Business Ethics Concepts & Cases ABSTRACT Summary of the main points of the first two chapters in the book. The remaining chapters are application of the concepts summarized as relating to political forms of government and market systems. These further chapters are less relevant to the DBA class that this summary was prepared for. Chapter 1 – Ethics & Business Ethics is the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. It is the study of morality. Morality are the standards that an individual or group has about what is right and wrong, or good and evil.
Moral norms can usually be expressed as general rules or statements, such as “Always tell the truth”. Moral values can usually be expressed as statements describing objects or features of objects that have worth, such as “Honesty is good” and “Injustice is bad”. Five characteristics can help pin down the nature of moral standards. 1. Moral standards deal with matters that we think can seriously injure or seriously benefit human beings. 2. Moral standards are not established or changed by the decisions of particular legislative bodies. . We feel that moral standards should be preferred to other values including (especially? ) self-interest. 4. Moral standards are based on impartial considerations. – that is, a point of view that does not evaluate standards according to whether they advance the interests of a particular individual or group, but one that goes beyond personal interests to a “universal” standpoint in which everyone’s interests are impartially counted as equal. 5. Moral standards are associated with special emotions and a special vocabulary.
Ethics is the discipline that examines one’s moral standards or the moral standards of a society. Ethics is the study of moral standards – the process of examining the moral standards of a person or society to determine whether these standards are reasonable or unreasonable in order to apply them to concrete situations and issues. The ultimate aim of ethics is to develop a body of moral standards that we feel are reasonable to hold – standards that we have thought about carefully and have decided are justified standards for us to accept and apply to the choices that fill our lives.
Although ethics is a normative study of ethics, the social sciences engage in a descriptive study of ethics. A normative study aims to discover what should be. A descriptive study attempts to describe or explain the world without reaching any conclusions about whether the world is as it should be. 1. 1 The Nature of Business Ethics Business ethics concentrates on the moral standards as they apply to business policies, institutions, and behavior. Business ethics, in other words, is a form of applied ethics.
It includes not only the analysis of moral norms and moral values, but also attempts to apply the conclusions of this analysis to that assortment of institutions, technologies, transactions, activities, and pursuits that we call business. Business ethics investigates three different kinds of issues: systemic, corporate, and individual. Systemic issues in business ethics are ethical questions raised about the economic, political, legal, and other social systems within which businesses operate.
Corporate issues in business ethics are ethical questions raised about a particular company. Individual issues in business ethics are ethical questions raised about a particular individual or particular individuals within a company. Because corporate acts originate in the choices and actions of human individuals, it is these individuals who must be seen as the primary bearers of moral duties and moral responsibility. Nonetheless, it makes perfectly good sense to say that a corporate organization has moral duties and that it is morally responsible for its acts.
The fact that multinationals operate in more than one country produces ethical dilemmas for their managers that managers of firms limited to a single country do not face. • The ability to shift its operations between countries enables the multinational to escape the social controls that a single nation might attempt to impose on the multinational and can allow the multinational to play one country against another. • It can sometimes transfer raw materials, goods and capital among its plants in different countries at terms that enable it to escape taxes and fiscal obligations that companies limited to a single nation must bear. They often have the opportunity to transfer a new technology or set of products from a more developed country into nations that are less developed. • It is often faced with the quandary of deciding which of these different norms and standards to implement in its many operations. Ethical relativism is the view that there are no ethical standards that are absolutely true and that apply or should be applied to the companies and people of all societies. Thus, the theory of ethical relativism implies that whatever the majority in our society believes about morality is automatically correct.
The fundamental problem with ethical relativism is that it holds that the moral standards of a society are the only criteria by which actions in that society can be judged. Almost all ethical issues raised by new technologies are related in one way or another to questions of risk. Many of the ethical issues new technologies have created – especially information technologies – are related to privacy. Information technologies have also raised difficult ethical issues about the nature of the right to property when the property in question is information.
