Introduction to Ethics, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The subject, ethics, is a branch of philosophy; in this case, moral philosophy. It assumes that in instances of choice people will choose to do what is morally correct. There is no single answer about the correctness or incorrectness of morals. It is a combination of perceived purity, righteousness, principles, standards, and values. People whose jobs impact upon other individuals are expected to display this conduct and it is these people who receive, or don’t receive benefits, who judge their bosses, their coworkers, and third parties such as elected officials.  Moore (1903, 2003) described this conduct as meta-ethics:  An individual’s interpretation of right and wrong. Jobs well-done by those over us reflect moral responsibility. Jobs poorly done by those individuals in positions higher than us suggest they display moral ineptitude.

The Josephson Institute (2011) identified ethics by six pillars:

  1. Trustworthiness: People trust the actions of the person they are measuring. They believe that the person in question will do what is expected of him or her. Equilibrium is formed. If the person performing the act is deemed trustworthy the individuals who will benefit from the act must be counted on to also do what is correct. The first pillar also contains honesty and truthfulness. With it, honesty brings an expression of trust and the people charged with the mission as well as the people whose task it is to respond to the benefits of trustworthiness must share equalized beliefs. Truthfulness requires us to explain the facts to the best of our knowledge, if at all likely devoid of intentional lies.
  2. Integrity: The term suggests that the ethical person is complete in his or her actions. The ethical person acts according to his or her beliefs, not simply because of expediency. The person with integrity never demeans him or herself by taking the road that will achieve personal gain when there are opportunities for gain by the greatest number of people. The actions associated with integrity more so than other parts of The Josephson Institute’s constitute the issues violated by the mayor of the small Southeastern community discussed elsewhere in this document.
  3. Reliability: This pillar suggests that reasonable persons should be expected to rely on us, to rely on the fact that what we say we will do, and will do with every reasonable effort. The responsible party should always avoid bad-faith excuses. Excuses which cause us to hand-in incomplete assignments (as in tasks assigned by a corporate leader) remove or destroy the good faith other people have in our ability to be worthy persons. When measured in the terms of ethics it suggests we are unreliable and therefore, the tasks we are charged with would be best-off being assigned to someone else.
  4. Fairness: This concept can’t be defined as a single concept. Five different concepts are all qualities of ethics. They include equality, impartiality, proportionality, openness, and due process. In effect, the acts of individuals are applied equally to all individuals. They are also applied impartially without any individual or group of individuals being singled out for any reason. There occurs a proportional response; the occurrence of an act is met by an action of equal occurrence. No information is intentionally hidden or disguised. Every actor knows exactly what is occurring and what can be expected. Finally, in instances where someone has to be judged, they will be done fairly and according to an established set of rules pertaining to business or government.
  5. Caring: To be truly ethical, one must be kind and compassionate. He or she needs to display empathy and be grateful for help from others.
  6. Citizenship: Those people in-charge need to be observant of local and national laws. Like those people they govern, they need to participate in the activities associated with democracy: keeping personally informed and voting.

A Small Southeastern City    

In small communities and sparsely populated areas throughout the civilized world, single individuals are called upon to wear many hats. A perfect example of this may be the old Andy Griffith Show (episode unknown) in the small town of Mayberry. Griffith plays the role of both sheriff and justice of the peace. In real time communities throughout our country public officials often serve without salary. To supplement their income they often maintain personal businesses during specific time periods. For example, the community’s undertaker knows he may be called upon to serve as the community’s coroner.

Ethics can be examined from different perspectives. Moore (1903, 2003) observed that ethics was a singular approach to one’s actions. The person doing the action made the decision about whether he or she was morally correct. Often, these roles are concerned with personal conduct according to good Christian principles (Gospel of Matthew as stated by Jesus, but also appearing in the Jewish Torah). Realistically, many social organizations seeking membership tell their members to conduct themselves according to a set of responsible moral standards; examples of these organizations include the Elks, the Moose, Lions, and Masons.

