Instructions for Business Ethics Discussion – Week 12
After reading the enclosed article from National Geographic, entitled “Eating Meat has ‘dire’ consequences for the planet,” create a thread in the discussion board and discuss the following questions:
1. According to the article, what are the risks to worldwide meat consumption? What evidence is offered to support these statements in the article?
2. Assuming that the risks discussed in the article are likely, take a position on the ethics of stopping worldwide meat consumption. Students whose last name begins with the letters A-M will take the position that we have an ethical obligation to stop eating meat, while students whose last name begins with the letters N-Z will take the position that we do not have an ethical obligation to do so. All students should support their arguments by using an ethics perspective discussed in the course materials and pre-recorded lecture for this week.
3. Once you have submitted your responses, read and respond to at least two other student posts in this discussion board. All submissions should be at least 250 words, including responses to fellow students.
Kelli is the owner of a retail gift shop in Ocean City, Maryland, and regularly orders items for her shop in bulk from various suppliers of novelty items. Kelli contacts one of the suppliers, Made In
C CBC Legal Studies – Business Law I A n OER Textbook for MNGT 140 A. Ends v . Means A Foundational Question In business ethics, do the means justify the ends , or do the ends justify the means? Is it beer to hav e a set of rules telling you what you ought to do in any particular situation and then let the chips fall where they may, or should you worry more about how things are going to end up and do whatev er’s necessary to reach that goal? U ntil recently, Eddy Lepp ran an organic medicine business in Northern California. His herbal product soothed nausea and remedied vomiting, especially as suﬀered by chemo patients. He had a problem, though. While his business had been OK’ d by California regulators, federal agencies hadn’t approv ed: on the national level, selling his drug w as breaking the law. On the other hand, not selling his remedy had a signiﬁcant downside: it w as consigning his clients to debilitating suﬀering. So when federal agents came knocking on his door, he had to make a decision. If the means justify the ends—if you should follow the rules no maer the consequences—then when the agents ask Lepp point blank whether he’s selling the medicine, the ethical action is to admit it. He should tell the truth even though that will mean the end of his business. On the other hand, if the ends justify the means—if your ethical interest focuses on the consequences of an act instead of what you actually do— then the ethics change. If there’s a law forcing people to suﬀer unnecessarily, it should be broken. And when the agents ask him whether he’s selling, he’s going to hav e an ethical reason to lie. A cross the entire ﬁeld of traditional ethics, this is a foundational distinction. Is it what you do that maers, or the consequences? It’s hard to get oriented in ethics without making a preliminary decision between these two. No one can make the decision for you, but before anyone can make it, an understanding of how each works should be reached. A ribution and licensing: Business and the Legal Environment. Authored by : Anonymous. Provided by : Anonymous. Located at : hp://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/business-and-the-legal-environment/ (hp://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/business-and-the-legal-environment/) . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Aribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (hps://creativ ecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/) . hps://courses.lumenlearning.com/buslegalenv/ (hps://courses.lumenlearning.com/buslegalenv/chapter/3-8-alternativ e-means-of-resolving-disputes/) C REATE A FREE WEBSITE OR BLOG A T WORDPRESS.COM. U P ↑
Kelli is the owner of a retail gift shop in Ocean City, Maryland, and regularly orders items for her shop in bulk from various suppliers of novelty items. Kelli contacts one of the suppliers, Made In
