Day 69 – Q 3. Do you agree with the assertion that being an ethical civil servant is not at all practical in a materialistic world? Substantiate your views. 

  • IASbaba
  • August 28, 2020
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Ethics Theory, GS 4, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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3. Do you agree with the assertion that being an ethical civil servant is not at all practical in a materialistic world? Substantiate your views. 

क्या आप इस बात से सहमत हैं कि नैतिक नागरिक सेवक होना भौतिकवादी दुनिया में बिल्कुल भी व्यावहारिक नहीं है? अपने विचारों की पुष्टि करें।

Demand of the question – You need to present your thoughts about the assertion that being an ethical civil servant is not at all practical in a materialistic world and substantiate your points effectively.


Ethics can be defined as a set of “moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity”. Ethical behaviour entails certain socially acceptable conduct that may not have been codified formally into a law or a rule where an ethical civil servant has to face multiple dilemmas in navigating the world.


  • Ethics relates primarily to the nature of ultimate values and standards by which human actions can be judged. The purpose of ethics is to define acceptable human behaviour through knowing the types of actions, its consequences and the limits of both humans and actions as well as their acceptability.
  • Ethics evolved in a slightly different form in the context of bureaucracy as, over a period of time, a large part of ethical behaviour, i.e., what was expected of a civil servant, came to be codified and became a part of some legislation or a rule thereunder. Thus, dishonest conduct became punishable under the law. Here, we can see that being ethical pays in terms of both material as well as moral aspects of a civil servant.
  • Further, a civil servant has all the requirements of material needs fulfilled by the government to ensure complete ethical and optimum functioning of a civil servant. Here, material needs being fulfilled satisfy Maslow’s need hierarchy where an individual has his needs fulfilled.
  • Civil servant being a role model of the area he/she is serving needs to be morally and ethically sound where materialistic tendencies can influence and interfere in the efficient functioning of the person. However, there is still a large segment of ethical behaviour expected of a civil servant that is not codified.
  • A civil servant is supposed to possess the virtues of objectivity and impartiality. In situations relating to communal tension, and more so during the election process, these become even more critical. The conduct of elections is totally in the hands of civil servants. He cannot but be neutral as the entire democratic process is dependent on him. Here, being ethical is a grave necessity for the larger society.
  • No law mandates civil servants to be humane and accessible. However, that is what is expected of them. Such attributes give an enormous amount of satisfaction to the officer himself. They also provide much-needed succour to the person concerned. Such officers are respected and remembered. They become role models. Here, personal satisfaction ranks more than external material considerations.
  • Protecting the interests of the organisation to which he belongs is the job of a civil servant. This may entail some sacrifice on his behalf. It would not only be ethical on his part to do so but it would also be practically beneficial as it could set an example for others to make similar sacrifices. The conduct of each officer is closely observed by those around him. Hence, he should be seen as taking a lead. Here, future career prospects also improve drastically which also improve material aspects of one’s life.
  • No officer can be penalised for not protecting his colleagues and subordinates. It is, however, ethically incumbent upon him to protect them from unwarranted harassment or victimisation. Such conduct will be beneficial to the officer himself even otherwise. He will be perceived as a person who stands by his colleagues. He will be recognised and revered for his conduct. In doing so he will reflect a leadership trait as well.  
  • Ethical behaviour is the best not merely in the context of morality, but it is also the best in the context of his own career prospects. The reputation of an officer gets built on the basis of his ethical conduct, which can stand him in good stead in future. Moreover, ethical behaviour also imparts an enormous amount of moral authority to the concerned officer. These have multiple intangible benefits which cannot always be enumerated.


Thus, an ethical civil servant is more practical than an unethical one where benefits of being ethical far outweigh the other aspects and also, being ethical for the sake of being ethical shows strong ethical competence where external factors like materialism take a back seat.

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