Finally, biotechnology has created yet another host of troubling ethical issues. 1. 2 Moral Development & Moral Reasoning As people mature, they change their values in very deep and profound ways. The ability to make reasoned moral judgments develops in identifiable stages (Kohlberg). A. Preconventional Stages At these first two stages, the child is able to respond to rules and social expectations and can apply the labels of good, bad, right and wrong. These rules, however, are seen as something externally imposed on the self. . Punishment and Obedience Orientation – At this stage, the physical consequences of an act wholly determine the goodness and badness of that act. 2. Instrument and Relativity Orientation – At this stage, right actions become those that can serve as instruments for satisfying the child’s needs of the needs of those for whom the child cares. B. Conventional Stages Maintaining the expectations of one’s own family, peer group, or nation is now seen as valuable in its own right, regardless of the consequences. 1.
Interpersonal Concordance Orientation – Good behavior at this early conventional stage is living to the expectations of those for whom one feel loyalty, affection, and trust, such as family and friends. 2. Law and Order Orientation – Right and wrong at this more mature conventional stage now come to be determined by loyalty to one’s own larger nation or surrounding society. C. Post Conventional, Autonomous, or Principled Stages At these stages, the person no longer simply accepts the values and norms of the groups to which he or she belongs.
Instead the person now tries to see situations from a point of view that impartially takes everyone’s interests into account. 1. Social Contract Orientation – At this first post-conventional stage the person becomes aware that people hold a variety of conflicting personal views and opinions and emphasizes fair ways of reaching consensus by agreement, contract, and due process. 2. Universal Ethical Principles Orientation – At this final stage, right action comes to be defined in terms of moral principles chosen because of their logical comprehensiveness, universality and consistency.
Although people generally progress through the stages in the same sequence, not everyone progresses through all the stages. Kohlberg has been criticized for claiming that the higher stages are morally preferable to the lower stages. It fails to adequately trace out the pattern of development of women. Females, Gilligan claimed, tend to see themselves as part of a “web” of relationships. For women, morality is primarily a matter of “caring” and “being responsible” for others with whom one is involved in personal relationships, and not a matter of adhering to impartial and impersonal rules.
Moral development for women is marked by progress toward more adequate ways of caring and being responsible for oneself and for others. This is called the care perspective. Moral reasoning refers to the reasoning process by which human behaviors, institutions, or policies are judged to be in accordance with or in violation of moral standards. Moral reasoning always involves two essential components: 1. An understanding of what reasonable moral standards require, prohibit, value, or condemn; and 2.
Evidence or information that shows that a particular person, policy, institution, or behavior has the kinds of features that these moral standards require, prohibit, value, or condemn. First and primarily, moral reasoning must be logical. All the unspoken moral and factual assumptions must be made explicit, and both assumptions and premises be displayed and subject to criticism. Second, the factual evidence cited in support of a person’s judgment must be accurate, relevant, and complete. Third, the moral standards involved in a person’s moral reasoning must be consistent.
The consistency requirement is the basis of an important method of showing that a given moral standard must be modified or rejected: the use of counter examples or hypotheticals. 1. 3 Arguments For and Against Business Ethics Persons involved in business, they claim, should single mindedly pursue the financial interests of their firm and not sidetrack their energies or their firm’s resources into “going good works”. First, some have argued that in perfectly competitive free markets, the pursuit of profit will by itself ensure that the members of society are served in the most socially beneficial ways.
First, most industrial markets are not “perfectly competitive”. Second, the argument assumes that any steps taken to increase profits will necessarily be socially beneficial. Third, the argument assumes that, by producing whatever the buying public wants (or values), firms are producing what all the members of society want, when in fact the wants of large segments of society (the poor and disadvantaged) are not necessarily met because they cannot fully participate in the marketplace. Fourth, the argument is essentially making a normative judgment on the basis of some assumed but unproved moral standards.
A loyal agent of his or her employer, the manager has a duty to serve his or her employer in whatever ways will advance the employer’s self-interests. The loyal agent argument relies on several questionable assumptions. First, the argument tries to show, again, that ethics does not matter by assuming an unproved moral standard. Second, the loyal agent argument assumes that there are no limits to the manager’s duties to serve the employer, when in fact, such limits are an express part of the legal and social institutions from which these duties arise.
