I've been thinking about the balance of power that occurs in the upper layers of the foundation. It is generally implied that the Overseers have more or less absolute power over the entire organization. Any order given by an O5 can only be countered by another O5. However, this doesn't leave any room for the ethics committee. We know that the ethics committee also wields great power within the Foundation, enough to pass dissenting measures against the orders of the O5 council. My question is: when the O5 council and Ethics Committee disagree, who has the upper hand?
That's because the ethics commitee doesn't and shouldn't have upper hand.
The ethics committee is really an internal security department masquerading as an ethics commitee.
If anything the Ethics Committee can give their opinions on O5 decisions and appeal to have things changed but they do not and should not directly interfere with O5 council business.
Basically. The ethics committee does what it does very well, but they can only do it because their authority is backed by the O5 council. The council could choose to have the ethics committee disbanded. The reverse is not the case. The O5 council ESTABLISHED the ethics committee. The primary difference here is that O5 members are not permitted to have contact with scp items. Whereas the ethics committee has detailed knowledge.of the workings of EVERY item, and do regular inspections on them all.
There is no ethics committee. It's a joke.
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There's also no canon. Some of us might have liked the Ethics Committee orientation more than the idea of "hurr durr foundations evil no ethics".
…The foundation is not evil. It just doesn't need to have a comittee trying to oversee something as silly as 'ethics'
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But even in a ruthlessly pragmatic organization, ethics are important. When you get employees who cross the line from pragmatic to sadistic, especially considering how jaded Foundation people must be, who's there to handle that shit? Ethics Committee.
All of this in my humble opinion, of course.
The fast food chain I used to work at had an Ethics Committee, and the biggest problems we ever had to deal with was people changing the expiration dates on salads or not honoring employee requests for days off.
I'm trying to imagine some researcher coming before the Ethics Committee in some gravely serious courtroom and them accusing him of stealing another doctor's salad from the break room fridge.
IMO: The O5 council could get rid of the Ethics Committee entirely if they chose.
But if O5-whatever is told "You can't do that" by the Ethics Committee, (s)he's going to need to persuade the other O5s that whatever (s)he wanted to do was very important; or obey the Ethics Committee.
IOW: Council>Committee>Single O5> Single Ethicist.
Note that in the Lisztomania -EX, the Committee has O5-6 removed arranges for O5-6 to take early retirement with full benefits.
This is not something they do lightly, or often; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the only time it ever happened.
I think the Ethics Committee can veto the Council's decisions to some extent, but the Council could veto the Committee's vetos if they wanted too. I like to think that the Committee then vetos that until one side just says "Fine! Do whatever you want!"
I like the Ethics Committee and think that all you people that hate on it are silly grimdark-loving neckbeards. However I am enough of a grimdark-loving neckbeard myself that I like the image of them as largely unable to change things.
Consider this part of the orientation:
"You will observe what is done, and ask the participants - and yourself - why it is being done. If at any point you feel that something is excessive or unnecessary or wrong, you inform us. We will summon the people involved, and ask them questions, in that meek ineffectual way that your coworkers have mocked.
And then, word will filter down from the O5s, through the many levels of our bureaucracy. And those who are unethical will be given reprimands which will be noted on their permanent record. Or their pay will be cut, or they will be demoted, or they will be transferred to another project.
Or they will be shot for crimes against humanity."
To me, the middle paragraph has a kind of rueful quality to it. The way that 'will be given reprimands which will be noted on their permanent record' is spelled out and enunciated so clearly makes me think that it is said in a bitter tone, sarcastically implying that the guy has been told by his superiors that this is a serious and well-considered punishment. It implies a previous incident where some doctor he really wanted to nail to the wall got off essentially scot free and the O5's responded to his complaint or appeal with 'thank you, we value your feedback'. And then the pause before 'Or they will be shot for crimes against humanity'. It all screams of an ethical man (though one plagued by his own guilt) who is largely powerless to change things, but one who savors the few genuine moral victories he's managed to achieve, the handful of occasions where he's managed to expose and destroy a monster. I love the way the Orientation is written. In my head canon, the Ethics Committee guy is played by Avery Brooks. Or maybe Samuel L Jackson.
So yeah, the O5's wield the real power, and the Ethics Committee's role is to silently resent that, and watch most of the Foundation's atrocities with mute horror.
My basic vision was more 'spies' or informers than an actual governing body. The Ethics Committee don't have the power to change things personally, but if they say something bad about Dr. Evil to the O5s, serious shit will go down 6 times out of 10. The other 4 times will usually be because the unethical behaviour is necessary for something.
I'd say the O5s would never flat out veto the Ethics Committee. The committee is made up of Foundation employees, not tree-hugging hippies. They'd have a good enough sense of perspective that generally the O5 response would be either "Sure, we'll follow that up" or "We get what you're saying, but…"
That said, you'd get disputes between members of the groups, and the O5s would probably win.
Slightly off-topic, I personally believe that senior staff members can be more influential than the O5s fairly frequently, just because they're the ones who relay the orders and such.
My personal headcanon is that the Ethics Committee is something like the "judicial system" of the Foundation. The O5s are the leaders of the Foundation, but they're obviously not absolute rulers whose fiat is law - there are rules that apply to them too (like no direct contact with SCPs) that they're not just allowed to overturn.
That being said, there's probably a very high threshold for the Ethics Committee to veto a Council decision - probably a unanimous vote by the Central Committee and the sponsorship of at least one O5. (A unanimous Council decision would therefore be beyond reproach.)
IMHC, the Ethics Committee is powerful because the 05s want it to be powerful. They feel good agreeing with the Ethics Committee because it makes them feel like they're making the right choice even if they aren't.
My headcanon is that the Ethics Commitee can (and will) heavily influence O5 decisions, but cannot really act without proper reasoning based on what is "better" for the sake of the Foundation and its purpose. Take, for example, in this article the Commitee could have had a hand in deciding that the child never needed to be returned because the research gained from it might help other artifacts in the future. Not only that, but the Commitee realized that essentially holding the child hostage drove Adam to strive higher and higher in the Foundation ranks, pushing for his promotions by working hard enough to procure multiple breakthroughs in the anomalous sciences. He petitions each time for his child to be released when he gets promoted until he's at the top, an O5 himself.
And he's stopped. The Committee makes sure of that. If the child is released, that O5 loses his reason for doing the best he can for the Foundation. Keeping an object like that has no direct impact on Foundation sciences, but it drives at least one person at the top to make sure the Foundation does what it's supposed to.
And maybe the Ethics Committee makes sure something similar happens to each of the O5's rise to power.
Wow, I really went off on a tangent there, didn't i?