C CBC Legal Studies – Business Law I A n OER Textbook for MNGT 140 D. Ethical Duties & Theory of Justice D uties “S hould I steal that?” “N o, stealing’s wrong.” Basic ethics. There are things that are right and others that are wrong, and the discussion ends. This lev el of clarity and solidity is the main strength of an ethics based on duties. We all have a duty not to steal, so we shouldn’t do it. More broadly, when w e’re making moral decisions, the key to deciding w ell is understanding what our duties are and obeying them. An ethics based on duties is one where certain rules tell us what we ought to do, and it’s our responsibility to know and follow those rules. T he M adoff F am ily If w e’re supposed to obey our duties, then what exactly are they? That’s a question Andrew Madoﬀ faced in December 2008 when he learned that some—maybe most, maybe all—of the money he and his family had been donating to the charitable Lymphoma Research Foundation and similar medical inv estigation enterprises was, in fact, stolen. It was big money—in the millions—channeled to dedicated researchers hot on the trail of a remedy for lymphoma, a deadly cancer. Andrew, it should be noted, w asn’t only a cancer altruist; he was also a victim, and the charitable money started ﬂowing to the researchers soon after he w as diagnosed. It’s unclear whether Andrew knew the money was stolen, but there’s no doubt that his dad did. Dad— Bernard “Bernie” Madoﬀ—was the one who took it. The largest Ponzi scheme in history, they call it. A Ponzi scheme—named after the famous perpetrator Charles Ponzi—makes suckers of inv estors by brieﬂy delivering artiﬁcially high returns on their money. The idea is simple: Y ou take $100 from client A, promising to invest the money clev erly and get a massiv e proﬁt. You spend $50 on yourself, and at the end of the y ear, you send the other $50 back to the client along with a note saying that the original $100 investment is geing excellent results and another $50 should come in next y ear and every year from then on. Happy client A recommends friends, who become clients B, C, and D. They bring in a total of $300, so it’s easy to make good on the original promise to send a $50 return the next y ear to client A. And you’ve now got $250 remaining from these three new clients, $150 of which you will soon return to them ($50 for each of the three new clients), leaving you with $100 to spend on yourself. The process repeats, and it’s not long before people are lining up to hand ov er their money. Everyone makes oﬀ like bandits. Bandit is the right term for Madoﬀ, who ran his Ponzi empire for around ﬁfteen years. So many people handed over so much cash, and the paper trail of fake stock-purchase receipts and the rest grew so complicated that it’s impossible to determine exact numbers of victims and losses. Federal authorities have estimated the victims w ere around ﬁve thousand and the losses around $65 billion, which works out to about $13 million squeezed from each client. M adoﬀ had, obviously, rich clients. He met them at his home in New Y ork City; at his mansion in hyperwealthy P alm Beach, Florida; or on his ﬁfty-ﬁv e-foot yacht clev erly named Bull . He impressed them with a calm demeanor and serious know ledge. While it’s true that he was mostly taking clients’ money and sticking it in his wallet, the investments he claimed to engineer w ere actually quite sophisticated; they had to do with buying stock in tandem with options to buy and sell that same stock on the futures market. He threw in technical words like “put” and “call” and left ev eryone thinking he was either crazy or a genius. Since he w as apparently making money, “genius” seemed the more likely reality. P eople also found him trustworthy. He sat on the boards of several Wall Street professional organizations and w as known on the charity circuit as a generous benefactor. Health research w as a favorite, especially after Andrew’s cancer was diagnosed. Exactly how much money Madoﬀ channeled to Andrew and other family members isn’t clear. By late 2008, however, Andrew knew that his father ’s investment company had hit a rough patch. The stock market w as crashing, inv estors wanted their money back, and Madoﬀ w as having trouble rounding up the cash, which explains why Andrew w as surprised when his father called him in and said he’ d decided to distribute about $200 million in bonuses to family members and employ ees. It didn’t make sense. How could there be a cash-ﬂow crisis but still enough cash to pay out giant bonuses? The blunt question—according to the Madoﬀ family—broke Madoﬀ down. He spilled the truth: there was lile money left; it w as all a giant lie. The next day, Andrew reported the situation to the authorities. M adoﬀ sits in jail now. He’ ll be there for the rest of his life. He claims his scheme w as his project alone and his children had no knowledge or participation in it, despite the fact that they w ere high executives in his fraudulent company. Stubbornly, he has refused to cooperate with prosecutors interested in determining the extent to