Ethical Implications of the Double Standard

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  • 0:01 Double Standards
  • 1:03 Human Rights
  • 2:45 Law and Ethics
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The double standard is something many of us know all too well, but it's also an issue with serious ethical implications. Explore these, and test your understanding with an unbiased, single-standard quiz.

Double Standards

Okay, here's how this is going to work. If you are viewing this lesson from a laptop, you're awesome and will automatically pass the quiz at the end. If you're viewing this on a desktop, then, sorry, you're lame. Also, you can't take the quiz, and you are going to fail it. Okay, now does that seem fair? Of course not! It's totally unfair!

What I just did was create a double standard, an arbitrary use of different rules for the same situation. Whether you are viewing this on a laptop or a desktop computer should not have any impact on your ability to retain this information, so my decision to favor people on a laptop is arbitrary. Also, biased, since I do not personally own a desktop. Just a laptop. Anyway, my point is that regardless of how you're viewing this, you still have to take the quiz, and that double standards come with some serious ethical concerns.

Human Rights

Let's start with the most fundamental set of ethical concerns when it comes to the double standard, and that's basic human rights. Ever since the end of WWII, human rights have become more and more of an active concern for the world, partly because of issues like the double standard. Men can vote, while women cannot. It is acceptable for people from one religion to live in a neighborhood but not others. People of one ethnicity have to pay extra taxes, while others pay less. These are all examples of double standards that have been used to enforce serious discrimination around the world.

What really makes the people in each group different? Prejudice - that's it. So, the decision to give more rights or freedoms to one group over another is arbitrary and therefore unethical.

This is where the idea of human rights really comes in. The foundational belief about human rights is that certain rights apply to all people and cannot be removed. The double standard certainly violates that belief by assuming that some people deserve more rights than others. So, what are the basic rights that all people deserve?

Well, after WWII, the newly-created United Nations set up a commission to answer that question, and in 1948, they published the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document to define the rights of every person in the world. Article 1, at the very beginning, states that 'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.' So, from the get-go, what do we see? Double standards, whether they are applied on a national scale or something more local, inherently violate the most fundamental human rights.

Law and Ethics

The issue of human rights is a major ethical question. However, the double standard can be ethically problematic in more ways than one. Another major issue is the law. Have you ever seen a statue of justice? You know, the blindfolded lady in a toga holding scales and a sword. Do you know why she's blindfolded? Because the law should be applied equally to every single person, that's why. It shouldn't matter if you're rich or poor, gay or straight, religious or atheist, male or female, as long as you are a human being.

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