The law of agency states that, “in determining whether or not the orders of the client to the agent are reasonable … business or professional ethics are to be considered,” and “in no event would it be implied that an agent has a duty to perform acts which are illegal or unethical. ” Third, the loyal agent argument assumes that if a manager agrees to serve a firm, then this agreement automatically justifies whatever the manager does on behalf of the firm.
A third kind of objection is sometimes made against bringing ethics into business. This is the objection that to be ethical it is enough for business people merely to obey the law: Business ethics is essentially obeying the law. It is wrong, however, to see law and ethics as identical. Moreover, most ethicists agree that all citizens have a moral obligation to obey the law so long as the law does not require clearly unjust behavior. This means that, in most cases, it is immoral to break the law.
One way to argue that ethics should be brought into business is simply by pointing out that, because ethics should govern all voluntary human activities and because business is a voluntary human activity, ethics should also govern business. Business activities, like any other human activities, cannot exist unless the people involved in the business and its surrounding community adhere to some minimal standards of ethics. Ethical considerations are consistent with business pursuits, in particular the pursuit of profit (results have been mixed, but no studies have found a negative correlation).
A prisoner’s dilemma is a situation in which two parties are each faced with a choice between two options: Either cooperate with the other party or do not cooperate. From the joint standpoint of the parties involved, the best outcome in a prisoner’s dilemma is for both parties to cooperate in their agreement. In short, when people must choose between cooperating or not cooperating in rules or agreements, and when each has more to gain by not cooperating, then rational self-interest suggests that people should not cooperate in keeping the rules or agreements.
The prisoner’s dilemma, then, seems to show that the rational self-interested person should be unethical in business when there is something to be gained through unethical behavior. However, this conclusion is based on a false assumption. We have assumed so far that prisoner’s dilemma situations are isolated interactions between people who never interact again. This threat of future retaliation makes it more rational for the parties in a series of repeated exchanges to cooperate than to try to take advantage of each other.
The most important lesson of the prisoner’s dilemma, then, is that when people deal with each other repeatedly, so that each can later retaliate against or reward the other party, cooperation is more advantageous than continuously trying to take advantage of the other party. Business interactions with employees, customers, suppliers, and creditors are repetitive and ongoing. The prisoner’s dilemma argument, then, implies that, over the long run and for the most part, it is better to be ethical in business than to be unethical.
Finally, we should note that there is also a good deal of evidence that most people so value ethical behavior that they will punish those whom they perceive to be behaving unethically and reward those who are perceived to be ethical. 1. 4 Moral Responsibility & Blame Moral reasoning, however, is sometimes directed at a related but different kind of judgment: determining whether a person is morally responsible, or culpable, for having done something wrong or for having wrongfully injured someone. The term moral responsibility is sometimes used as an equivalent to moral duty or moral obligation.
A person is morally responsible only for those acts and their forseen injurious effects (a) which the person knowingly and freely performed or brought about and which it was morally wrong for the person to perform or bring about, or (b) which the person knowingly and freely failed to perform or prevent and which it was morally wrong for the person to fail to perform or prevent. Two conditions completely eliminate a person’s moral responsibility for causing a wrongful injury: (1) ignorance and (2) inability.
There are also several mitigating factors that can lessen a person’s moral responsibility depending on the severity of the wrong. Mitigating factors include (a) circumstances that leave a person uncertain but not altogether unsure about what he or she is doing (these affect the person’s knowledge); (b) circumstances that make it difficult but not impossible for the person to avoid doing it (these affect the person’s freedom); (c) circumstances that minimize but not completely remove a person’s involvement in an act (these affect the degree to which the person actually caused or helped to cause the rongful injury). These can lessen a person’s responsibility for wrongdoing depending on a fourth factor: the seriousness of the wrong. Who is morally responsible for jointly produced acts? The traditional view is that those who knowingly and freely did what was necessary to produce the corporate act are each morally responsible. Critics of the traditional view of the individual’s responsibility for corporate acts have claimed that the corporate group and not the individuals who make up the group must be held responsible for the act.
The law typically attributes the acts of a corporation’s managers to the corporate (so long as the managers act within their authority) and not to the managers as individuals. Because individuals are morally responsible for the known and intended consequences of their free actions, any individual who knowingly and freely joins his actions together with those of others, intending thereby to bring about a certain corporate act, will be morally responsible for that act. The excusing factors of ignorance and inability, which are endemic to large-scale bureaucratic corporate organizations, will completely eliminate a person’s moral responsibility.
