Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Unavoidable Ethical Choices Shaping Our Personal and National Character in the Coming Year

Staff, scholars and Advisory Board members of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics prepared this 2003-04 National Ethics Agenda to highlight the most important ethical issues facing Americans. The list may surprise you. Instead of addressing the occupation of Iraq or the impact of a lagging economy, the agenda addresses such topics as the allocation and stewardship of water and income disparities.

Some of today's critical ethical issues were outlined in last year's 2002 National Ethics Agenda. These included
- Developing a Principled Approach to Foreign Intervention
- Controlling Abuses of Power
- Resolving Conflicts of Interest in the New Economy
- Allocating Health Care Fairly
- Confronting the Personal Ethics of Aging and Retirement
- Exploring the Limits on Scientific Freedom

We expect these topics to remain on the national agenda for some time to come. In addition, we felt that certain topics—terrorism, for example—were already the subject of ample public discussion, including the ethical ramifications of policy choices. In this year's agenda, we attempted to surface some important issues that have not, in our view, received sufficient consideration.

The six issues on this year's agenda are significant because they suggest areas where more public reflection is needed. Through debate and discussion, Americans must find enough common ground to allow us to make progress in these areas.

This year's Outlook will help to guide Ethics Center programs over the coming year. For example, our Government Ethics Program will convene local politicians to discuss ways to foster ethical political leadership. The responsibility of governing boards will be a question for our Business and Organizational Ethics Partnership.

We invite you to participate in the ongoing discussion of these issues. You can keep track of our events and programs—and the research, transcripts, and white papers that come out of them—through our Web site, You can also participate in on-line discussions of these six issues.

October 23, 2003

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