Can Business Ethics Exist? Essay

1700 words - 7 pages

Niall Fitzgerald, stated, “Corporate social responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it... because it is good for our business.” (as cited in Elliot, 2003, para. 14) What is social responsibility? Peter F. Drucker (1981) suggests it is today’s business ethics as defined by society’s ever-changing values, values based on people functioning as a group. Milton Friedman’s (1970) view of social responsibilities is one of individual ethics. Both Drucker and Friedman interchangeably use these terms; ethics and social responsibility, in their case views on the subject. Business ethics and social responsibility are like fraternal twins, born from a womb of moral imperatives and as such, share a base genetic foot-stamp in scope and ideology. In the case views as presented by Peter F. Drucker and Milton Friedman, what ethics and social responsibility is varies between an individual and business view.
Friedman (1970) is very clear on the line between individual ethics and business. An individual acts in his own right based upon his personal morality code. He takes on responsibilities unique to him in a singular fashion such as marriage. A business, however, is a collective of reasoning from group thought defined by social convention. It is soulless as societal pressures dictate the ethical code. Individual responsibilities however, are self-assign because he adopts his own code of ethics and consequences. When the individual is working as an executive, he is required to balance the needs of the stockholders and the owners of the business all the while producing profit. His individual ethical leanings, either consensual or conflicted, are subordinate to the corporate declaration of its morality code. This duality on the part of the individual/executive keeps many from seeing the separation of the individual and a business. Drucker (1981) affirms morality for the individual has only one set of rules, however in the business environment, morality rules fluctuate based on social convention and economic pressures. Separation of business practices and personal ethics decisions and the resulting consequences can be confusing. Case in point: The individual choice of surrendering your wallet to a thief to avoid physical harm is a wise, if not a prudent choice. Yet an industrial form of mugging whereas a business surrenders a bribe to an adversarial company in order to avoid financial harm feels dirty and wrong. A lone individual seemingly stands more to lose over a corporate entity. Another example of this bias of ethical behavior happened during the Reagan Administration, “…Reagan's cabinet appointees was accused of "unethical practices" and investigated for weeks because his New Jersey construction company was alleged to have paid money to union goons under the threat of their beating up the employees, sabotaging the trucks, and vandalizing the building...

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