Moreover, depending on the seriousness of the act, the mitigating factors of uncertainty, difficulty, and minimal involvement can also diminish a person’s moral responsibility for a corporate act. It is clearly mistaken, however, to think that an employee who freely and knowingly does something wrong is absolved of all responsibility when he or she is “following orders”. Chapter 2 – Ethical Principles in Business Judgments about justice are based on moral principles that identify fair ways of distributing benefits and burdens among the members of a society.
Judgments about violations of people’s rights are based on moral principles that indicate the areas on which people’s rights to freedom and well-being must be respected. A utilitarian standard of morality; a moral principle, that is, that claims that something is right to the extent that it diminishes social costs and increases social benefits. An ethic of care is an ethic that emphasizes caring for the concrete well-being of those near to us. Evaluations of the moral character of persons or groups are based on what is called an ethic of virtue. 2. Utilitarianism: Weighing Social Costs and Benefits Selecting the course of action that would have the most beneficial consequences is sometimes referred to as a consequentialist approach and sometimes as a utilitarian approach. Utilitarianism is a general term for any view that holds that actions and policies should be evaluated on the basis of the benefits and costs they will impose on society. Many business analysts hold that the best way to evaluate the ethical propriety of a business decision – or any other decision – is by relying on utilitarian cost/benefit analysis.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) is generally considered the founder of traditional utilitarianism. The utilitarian principle holds that: “An action is right from an ethical point of view if and only if the sum total of utilities produced by that act is greater than the sum total of utilities produced by any other act the agent could have performed in its place. ” The utilitarian principle assumes that we can somehow measure and add the quantities of benefits produced by an action and subtract from them the measured quantities of harm the action will have.
Both the immediate and all foreseeable future costs and benefits that each alternative will provide for each individual must be taken into account as well as any significant indirect effects. Three steps are performed: 1. Determine what alternative actions or policies are available to me on that occasion. 2. For each alternative action, estimate the direct and indirect benefits and costs that the action would produce for each and every person affected by the action in the foreseeable future. 3.
The alternative that produces the greatest sum total of utility must be chosen as the ethically appropriate course of action. Utilitarian views have been highly influential in economics and is the basis of the techniques of economic cost-benefit analysis. Problems with Utilitarianism 1. Difficulties encountered measuring. 2. Some benefits and costs seem intractable to measurement (health). 3. Because many of the benefits and costs of an action cannot easily be predicted, they also cannot be adequately measured. 4. It is unclear exactly what is to count as a benefit and what is to count as a cost. . The assumption that all goods are measurable implies that all goods can be traded for equivalents of each other. Replies to the Problems of Utilitarianism • Utilitarianism merely insists that the consequences of any projected act be expressly stated with as much clarity and accuracy as is humanly possible, and that all relevant information concerning these consequences be presented in a form that will allow them to be systematically compared and impartially weighed against each other. Expressing this information in quantitative terms facilitates such comparisons and weightings.
However, where quantitative data are unavailable, one my legitimately rely on shared and common sense judgments of the comparative values things have for most people. • Several common-sense criteria can be used to determine the relative values that should be given to various categories of goods. Instrumental goods are things that are considered valuable only because they lead to other good things. Intrinsic goods, however, are things that are desirable independent of any other benefits they may produce. • You can weigh goods between needs and wants. A standard objection against using monetary values to measure all costs and benefits is that some goods, in particular health and life, cannot be priced. The utilitarian may argue, however, that not only is it possible to put a price on health and life, but that we do so almost daily (ex. the cost of safety equipment in a car). Rights and Justice – Problems with Utilitarianism The major difficulty with utilitarianism, according to some critics, is that it is unable to deal with two kinds of moral issues: those relating to rights and those relating to justice.
That is, the utilitarian principle implies that certain actions are morally right when in fact they are unjust or violate people’s rights. It can also go wrong, when it is applied to situations that involve social justice. Replies to the Problems with Rights and Justice Utilitarians have proposed an important and influential alternative version of utilitarianism call rule-utilitarianism. The basic strategy of the rule-utilitarian is to limit utilitarian analysis to the evaluations of moral rules.
