Saturday, July 31, 2004

What should business ethics mean for consumers?

In a free column in Forbes, Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff (both professors at Yale Law School and Yale School of Management) ask: What do we make of the fact that most people's actions aren't consistent with what they consider to be ethical behavior? Ayres and Nalebuff think this is a result of their not having thought much about the issue. The most worrisome result is that this inconsistency causes some people to try even harder to find an ethical justification for their actions. And that leads to the worst possible approach to ethics, in which your actions determine your ethical reckoning. The reasoning goes as follows: "I am an ethical person. Hence, if I did something, it must be ethical. Let me find the ethical justification for it." Better to allow the possibility that you made a mistake but will do better in the future.

1 Comments:

Blogger Alex said...

If we ignore the bottom and top 1/3rd of the Bell Curve that represents the extremes and concentrate on the middle 1/3rd which represents the middle ground of ethical behaviour then I have the following comments. In the middle 1/3rd we have ethical behaviour that is slightly off the normal. The problem arises because most of us aren't independently wealthy and therefore have to compromise our ethical standards to eat. We justify it by calling it competition. That is why only lip service is given to the pure concept of "The team" or "team work". We only work as a "team" because we are all interested in self preservation under the hierarchical system. In addition most of us have baggage in the form of family including children. Most of us want our children to have a better life. This means that we may have to compromise our ethical approach to life. Without getting too much into religion the same principles apply in that context. We go to church on Sunday to cleanse our souls and then go back to work to do the same old things to get ahead. Hence the ethical reasoning which goes as: "I am an ethical person. Hence, if I did something, it must be ethical. Let me find the ethical justification for it." could be rewritten in the religious context as:"I am a religious person. Hence, if I did something, it must be acceptable to God. Let me find the religious justification for it in order to preserve my soul and hopefully enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

2:04 PM  

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