Iman. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-03-26 14:47:00

Isolation (p087s70t.mp3)

Some of the UK’s national parks saw visitor numbers soar to bank holiday levels over the weekend. The message about social distancing and self-isolation is taking time to sink in. "Life should not feel normal," said the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. If it does, she added, “You should ask if you are doing the right things." The public’s response to these unprecedented times has exemplified the best and the worst of humanity. What, then, does the coronavirus crisis tell us about the fundamental nature of our species? Your answer to that question will depend on whether you agree with the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes that people are naturally disposed to ‘rapine and revenge’; or with the 18th century thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau that humans are essentially good. The tussle between self-interest and altruism has been part of the human condition since we were decorating caves. Now an ever-tightening lockdown will make life-changing demands on all of us. We are social animals who evolved and adapted to survive in groups, so how well are we equipped to cope with extended periods of self-isolation? Some predict an epidemic of depression and suicides. Others argue that we are far more adept at developing our own inner life than were our ancestors in the ancient world, who saw exile as a fate worse than death. Are we right to be worried about the moral and psychological effects of a prolonged lack of human contact? Or are we more resilient than we think? With Hilda Burke, Andrew Colman, Julia Hartley-Brewer and Mark Vernon. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-03-20 09:30:00

Danger and Opportunity? (p0874q2r.mp3)

The coronavirus pandemic has given the world a smack in the face. Sporting events have been cancelled, national borders have closed, jobs and livelihoods hang in the balance, the over-seventies will soon be asked to self-isolate and families are having difficult conversations about whether grandparents can be allowed to see their grandchildren. It’s life, but not as we know it. A cynical politician once said that you should never let a serious crisis go to waste, and pundits are already suggesting that we now have an opportunity to re-think society. After all, in Chinese, the word for crisis is often interpreted as signifying both "danger" and "opportunity". Is it time to make changes that would not have been feasible without an existential threat hanging over us? Could we, for example, strengthen global partnerships, accelerate the shift to sustainable energy, think about a universal basic income or forge a new sense of community? Such ‘politicisation’ of the problem is appalling to those who just want to get through this ordeal and return to normal; they say it’s much too soon to conclude that free market liberal democracy has failed the stress-test. They are sure that, if we do the right things to protect the most vulnerable, it will soon be business as usual. Yet history shows that a major crisis can be a catalyst for crucial changes. Talk of re-purposing hotels as make-shift hospitals and manufacturing plants to make ventilators, invites comparisons with the Second World War, which gave us the welfare state as we know it today. We won’t get through the corona crisis without ceding a lot of our individual autonomy to the state, but is that an opportunity for greater collectivism in the future - or a danger to liberty? With Rachel Cunliffe, Laura Perrins, Rabbi Lord Sacks and Dr Jamie Whyte. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-03-12 10:43:00

Islamophobia (p086f426.mp3)

The anti-racism campaigner Trevor Phillips has been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of Islamophobia. Some have described the move as “Orwellian”; others believe he has a case to answer. The issue turns on what we mean by ‘Islamophobia’ – although even to pose that question is to invite denunciation in some quarters; why split hairs when it’s obvious that anti-Muslim bigotry is rife? The Conservative party has been under attack for the allegedly Islamophobic utterances of some within its ranks, but it is waiting to agree on a definition of ‘Islamophobia’ before committing to an inquiry. It is 20 years since the term entered the political lexicon and almost a decade since Baroness Warsi declared that Islamophobia had passed the ‘dinner table test’ and become acceptable in polite society; yet, we still haven’t quite decided what it is and what it isn’t. Some people – including many Muslims – have a problem with the word itself because they think it reinforces the idea that Islam is something to be afraid of. Islam is a religion, not a race, but the definition used by the Labour Party calls Islamophobia ‘a type of racism’, because of the comparable experiences described by Muslims at the sharp end of group discrimination. Meanwhile, free speech advocates are concerned that any formal definition risks blurring the line between the unacceptable hatred of people (Muslims) and the legitimate criticism of ideas (Islam). Once we have our definition, whom should we appoint to decide whether particular words or deeds are Islamophobic? And if there’s a spectrum that runs from insensitivity and disrespect at one end to the most hideous kinds of hate crime at the other, where along that line should the law intervene? With Mohammed Amin, Myriam Francois, Ibrahim Mogra & Fiyaz Mughal. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-03-05 09:38:00

Coronavirus (p085qh9q.mp3)