According to the rule-utilitarian, whey trying to determine whether a particular action is ethical, one is never supposed to ask whether that particular action will produce the greatest amount of utility. Instead, one is supposed to ask whether the action is required by the correct moral rules that everyone should follow. If the action is required by such rules, then one should carry out the action. But what are the “correct” moral rules? It is only this second question, according to the rule-utilitarian, that is supposed to be answered by reference to maximizing utility.
The correct moral rules are those that would produce the greatest amount of utility if everyone were to follow them. 1. An action is right from an ethical point of view if and only if the action would be required by those moral rules that are correct. 2. A moral rule is correct if and only if the sum total of utilities produced if everyone were to follow that rule is greater than the sum total utilities produced if everyone were to follow some alternative rule. There are two main limits to utilitarian methods of moral reasoning, therefore, although the precise extent of these limits is controversial.
First, utilitarian methods are difficult to use when dealing with values that are difficult and perhaps impossible to measure quantitatively. Second, utilitarianism by itself seems to deal inadequately with situations that involve rights and justice, although some have tried to remedy this deficiency by restricting utilitarianism to the evaluation of rules. 2. 2 Rights and Duties In general, a right is an individual’s entitlement to something. If it derives from a legal system, it is a legal right.
Legal rights are limited to the particular jurisdiction within which the legal system is in force. Moral rights or human rights are based on moral norms and principles that specify that all human beings are permitted or empowered to do something or are entitled to have something done for them. Ways that we use the term a right: • To indicate the mere absence of prohibitions against pursuing some interest or activity. • To indicate that a person is authorized or empowered to do something either to secure the interests of others or to secure one’s interests. To indicate the existence of prohibitions or requirements on others that enable the individual to pursue certain interests or activities. The most important moral rights are rights that impose prohibitions or requirements on others and that thereby enable individuals to choose freely whether to pursue certain interests or activities. Ways that we use the term moral rights: • Tightly correlated with duties. This is because one person’s moral right generally can be defined – at least partially – in terms of the moral duties other people have toward that person. Provide individuals with autonomy and equality in the free pursuit of their interests. • Provide a basis for justifying one’s actions and for invoking the protection or aid of others. Because moral rights have these features, they provide bases for making moral judgments that differ substantially from utilitarian standards. First, moral rights express the requirements of morality from the point of view of the individual, whereas utilitarianism expresses the requirements of morality from the point of view of society as a whole.
Second, rights limit the validity of appeals to social benefits and to numbers. A large group of rights called negative rights is distinguished by the fact that its members can be defined wholly in terms of the duties others have to not interfere in certain activities of the person who holds a given right. In contrast, positive rights do more than impose negative duties. They also imply that some other agents (it is not always clear who) have the positive duty of providing the holder of the right with whatever he or she needs to freely pursue his or her interests.
Contractual rights and duties (sometimes called special rights and duties or special obligations) are the limited rights and correlative duties that arise when one person enters an agreement with another person. Contractual rights and duties are distinguished: • By the fact that they attach to specific individuals and the correlative duties are imposed only on other specific individuals. • Arise out of a specific transaction between particular individuals. • Depend on a publicly accepted system of rules that define the transactions that give rise to those rights and duties.
The ethical rules that govern contracts: • Both of the parties to a contract must have full knowledge of the nature of the agreement they are entering. • Neither party to a contract must intentionally misrepresent the facts of the contractual situation to the other party. • Neither party to the contract must be forced to enter the contract under duress or coercion. • The contract must not bind the parties to an immoral act. Kant’s theory is based on a moral principle that he calls the categorical imperative and that requires that everyone should be treated as a free person equal to everyone else.
