Ethics Case Study
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Utilitarianism would not qualify Tom falsifying data as unethical, as it would have the greatest benefits to the larger quantity of stakeholders whilst only bringing a limited amount of harm. This can be seen through the stakeholders who benefit from Tom gaining full-time employment such as; his parents, the child receiving the life-saving sponsorship, the charity and the government, as Tom could start paying his HECS debt. One stakeholder who would be harmed by Toms dilemma is the small accounting firm in Milton. Ultimately the risk of this actually harming the business due to his lack of experience would be minimised due to Tom being tightly supervised for the first year of work. Egoism also maintains that the agent should do whatever they ought to do if it benefits themselves. In Toms moral dilemma, if he falsifies his CV in order to achieve full time work, he is acting on the natural instinct of self promotion that egoism sees as ethical.
Kantian ethics maintains that there are some things that are deemed wrong in themselves, apart from their consequences. This means that Tom should regard the act of lying as wrong; regardless whether it brings about good results. Kants categorical imperative states “I should never act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal good” (Kant, 1996). In universalising a law that is not in relation to specific circumstances, it allows moral issues to be solved by pure rationality. When applying Toms situation to Kants universalisation theory, a maxim for Toms situation could be “one should falsify data if it benefits them”. This could not be accepted as a law universally as falsifying data could not be consistent, as eventually all data would be deemed tainted and therefore unusable, leading to the act of giving information to its own demise.
If it were ethical for Tom to falsify data, Tom would have to accept that it would therefore be ethical for everyone to do so. If everyone was free to fake data, universal lying would weaken trust in communication. Kant also states “act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply means” (Kant, 1996). If Tom falsified his CV, it would result in disrespect as the owners of the accounting firm are basing crucial business decisions on inaccurate data, which is unethical.
Applying virtue ethics is based on evaluating how virtuous Tom is, not just the actions or consequences of his moral situation. A virtue that can be applied from Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean is ‘indifference’ meaning good deeds are done for their own sake and not for personal recognition. The two vices of indifference are false modesty (deficiency) and careerist
(excess). Assuming Tom decided to fake his CV he would display characteristics in the vice of excess meaning he is a careerist and would not be classified as virtuous, and therefore unethical.
Ranking of Ethical Theories
Utilitarianism is in line with many fundamental morals that society intends for us to adopt. For example, two fundamental ethical principles are that we must avoid doing harm to others and aim to do good. When I consider certain actions or decisions, I usually evaluate them in terms of their consequences. Although it disregards the ethical element of an action, it looks at the benefits it can cause in solving my moral dilemmas. Egoism also usually takes part in most of my moral decision making. I usually base many of my decisions on the consequences I can achieve, therefore find this most useful.
2. Virtue Ethics
I use virtue ethics to solve some moral issues due to the benefit of gaining insight into emotional and personal values in relation to the action. I believe people are emotionally involved in ethical reasoning making virtue ethics a better way to assess whether an action is ethical or not. I find this theory somewhat useful as I believe every situation cannot be branded under absolute rules, as in Kantian Ethics.
3. Kantian Ethics
Although Kantian seems like the ‘right’ moral structure to follow it is extremely idealistic and would not necessarily result in good outcomes for me or the greater good of everyone. I think due to it being a rigid system, in certain situations for my moral dilemmas, it could not be used as Kantian ethics does not factor the importance of character and motivation in making ethical judgements. Therefore I don’t believe I would assess the ethics of a dilemma accurately, finding this least useful.
Socially responsible organisations should aim to minimise their negative impacts, but the fast food industry faces extreme public criticism due to the effects it is having on some main stakeholders; consumers and communities. Fast food consumption is potentially harmful and if businesses adopt Friedmans’ shareholder theory by only focusing on short-term profit goals, the long-term welfare of customers is compromised. For example, Bowman, Gortmaker & Ebbeling (2004), indicate that “energy derived from fast food is 10% of a child’s average recommended daily intake, 5 times more than the 1970’s”. This highlights the need for somebody to not only take responsibility but action. “Advertisers spend 100s of billions of dollars a year worldwide encouraging, persuading and manipulating children into a consumer lifestyle” (Beder, 1998), leading to devastating consequences.
The narrow view by Friedman, where businesses adopt the ‘let the government do it’ theory is criticised as society now has a greater concern for a better quality of life which businesses could help achieve. Supporters of Freeman maintain that fast food corporations have a responsibility to their stakeholders and should acknowledge potential health risks associated with consuming fast food. Highly advertised food corporations should have responsibilities beyond enhancing their profits, because they have great social and economic power in society. This undeniable power discounts Friedman’s theory that the ‘business can’t handle it’. If corporations have such power, they should also take responsibility for its actions in these areas.
Nature Neuroscience published a study linking “effects of fast food to those of addictive substances such as cocaine, heroin and nicotine” (Klein, 2010). If tobacco packaging in many countries legally have to display health warnings due to smoking being addictive, why does fast food packaging not have responsibility to do the same? Businesses who adopt a narrow view on CSR compromise stakeholders welfare. For example, on January 1954 in the US “main tobacco companies published a statement named ‘A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers’ reaching an estimated 43,245,000 Americans” (Cummings, 2002).
The advertisement promised consumers that cigarettes were safe and denied all health risks to consumers. This resulted in millions of people dying due to lacking concern stemming from the companies understating health effects in a blind effort to create profit. This scenario could almost determine the future of fast food industries being irresponsible about marketing to addicted consumers. If major food corporations don’t undertake measures to outweigh unhealthy promotion to children and society, they might too face the same consequences.