Late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a tiny organism migrated from an animal to a human. Three months later, COVID-19 has gone global. So far, nearly 90,000 people are known to have caught coronavirus and more than 3,000 of them – mostly already ill or elderly – have died. Here in the UK, the government has acknowledged that its ‘containment’ strategy is likely to fail and is planning for delaying the spread of the virus and mitigating its effects. But nobody knows how the virus will behave in Britain, and planning for the unpredictable is far from straightforward. If we know we can’t win this fight, but we don’t want to lose it too badly, what are we prepared to sacrifice on the battlefield? How authoritarian do we want the government to be? Must we be ready to accept martial law, the isolation of towns and cities, closed schools, factories and offices, bans on public transport, concerts and sporting events? While some would see such measures as sensible, others warn against authorities who would stamp on our civil liberties out of a nervous need to be seen to be doing something. And what about those in the ‘gig’ economy who can’t afford not to work? The moral dimension goes beyond the arguments about precaution, panic, freedom and frailty. The coronavirus dilemma could be seen as a real-life example of that age-old ethical thought experiment, the ‘Trolley Problem’. Should we do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable in our society, even if the knock on effect to the global economy has the potential to cause suffering and death for many more people further down the line? With Dr. Tony Booth, Dr. Norman Lewis, Julian Sheather & Professor Dominic Wilkinson. Producer: Dan Tierney

From Moral Maze at 2020-02-27 10:09:00

Profiling, Safety and Trust (p084y452.mp3)

The boss of Ryanair has been criticised for saying that airport security checks should focus on Muslim men who are travelling alone, because they pose the biggest terror threat. The Muslim Council of Britain said Michael O'Leary's comments were "racist and discriminatory". Profiling is the practice of categorising people and predicting their behaviour on the basis of particular characteristics. We're profiled all the time by businesses and insurance companies with the help of computer algorithms. That same technology has been piloted by police and will now be used to identify low-level offenders who are deemed likely to go on to commit "high-harm" crimes, perhaps involving knives and guns. Is it right to target specific groups on the theory that they are statistically more likely to commit certain crimes? Civil liberty watchdogs argue that such ‘pre-crime’ profiling not only violates everyone’s civil rights, but fosters alienation and hostility in marginalised communities. Supporters of ‘data analytics’ believe that, on the contrary, it can eliminate all bias and human error from these judgments. There’s a wider debate about the balance between public safety and trust. Should we worry that these preventative measures are eroding our goodwill towards authority and each other? There are proposals to introduce airport-style security checks in ever more areas of our lives, from concert halls to places of worship. Security campaigners say it’s a necessary step towards making us all that little bit safer. Libertarians call it an over-reaction to a statistically-negligible threat. It is, they say, allowing the criminals to dictate how we live our lives. With Nick Aldworth, Tom Chivers, Dr Adam Elliott-Cooper and Tom McNeil. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-02-20 10:13:00

Transgender Rights (p0840x71.mp3)

Two of the final three Labour leadership candidates have signed pledges to defend trans rights, expel party members who express "transphobic" views and fight against Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and “other trans-exclusionist hate groups”. Both those groups cited insist they are merely campaigning for the rights of women as they exist under UK Equality law, as well as those of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. This bitter quarrel could be seen as symptomatic of a wider culture war which calls into question the very notions of gender, sex, sexuality, social justice and inclusivity. For many trans activists, a failure to recognise trans women as women or trans men as men is itself hateful, because they believe it denies the most fundamental fact of their identity. Their critics, however, accuse them of denying a biological reality that sex is determined at birth. It is, they say, unreasonable to refuse even to discuss the subject. For those prepared to debate, there’s a lot to think about. What constitutes “transphobia”? What are the moral implications of gender self-identification? What rights and protections should be afforded to ‘biological’ females in women's changing rooms, refuges and prisons? What does gender self-identification mean for women’s sport? More fundamentally, where does ‘masculinity’ end and ‘femininity’ begin? How should we respond to the increasing numbers of children and teenagers, particularly girls, being diagnosed with gender dysphoria? And what ethical considerations should apply in deciding whether and how to treat them? With Jane Fae, Graham Linehan, Torr Robinson and Kiri Tunks. Producer: Dan Tierney.

From Moral Maze at 2020-02-13 10:24:00

The Moral Purpose of the BBC (p0836dk0.mp3)

Her 98th year has not started well for Auntie BBC. The Government is consulting on decriminalising the licence fee; 450 jobs are being cut from BBC News to help meet a huge savings target; gender pay disputes are never far from the headlines; and audience figures reveal that the Corporation is struggling to connect with many British people – especially the under-35s and those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Meanwhile, the Director-General, Tony Hall, will step down in the summer after seven years in the job. If this is a crossroads, what should be the future direction of the BBC? There are loud voices calling for an end to the licence fee, calling it a poll tax, an outdated funding model overtaken by the streaming giants. Is it fair, they ask, to be forced to pay for a service you don’t want? Supporters point out that the BBC reaches 91% of adults every week and is the envy of the world; a unique and valuable service meant for everyone – that’s the point of it – which therefore must continue to be funded by everyone. They believe it is uniquely able to unite a fragmented nation and that the founding Reithian aspirations – to inform, educate and entertain – have never been more relevant in this era of fake news and social media echo chambers. The BBC’s severest critics, however, believe it no longer acts either as ‘cultural glue’ or as a touchstone of impartiality and truth. Instead, of leading us higher, they say, the BBC is sinking ever lower in pursuit of ratings. Bloated and greedy or lean and beleaguered? Perhaps we won’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone. What, now, is the moral purpose of the BBC? With Robin Aitken, Philip Booth, Claire Enders, Jonathan Freedland. Producer: Dan Tierney.