which the children may hav e been involved. His estate has been seized. His wife, though, w as left with a small sum—$2.5 million—to meet her day-to-day living expenses. Bilked investors got nearly nothing. O ne of those inv estors, according to ABC News, w as Sheryl Weinstein. She and her family are now looking for a place to liv e because after investing everything with Madoﬀ and losing it, they w ere unable to make their house payments. At Madoﬀ’s sentencing hearing, and with her husband seated beside her, she spoke passionately about their plight and called Madoﬀ a “beast.” The hearing concluded with the judge calling Madoﬀ “evil” (Ross 2011). W einstein was well remembered by Madoﬀ’s longtime secretary, Eleanor Squillari. Squillari reported that Weinstein would often call Madoﬀ and that “he would roll his ey es and then they’d go meet at a hotel.” Their aﬀair lasted tw enty years, right up until the ﬁnance empire collapsed. W hat D o I O we M yse lf ? H is to ric a lly A ccu m ula te d D utie s to th e S elf O v er centuries of thought and inv estigation by philosophers, clergy, politicians, entrepreneurs, parents, students—by just about everyone who cares about how w e live together in a shared world—a limited number of duties hav e recurred persistently. Called perennial duties , these are basic obligations w e have as human beings; they’re the fundamental rules telling us how w e should act. If we embrace them, w e can be conﬁdent that in diﬃcult situations w e’ll make morally respectable decisions. Broadly, this group of perennial duties falls into two sorts: 1. D uties to ourselv es 2. D uties to others D uties to the self begin with our responsibility to develop our abilities and talents . The abilities w e ﬁnd within us, the idea is, aren’t just gifts; it’s not only a strike of luck that some of us are born with a knack for math, or an ear for music, or the ability to shepherd conﬂicts betw een people into agreements. All these skills are also responsibilities. When we receive them, they come with the duty to dev elop them , to not let them go to waste in front of the TV or on a pointless job. M ost of us have a feeling for this. It’s one thing if a v aguely clumsy girl in a ballet class decides to not sign up the next semester and instead use the time trying to boost her GP A, but if someone who’s really good —who’s strong, and elegant, and a natural—decides to just walk away, of course the coach and friends are going to encourage her to think about it again. She has something that so few hav e, it’s a shame to waste it; it’s a kind of betray al of her own uniqueness. This is the spot where the ethics come in: the idea is that she really should continue her development; it’s a responsibility she has to herself because she really can develop. W hat about Andrew Madoﬀ, the cancer suﬀerer? He not only donated money to cancer research charities but also dedicated his time, serving as chairman of the Lymphoma Research Foundation (until his dad was arrested). This dedication does seem like a duty because of his unique situation: as a suﬀerer, he perfectly understood the misery caused by the disease, and as a w ealthy person, he could muster a serious force against the suﬀering. When he did, he fulﬁlled the duty to exploit his particular abilities. The other signiﬁcant duty to oneself is nearly a corollary of the ﬁrst: the duty to do ourselves no harm . At root, this means w e have a responsibility to maintain ourselv es healthily in the world. It doesn’t do any good to dedicate hours training the body to dance beautifully if the rest of the hours are dedicated to alcoholism and Xanax. Similarly, Andrew should not only ﬁght cancer publicly by advocating for medical research but also ﬁght privately by adhering to his treatment regime. A t the extreme, this duty also prohibits suicide, a possibility that no doubt crosses Bernie Madoﬀ’s mind from time to time as he contemplates spending the rest of his life in a jail cell. W hat D o I O we O th ers ? H is to ric a lly A ccu m ula te d D utie s to O th ers The duties w e have to ourselv es are the most immediate, but the most commonly referenced duties are those we have to others. A void wronging others is the guiding duty to those around us. It’s diﬃcult, how ever, to know exactly what it means to wrong another in ev ery particular case. It does seem clear that Madoﬀ wronged his clients when he pocketed their money. The case of his wife is blurrier, though. She w as allowed to keep more than $2 million after her husband’s sentencing. She claims she has a right to it because she nev er knew what her husband was doing, and anyway, at least that much