What are the consequences of globalization for the relationship between ethics and law, and in particular for the way that the law deals with ethical questions? Given the increasing influence of international and supranational authorities and institutions, we may ask whether national legal systems can still have their own policy on new developments in technology. It is particularly difficult to formulate moral considerations on the introduction of new technologies in national policy, when such policies may prove a hindrance to trade. In addition, precisely those worldwide developments in technology often imply a changing relationship between states, multinational and other companies, consumers and interest groups or single issue organizations. Examples can be found in new developments in information and communication technology and in medical and agricultural technology.
These tendencies make it desirable to rethink the relationship between ethics and law and the role of law in ethical questions. The main hypothesis in the research is that the current national and supranational approach to legislation and regulation is seriously inadequate in relation to these phenomena. This is so, because the approach necessarily follows passively as a reaction to these new developments, and is based on too simple a view of the neutrality of governments and the mechanisms of the market. This hypothesis is linked to the leading assumption that possible solutions to these problems could be found in
- national and/or international legislation with more open standards, and linked to a continuing invitation to self-regulation,
- a change in the view of the moral status of private organizations,
- and a certain moral education of those organizations.
The main hypothesis and the leading assumption will be tested partly by research on recent developments in information and communication technology, healthcare and health research, and agricultural technologies. There is close cooperation with the projects in group 3 (in particular project section 3.3), 4 (in particular project section 4.1 and 4.6), as well as with the Institute for Globalization Studies 'Globus', the participants in the VF program 'Law, public administration and informatization', and with the project section 'Ethics and ICT' coordinated by Dr Vedder in the research program of the Netherlands' School of Research in Practical philosophy (Onderzoekschool Ethiek), recognized by KNAW (the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences). Connected to this project section, are some research projects on modern information and communication technology, on the one hand, and globalization and policy formation on ethical questions, on the other hand. Among the former are a project on ethical aspects of datamining and group profiling (carried out by Bart Custers, MSc), and two projects on epistemological, ethical and legal questions relating to information on the Internet. Among the latter are a project on the WTO Agreements and policy formation on ethical issues, and a project on the role of international nongovernmental organizations and multinational business corporations in the debate on internationalization and ethical issues.