Business Ethics in the Context of the History of Ethics, Part Two
In the context of the history of ethics, this is not surprising. Business ethics is an applied discipline, and one would expect it to apply the dominant ethical theories.
In Plato and to a lesser extent in Aristotle we read that practical concerns are low and vulgar. It follows that business, as an inherently practical enterprise, is hardly worthy of esteem. Given the place of Plato and Aristotle on the intellectual landscape, we have a partial explanation of the disdain that members of the cultural elite have always exhibited toward business.
In Immanuel Kant we read that there is an absolute duality of moral motivation (duty) and interest motivation (inclination): any hint of an interest destroys the moral worth of an action. But since business is driven by interests, it follows that business is inherently amoral.
In John Stuart Mill we read that altruistic self-sacrifice for the collective is the standard of morality and that there is nothing worse than someone interested primarily in his own “miserable individuality.” But obviously business is driven by self interest rather than altruism, individualism rather than collectivism, the profit motive rather than the motive of self-sacrifice; so business is immoral or amoral.
In Christianity and Marxism, we read the same moral themes: collectivism and human sacrifice. Christianity’s core parable is Jesus’ voluntarily undergoing crucifixion in order to cleanse humans...
Read Article : Ayn Rand and Contemporary Business Ethics, Part Two
I, Charles from the Camps: A Novel is a 2018 dystopian novel by Joel D. Hirst portraying the life of the fictional Charles Agwok, a young man who grows up in the refugee camps of Uganda. Hirst examines how camp life–the result of war, dictatorship, and the fallacies of poverty perpetuated by relief organizations– have demoralized Charles. In this excerpt from the novel, a cynical Charles, who has left the camps to work as a hitman in Kampala, is in love with Ruth, a beautiful young woman from a middle-class Kampala family. Charles and Ruth have left the city to spend the weekend together in an upscale resort. There is love-making and luxury, and Charles struggles to understand that Ruth, an egoist, plans to leave him to study medicine far away from Uganda and the misery there.–MM
“What do you want to do with your life?” Ruth said.
“I want to live it,” I responded.
“But aren’t you living it? You know that’s not what I mean.”
“I know,” I said, without offering further insight.
“For me,” she said, to my relief. I’d learned that if silence abides for long enough, people will return to talk about themselves. “I want to be a doctor. But not here, dealing with the horrible diseases of poor people. Or of those filthy unfortunates who sometimes cross the river from the north.” I grimaced. “No, I am going to study in London or maybe Canada. Working in a neat clinic. I want to be a plastic surgeon. You know how much they earn? Making people beautiful–that is so much...
Read Article : A World to Believe In
In the foreword to The Moral Basis of Individualism—a book that Ayn Rand began writing for Bobbs-Merrill in 1943 but never finished—we find this assessment of altruism.
Every major horror of history was perpetrated—not by reason of and in the name of that which men held as evil, that is, selfishness—but through, by, for and in the name of an altruistic purpose. The Inquisition. Religious wars. Civil wars. The French Revolution. The German Revolution. The Russian Revolution. No act of selfishness has ever equaled the carnages perpetrated by disciples of altruism. Nor has any egotist ever roused masses of fanatical followers by enjoining them to go out to fight for his personal gain. Every leader gathered men through the slogans of a selfless purpose, through the plea for their self-sacrifice to a high altruistic goal: the salvation of others’ souls, the spread of enlightenment, the common good of their state.
We see here a focus on the political fallout of altruism that Rand stressed throughout her career. Altruism, for Rand, is and always has been the moral foundation of collectivism. Before you can persuade masses of people to sacrifice their own interests for the “common good” (or some similar, supposedly noble altruistic ideal) you must first persuade them that self-sacrifice is a moral duty.
As noted in my last essay, Rand’s emphasis on altruism as a moral duty (a position she shared with...
Read Article : Ayn Rand and Altruism, Part 3
On December 15, 1791, the United States Congress ratified the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution guaranteeing individual rights and limiting government power. For Ayn Rand, who consistently defended the rights of the individual, the significance of the Bill of Rights was obvious: “The Bill of Rights was not directed against private citizens, but against the government–as an explicit declaration that individual rights supersede any public or social power.”
In her novel Atlas Shrugged, Rand created a dystopian America in which individual rights and freedoms are systematically removed and replaced with policies and regulations designed to promote public welfare and social protections. Ayn Rand’s heroes, the private business men and women exploited by the new policies, ultimately go on strike–although not always without a fight–abandoning their homes and businesses and fleeing the tyranny, chaos, and deprivation that the policies create.
In most cases, as Rand imagined it, no one officially revokes rights. For example, the rights to conscience, speech and assembly remain in Atlas Shrugged. It just gets harder and harder to exercise them. When Dagny Taggart tries to conduct...
Read Article : Ayn Rand and the Bill of Rights
This four-part series by The Atlas Society Senior Scholar Stephen Hicks, Ph.D is a justification of capitalism and of Ayn Rand’s ethics of egoism in business. The series was originally published as one article in the Journal of Accounting, Ethics, & Public Policy in 2003. Fifteen years later, Hicks’s arguments remain important. Today, sundry politicians and activists cynically perpetuate the myths of Socialism by targeting profitable businesses with regulations and fines in the name of the environment and the needy. Bureaucrats attempt to usurp credit for the accomplishments of Capitalism by claiming “Nobody in this country got rich on their own.” Hicks makes the case that Ayn Rand’s moral defense of individualism and Capitalism remains the best refutation of the anti-business agenda.
Introduction: Business and the Free Society, Part One
Advocates of the free society think of business as an integral part of the dynamic, progressive society they advocate. In the West, the rise of a culture hospitable to business has unleashed incalculable productive energies. Business professionals have taken the products of science and revolutionized the fields of agriculture, transportation, and medicine. Business professionals have taken the products of art and dramatically increased our access to them.
We have more food, we are more mobile, we have more health care, we have more access to works of fiction, theater, and music than anyone could reasonably have predicted a few...
Read Article : Ayn Rand and Contemporary Business Ethics, Part 1