money came to her from other perfectly legal investment initiatives her husband undertook. So she can make a case that the money is hers to keep and she’s not wronging anyone by holding onto it. Still, it’s hard not to wonder about investors here, especially ones like Shery l Weinstein, who lost ev erything, including their homes. H onesty is the duty to tell the truth and not leave anything important out. On this front, obviously, Madoﬀ wronged his investors by misleading them about what w as happening with their money. R espect others is the duty to treat others as equals in human terms. This doesn’t mean treating ev eryone the same way. When a four-y ear-old asks where babies come from, the stork is a ﬁne answ er. When adult investors asked Madoﬀ where the proﬁts came from, what they got w as more or less a fairy tale. Now, the ﬁrst case is an example of respect: it demonstrates an understanding of another ’s capacity to comprehend the world and an aempt to provide an explanation matching that ability. The second is a lie; but more than that, it’s a sting of disrespect. When Madoﬀ invented stories about where the money came from, he disdained his investors as beneath him, treating them as unworthy of the truth. Beneﬁcence is the duty to promote the w elfare of others; it’s the Good Samaritan side of ethical duties. With respect to his own family members, Madoﬀ certainly fulﬁlled this obligation: ev ery one of them received constant and lavish amounts of cash. There’s also beneﬁcence in Andrew’s work for charitable causes, ev en if there’s a self-serving element, too. By contrast, Madoﬀ display ed lile beneﬁcence for his clients. G ratitude is the duty to thank and remember those who help us. One of the curious parts of Madoﬀ’s last chapter is that in the end, at the sentencing hearing, a parade of witnesses stood up to berate him. But even though Madoﬀ had donated millions of dollars to charities ov er the years, not a single person or representativ e of a charitable organization stood up to say something on his behalf. That’s ingratitude, no doubt. But there’s more here than ingratitude; there’s also an important point about all ethics guided by basic duties: the duties don’t exist alone . They’re all part of a single fabric, and sometimes they pull against each other. In this case, the duty Madoﬀ’s beneﬁciaries probably felt to a man who’ d given them so much w as overwhelmed by the demand of another duty: the duty to respect others, speciﬁcally those who lost everything to Madoﬀ. It’s diﬃcult to imagine a w ay to treat people more disdainfully than to thank the criminal who stole their money for being so generous. Those who receiv ed charitable contributions from Madoﬀ were tugged in one direction by gratitude to him and in another by respect for his many victims. All the receiv ers opted, ﬁnally, to respect the victims. Fidelity is the duty to keep our promises and hold up our end of agreements. The Madoﬀ case is liered with abuses on this front. On the professional side, there’s the ﬁnancier who didn’t inv est his clients’ money as he’d promised; on the personal side, there’s Madoﬀ and W einstein staining their wedding vows. From one end to the other in terms of ﬁdelity, this is an ugly case. R eparation is the duty to compensate others when w e harm them. Madoﬀ’s wife, Ruth, obviously didn’t feel much of this. She walked away with $2.5 million. The judge ov erseeing the case, on the other hand, ﬁlled in some of what Ruth lacked. To pay back bilked investors, the court seized her jew elry, her art, and her mink and sable coats. Those things, along with the couple’s three multimillion-dollar homes, the limousines, and the y acht, were all sold at public auction. T he C once pt o f F air n ess The ﬁnal duty to be considered—fairness—requires more dev elopment than those already listed because of its complexity. A ccording to Aristotle, fairness is treating equals equally and unequals unequally. The treat equals equally part means, for a professional investor like Madoﬀ, that all his clients get the same deal: those who inv est equal amounts of money at about the same time should get an equal return. So ev en though Madoﬀ was sleeping with one of his investors, this shouldn’t allow him to treat her account distinctly from the ones belonging to the rest. Impartiality must gov ern the operation. The other side of fairness is the requirement to treat unequals unequally . Where there’s a meaningful diﬀerence between investors—which means a diﬀerence pertaining to the inv estment and not something extraneous like a romantic involvement—there should correspond a proportional diﬀerence in what