Kant’s first formulation of the categorical imperative is as follows: “I ought never to act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law. ” An action is morally right for a person in a certain situation if, and only if, the person’s reason for carrying out the action is a reason that he or she would be willing to have every person act on, in any similar situation. The first formalation of the categorical imperative, then, incorporates two criteria for determining moral right and wrong: Universalizability: The person’s reasons for acting must be reasons that everyone could act on at least in principle. • Reversibility: The person’s reasons for acting must be reasons that he or she would be willing to have all others use, even as a basis of how they treat him or her. The second formulation Kant gives of the categorical imperative is this: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end. Or never treat people only as means, but always also as ends. An action is morally right for a person if, and only if, in performing the action, the person does not use others merely as a means for advancing his or her own interests, but also both respects and develops their capacity to choose freely for themselves. A large number of authors have held that the categorical imperative (in one or the other of its formulations) explains why people have moral rights. • Human beings have a clear interest in being helped by being provided with the work, food, clothing, housing, and medical care they need to live on when they cannot provide these for themselves. Human beings also have a clear interest in being free from injury or fraud and in being free to think, associate, speak, and live privately as they choose. • Human beings have a clear interest in preserving the institution of contracts. Problems with Kant: • Kant’s theory is not precise enough to always be useful. • Although we might be able to agree on the kinds of interests that have the status of moral rights, there is substantial disagreement concerning what the limits of each of these rights are and concerning how each of these rights should be balanced against other conflicting rights. There are counterexamples that show the theory sometimes goes wrong. The Libertarian Objection: Nozick. The American philosopher Robert Nozick claims that the only basic right that every individual possesses is the negative right to be free from the coercion of other human beings. Nozick and other libertarians pass too quickly over the fact that the freedom of one person necessarily imposes constraints on other persons. Justice and Fairness Issues involving questions of justice and fairness are usually divided into three categories: Distributive justice, the first and basic category, is concerned with the fair distribution of society’s benefits and burdens. • Retributive justice refers to the just imposition of punishments and penalties on those who do wrong. • Compensatory justice concerns the best way of compensating people for what they lost when they were wronged by others. The principle of distributive justice: Individuals who are similar in all respects relevant to the kind of treatment in question should be given imilar benefits and burdens, even if they are dissimilar in other irrelevant respects; and individuals who are dissimilar in a relevant respect ought to be treated dissimilarly, in proportion to their dissimilarity. It is based on the purely logical idea that we must be consistent in the way we treat similar situations. Justice as Equality: Egalitarianism Egalitarians hold that there are no relevant differences among people that can justify unequal treatment. Every person should be given exactly equal shares of a society’s or a group’s benefits and burdens.
Criticisms of Egalitarians: • There is no quality that all human beings possess in precisely the same degree. • The egalitarian ignores some characteristics that should be taken into account in distributing goods both in society and in smaller groups: need, ability and effort. Some egalitarians have tried to strengthen their position by distinguishing two different kinds of equality: political equality and economic equality. Political equality refers to an equal participation in, and treatment by, the means of controlling and directing the political system.
This includes equal rights to participate in the legislative process, equal civil liberties, and equal rights to due process. Economic equality refers to equality of income and wealth and equality of opportunity. Thus, they have argued that every person has a right to a minimum standard of living and that income and wealth should be distributed equally until this standard is achieved for everyone. The economic surplus that remains after everyone has achieved the minimum standard of living can then be distributed unequally according to need, effort and so on. Justice Based on Contribution: Capitalist Justice
Effort: Benefits should be distributed according to the value of the contribution the individual makes to a society, a task, a group, or an exchange. The main question raised by the contributive principle of distributive justice is how the “value of the contribution” of each individual is to be measured (based on work effort). To reward a person’s efforts without any reference to whether the person produces anything worthwhile through these efforts is to reward incompetence and inefficiency. Productivity: the better the quality of a person’s contributed product, the more he or she should receive.
This ignores people’s needs. It is difficult to place any objective measure on the value of a person’s product, especially in fields such as the sciences, the arts, entertainment, athletics, education, theology, and health care. Supply and Demand: The value of a person’s product should be determined by the market forces of supply and demand. Unfortunately this method of measuring the value of a person’s product still ignores people’s needs. Justice based on Needs and Abilities: Socialism First proposed by Louis Blanc (1870-1924) “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. The socialist principal: work burdens should be distributed according to people’s abilities, and benefits should be distributed according to people’s needs. First there would be no relation between the amount of effort a worker puts forth and the amount of remuneration one receives (because remuneration would depend on need, not on effort). Human nature is essentially self-interested and competitive and so outside the family people cannot be motivated by the faternal willingness to share and help that is characteristic of families. If the socialist principle were enforced, it would obliterate individual freedom.
