The recent college admissions scam involving a handful of celebrities and prominent CEO’s brings to light an age-old dilemma at the heart of moral reasoning: does the end justify the means? Machiavelli — and virtually every proportionalist since him — would unequivocally answer in the affirmative. By every definition, the alleged actions of these prominent parents was fraudulent, hence the criminal accusations now lodged against them. But doesn’t every parent want what’s best for his or her child? Weren’t they acting in their children’s best interests, and thus securing a good future for their sons and daughters?
Most people object to this — and rightly so. After all, what these parents allegedly did was not only illegal; it was manifestly unjust. But at the heart of these actions lies a false moral dictum that is all too common, and touches on most contemporary issues today. People generally agree that lying is wrong, except when they justify such acts for what they determine to be the “greater good.” Most people commonly oppose abortion, but if it will save the life of a mother, or prevent a seemingly precarious upbringing for a child, it is morally licit. Euthanasia seems objectionable to many, but if it alleviates suffering, what’s the harm?
The truth is, some things are wrong, always and everywhere. Fraudulently portraying a heightened academic resume or falsifying test scores is always wrong. Most people understand this. A host of other issues at the heart of contemporary moral discourse are also always morally untenable. The outrage over fraud among social elites should refocus our moral compass to recognize the perennial truth that the ends never justify the means.