investors receiv e. Under this clause, Madoﬀ could ﬁnd justiﬁcation for allowing two distinct rates of return for his clients. Those that put up money at the beginning when ev erything seemed riskier could justiﬁably receive a higher payout than the one yielded to more recent participants. Similarly, in any company, if layoﬀs are necessary, it might make sense to say that those who’v e been working in the organization longest should be the last ones to lose their jobs. In either case, the important point is that fairness doesn’t mean everyone gets the same treatment; it means that rules for treating people must be applied equally . If a corporate executiv e decides on layoﬀs according to a last-in-ﬁrst-out process, that’s ﬁne, but it would be unfair to make exceptions. O ne of the unique aspects of the idea of fairness as a duty is its hybrid status betw een duties to the self and duties to others. While it would seem strange to say that we have a duty of gratitude or ﬁdelity to ourselv es, it clearly makes sense to assert that w e should be fair to ourselves. Impartiality—the rule of no exceptions—means no exceptions. So a stock inv estor who puts his own money into a general fund he runs should receive the same return as ev eryone else. A poor inv estment that loses 10 percent should cost him no more than 10 percent (he has to be fair to himself ), and one that gains 10 percent shouldn’t net him any more than what the others receive (he has to be fair to others). M odern F air n ess: R aw ls The recent American philosopher John Raw ls proposes a veil of ignorance as a w ay of testing for fairness, especially with respect to the distribution of w ealth in general terms. For example, in society as Madoﬀ knew it, vast inequalities of w ealth weren’t only allow ed, they were honored: being richer than anyone else was something to be proud of, and Madoﬀ liv ed that reality full tilt. Now, if you asked Madoﬀ whether we should allow some members of society to be much w ealthier than others, he might say that’s fair: everyone is allow ed to get rich in America, and that’s just what he did. How ever, the guy coming into Madoﬀ’s oﬃce at 3 a.m. to mop up and empty the trash might see things diﬀerently. He may claim to work just as hard as Madoﬀ, but without geing fancy cars or P alm Springs mansions. People making the big bucks, the suggestion could follow, should get hit with bigger taxes and the money used to provide educational programs allowing guys from the cleaning crew to get a beer chance at climbing the income ladder. Now, given these two perspectiv es, is there a way to decide what’s really fair when it comes to wealth and taxes? R aw ls proposes that w e try to reimagine society without knowing what our place in it would be. In the case of Madoﬀ, he may like things as they are, but would he stick with the idea that ev erything’s fair if he were told that a rearrangement w as coming and he was going to get stuck back into the business world at random? He might hesitate there, seeing that he could get dealt a bad hand and, y es, end up being the guy who cleans oﬃces. And that guy who cleans oﬃces might ﬁgure that if he got a break, then he’d be the rich one, and so he’s no longer so sure about raising taxes. The v eil of ignorance is the idea that when you set up the rules, you don’t get to know beforehand where you’ll fall inside them, which is going to force you to construct things in a way that is really balanced and fair. A s a note here, nearly all children know the v eil of ignorance perfectly. When two friends together buy a candy bar to split, they’ll frequently have one person break it, and the other choose a half. If you’ re the breaker, you’re under the v eil of ignorance since you don’t know which half you’ re going to get. The result is you break it fairly, as close to the middle as you can. B ala ncin g th e D utie s D uties include those to dev elop abilities and talents, do ourselv es no harm, avoid wronging others, honesty, respect others, beneﬁcence, gratitude, fidelity, reparation, fairness. Taken on their own, each of these plugs into normal experience without signiﬁcant problems. Real troubles come, though, when more than one duty seems applicable and they’ re pulling in diﬀerent directions. Take Andrew Madoﬀ, for example. Lying in bed at night and taking his ethical duties seriously, what should he do in the wake of the revelation that his family business w as in essence a giant theft? On one side, there’s an argument that he should just keep on keeping on by maintaining his life as a New Y ork ﬁnancier. The route to justifying that decision starts with a duty to himself: D evelop