The occupation each person entered would be determined by the person’s abilities and not by his or her free choice. Justice as Freedom: Libertarianism From each according to what he chooses to do, to each according to what he makes for himself (perhaps with the contracted aid of others) and what others choose to do for him and choose to give him of what they’ve been given previously (under this maxim) and haven’t yet expended or transferred. Obviously, this means it would be wrong to tax one person to provide welfare benefits for someone else’s needs.
This would generate unjust treatment of the disadvantaged. Justice as Fairness: Rawls The distribution of benefits and burdens in a society is just if and only if: A. Each person has an equal right to the most extensive basic liberties compatible with similar liberties for all, and B. Social and economic inequalities are arranged so that they are both: 1. To the greatest benefit of the least advantaged persons 2. Attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity
Principle A is supposed to take priority over Principle B should the two of them ever come into conflict, and within Principle B, Part 2 is supposed to take priority over Part 1. Principle A is called the principle of equal liberty: each citizen’s liberties must be protected from invasion by others and must be equal to those of others. These basic liberties include the right to vote, freedom of speech and conscience and other civil liberties, freedom to hold personal property, and freedom from arbitrary arrest. Part 1 of Principle B is called the difference principle.
It assumes that a productive society will incorporate inequalities, but it then asserts that steps must be taken to improve the position of the most needy members of society, unless such improvements would so burden society that they make everyone, including the needy, worse off than before. Part 2 of Principle B is called the principle of fair equality of opportunity: everyone should be given an equal opportunity to qualify for the more privileged positions in society’s institutions. Retributive Justice Retributive justice concerns the justice of blaming or punishing persons for doing wrong.
More relevant to our purposes is the question of the conditions under which it is just to punish a person for doing wrong. Major conditions under which a person could not be held responsible include ignorance and inability. A second kind of condition of just punishments is certitude that the person being punished actually did the wrong. A third kind of condition of just punishments is that they must be consistent and proportioned to the wrong. Compensatory Justice Compensatory justice concerns the justice of restoring to a person what the person lost when he or she was wronged by someone else.
Traditional moralists have argued that a person has a moral obligation to compensate an injured party only if three conditions are present: 1. The action that inflicted the injury was wrong or negligent. 2. The person’s action was the real cause of the injury. 3. The person inflicted the injury voluntarily. The most controversial forms of compensation undoubtedly are the preferential treatment programs that attempt to remedy past injustices against groups. Partiality and Care This view – that we have an obligation to exercise special care toward those particular persons with whom we have valuable close relationships, articularly relations of dependency – is a key concept in an ethic of care. Thus, an ethic of care emphasizes two moral demands: • We each exist in a web of relationships and should preserve and nurture those concrete and valuable relationships we have with specific persons. • We each should exercise special care for those with whom we are concretely related by attending to their particular needs, values, desires, and concrete well-being as seen from their own personal perspective, and by responding positively to these needs, values, desires, and concrete well-being, particularly of those who are vulnerable and dependant on our care.
A communitarian ethic is an ethic that sees concrete communities and communal relationships as having a fundamental value that should be preserved and maintained. Second, it is important to recognize that the demands of caring are sometimes in conflict with the demands of justice. It has been claimed that an ethic of care can degenerate into unjust favoritism. Its demands can lead to burnout due to the sacrifice of their own needs and desires to care for the well-being of others. 2. Integrating Utility, Rights, Justice and Caring Utilitarian standards must be used when we do not have the resources to attain everyone’s objectives, so we are forced to consider the net social benefits and social costs consequent on the actions by which we can attain these objectives. Moral reasoning of this type forces consideration of whether the behavior respects the basic rights of the individuals involved and whether the behavior is consistent with one’s agreements and special duties.
Third, our moral judgments are also in part based on standards of justice that indicate how benefits and burdens should be distributed among the members of a group. Fourth, our moral judgments are also based on standards of caring that indicate the kind of care that is owed to those with whom we have special concrete relationships. This suggests that moral reasoning should incorporate all four kinds of moral considerations, although only one or the other may turn out to be relevant or decisive in a particular situation.