abilities and talents. As an expert in ﬁnance, someone with both know ledge of and experience in the ﬁeld, Andrew should continue cultiv ating and perfecting his talents, at least those he had acquired on the legitimate side of the family’s dealings. Beyond the duty to himself, Andrew can further buress his decision to keep his current life going by referencing a duty to others: B eneﬁcence. This may demand that Andrew continue along the lines he’ d already established because they enabled his involvement with cancer research. He’s got money to donate to the cause and his very personal experience with the disease allows rare insight into what can be done to help suﬀerers. To the extent that’s true, beneﬁcence supports Andrew’s decision to go on living as he had been. O n the other side, what’s the duty-based argument in favor of Andrew taking a diﬀerent path by breaking aw ay from his old lifesty le and dedicating all his energy and time to doing what he can for the jilted investors the family business left behind? R espect. The duty to treat others as equals demands that Andrew take seriously the abilities and liv es of all those who lost everything. Why should they be reduced to powerlessness and poverty while he continues maximizing his potential as a stock buy er and nonproﬁt leader? Respecting others and their losses may mean leaving his profession and helping them get back on their feet. R eparation. This duty advances as the proposal for Andrew to liquidate his assets and divide the money as fairly as possible among the ruined inv estors. It may be that Andrew didn’t orchestrate the family Ponzi scheme, but wiingly or not, he participated and that opens the w ay to the duty to repayment. So which path should Andrew follow? There’s no certain answer. What duties do allow Andrew—or anyone considering his situation—to achieve is a solid footing for making a reasonable and defendable decision. From there, the ethical task is to weigh the various duties and choose which ones pull harder and make the stronger demand. W here D o D utie s C om e F ro m ? The question about the origin of duties belongs to metaethics, to puriﬁed discussions about the theory of ethics as opposed to its application, so it falls outside this book’s focus. Still, two commonly cited sources of duties can be quickly noted. O ne standard explanation is that duties are wrien into the nature of the univ erse; they’re part of the w ay things are . In a sense, they’ re a moral complement to the laws of physics. W e know that scientists form mathematical formulas to explain how far arrows will trav el when shot at a certain speed; these formulas describe the way the natural world is. So too in the realm of ethics: duties are the rules describing how the world is in moral terms. On this account, ethics isn’t so diﬀerent from science; it’s just that scientists explore physical reality and ethicists explore moral reality. In both cases, how ever, the reality is already there; w e’re just trying to understand it. A nother possible source for the duties is humanity in the sense that part of what it means to be human is to hav e this particular sense of right and wrong. Under this logic, a computer-guided robot may beat humans in chess, but no machine will ev er understand what a child does when mom asks, “Did you break the vase? Tell me the truth.” Maybe this moral spark children are taken to feel is wrien into their genetic code, or maybe it’s something ineﬀable, like a soul. Whichev er, the reason it comes naturally is because it’s part of our nature. W hat A re th e A dva nta ges a nd D ra w ba cks o f a n E th ic s B ase d o n D utie s? O ne of the principal adv antages of working with an ethics of duties is simplicity: duties are fairly easy to understand and work with. W e all use them every day. For many of us these duties are the ﬁrst thing coming to mind when w e hear the word ethics . Straightforward rules about honesty, gratitude, and keeping up our ends of agreements—these are the components of a common education in ethics, and most of us are w ell experienced in their use. The problem, though, comes when the duties pull against each other: when one says y es and the other says no. Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for deciding which duties should take precedence over the others. R oss, Brian et al. “Bernie Madoﬀ’s Other Secret: His Hadassah CFO Mistress,” ABCNews.com . 16 April 2011, hp://abcnews.go.com/Bloer/Madoﬀ/story?id=8319695&page=1 (hp://abcnews.go.com/Bloer/Madoﬀ/story?id=8319695&page=1) . A dv ertisements R EPORT THIS AD C REATE A FREE WEBSITE OR BLOG A T WORDPRESS.COM. U P ↑ R EPORT THIS AD