One simple strategy for ensuring that all four kinds of considerations are incorporated into one’s moral reasoning is to inquire systematically into the utility, rights, justice and caring involved in a given moral judgment. Ask a series of questions about an action that one is considering: 1. Does the action, as far as possible, maximize social benefits and minimize social injuries? 2. Is the action consistent with the moral rights of those whom it will affect? 3. Will the action lead to a just distribution of benefits and burdens? 4.
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The Nature of Virtue A moral virtue is an acquired disposition that is valued as part of the character of a morally good human being and that is exhibited in the person’s habitual behavior. A person has a moral virtue when the person is disposed to behave habitually in the way and with the reasons, feelings, and desires that are characteristic of a morally good person. The Moral Virtues Greek philosopher Aristotle argued that a moral virtue is a habit that enables a human being to act in accordance with the specific purpose of human beings. St.
Thomas Aquinas, followed Aristotle in holding that the moral virtues enable people to follow reason in dealing with their desires, emotions and actions and in accepting that the four pivotal or cardinal moral virtues are courage, temperance, justice, and prudence. Aquinas added the “theological” or Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity – the virtues that enable a person to achieve union with God. Virtues, Actions and Institutions Virtue theory argues that the aim of the moral life is to develop those general dispositions we call the moral virtues, and to exercise and exhibit them in the many situations that human life sets before us.
An action is morally right if in carrying out the action the agent exercises, exhibits, or develops a morally virtuous character, and it is morally wrong to the extent that by carrying out the action the agent exercises, exhibits, or develops a morally vicious character. Virtues and Principles Hence, there is no conflict between theories of ethics that are based on principles and theories of ethics based on virtues. An ethic of virtue is not a fifth kind of moral principle that should take its place alongside the principles of utilitarianism, rights, justice and caring.
Instead, an ethics of virtue fills out and adds to these four by looking not at the actions people are required to perform, but at the character they are required to have. 2. 7 Morality in International Contexts Some have claimed that, when operating in less developed countries, multinationals from more developed home countries should always follow those practices prevalent in the more developed country, which set higher or more stringent standards. But this claim ignores that introducing practices that have evolved in a highly developed country into one that is less developed may produce more harm than good.
Some have gone to the opposite extreme and argued that multinationals should always follow local practices, whatever they may be, or that they should do whatever the local government wants, because it is the representative of the people. But it is sometimes unethical to go along with local practices or government requirements as it sometimes is to oppose them. The foregoing discussion suggests that the following questions should be asked about any corporate action or policy under consideration by a company operating in a foreign country: . What does the corporate policy or action really mean in the context of the local culture? When viewed in terms of its local cultural meaning, is the policy or action ethically acceptable, or does it violate the ethical standards of utilitarianism, rights, justice, and caring to such an extent that it should not be undertaken? From the perspective of virtue, does the action or policy encourage the exercise or the development of morally good character? 2.
Taking into account the nation’s level of technological, social and economic development and what its government is doing to promote this development, does the corporate policy or action produce consequences that are ethically acceptable from the point of view of utilitarianism, rights, justice and caring, or from the point of view of moral character? Can the more stringent legal requirements or practices common in more developed nations be implemented without damage to the host country and its development, and in context would such implementation be more consistent with the ethical standards of utilitarianism, rights, justice, and caring?
Would such implementation encourage the exercise or the development of morally good character? 3. If the corporate action or policy is allowed or required by the laws or the decrees of the local government, does this government truly represent the will of all its people? Does the corporate action or policy nevertheless violate the principles of utilitarianism, rights, justice or caring, or is it condemnable from the perspective of moral character? If so, and if the action or policy is legally required to do business in the host country, then is the ethical violation significant enough to require withdrawal from that country? . If the corporate action or policy involves a local common practice that is morally questionable by home country standards (such as sexual discrimination or bribery of government personnel), is it possible to conduct business in the host country without engaging in the practice? If not, then does the practice violate the principles of utilitarianism, rights, justice, and caring to a degree significant enough to require withdrawal from that country? Is the practice so pernicious from the perspective of moral character as to require withdrawal from the country?