Rawls (1971, 2002) observed that the personal actions suggested by Moore (1903, 2003) were unimportant in a more-populated community or what by the 21st century has become a global marketplace. Later studies by Conversi (2009) suggested that personal actions were unimportant, replaced by those actions that affected the greater population. According to Conversi, the actions of a responsible leader affects the leader and all of the subordinates in a given area. For instance, a manufacturer of baby food is responsible for all babies regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic factors and prior health issues. Many U.S. law firms file class action suits because some people were jeopardized by what was produced from a certain organization. The single most production company which remains generally unprosecuted for violating the public trust are the different tobacco companies (World Health Organization, 2009).

Elected officials, especially in communities which can’t, or are unable, to support full time employees often engage themselves in many vocations to improve their income (Blasko, 2010). In a small Florida community the mayor also owns a real estate company. He was contacted by a developer in his area. The developer requested the mayor’s help, not in his role as mayor but as his role of a real estate professional. The real estate developer requested to mayor to exercise his real estate expertise by helping the developer to “move” a single piece of otherwise hard to sell property. According to Rawls (1971, 2002) the mayor acted unethically in the eyes of those individuals who voted him into office. The case was heard in a court at the state level by a jury of the mayor’s peers. It was ultimately decided that the mayor was in the wrong; no incarceration was involved but it cost the mayor $1.71M, an amount in much higher excess than he would ever make either by managing a real estate office or as an elected official.

A second sum of money, greater than what the mayor was fined also went missing from the community’s coffers. To add even greater misery to the money already charged to the mayor or missing from the town’s coffers was the sum paid to a group of forensic accountants to set up a paper trail, thus determining where the missing money went to. The forensic accountants (name withheld to retain anonymity) discovered the additional sums were probably not embezzled. They were simply used to pay the town’s bills, especially for providing continuing services including, but not limited to, police and fire personnel.

According to Rawls (1971, 2002), a violation in ethics may affect several different departments and in turn, several more departments. The mayor’s actions combined with using money previously designated for other uses cause a monetary shortfall of still more departments. Morris and Rensock (2008) observed that monies used to pay for county services including the sheriff’s office, were no longer available. Both the public library and the community college, facing monetary shortfalls as a result of money being used for other services (robbing Peter to pay Paul) caused financial difficulties in these services as well.

Whether in a small or large community, ethics is based on social responsibility. Ethical behavior is not usually based on one, or several laws. It is a belief held by a single individual or group of individuals. It is a tradeoff and creates an equilibrium between what the elected officials deems appropriate and what is deemed appropriate by the citizens who elected him or her to office. Ethics pertain to individual business people and to business organizations in how they serve the economic needs of the community (Kaliski, 2001).

Pride, Hughes, and Kickapoo (2008) discuss the expectations of business to contribute to community and world development while, at the same time, strengthening the workforce and their families as well as other local companies and society at-large. Following the expectations of Pride, Hughes, and Kickapoo, the average citizen must interpret for him or herself the actions of the mayor in the Florida community. Some people may judge the mayor’s actions to benefit his constituents (Moore, 1903, 2003). The mayor’s actions were self-sustaining; any act committed by him was solely for his personal gain without regard to the people he served.

In an area similar to the one herewith discussed, helping a local developer move a piece of property may be viewed by some citizens as an action which brings gain to the community. Therefore, the mayor’s actions followed to the study of Rawls (1971, 2002) who determined that the mayor’s actions supported the greater-good.

Summary

The assignment required that we study ethics by evaluating the actions of an ethical or unethical individual. A mayor of a small Southeastern community was chosen for this investigation. The mayor, like many other elected officials, served multiple roles. Sometimes these roles work in-tandem with each other, keeping happy the townspeople. Other times, the interpretation of the elected official’s role may be deemed by others to violate the public’s trust.

The investigation of this hapless mayor is steeped in the ethical development that has taken place all the way back to biblical times (Gospel of Matthew, as cited by Jesus, also appearing in the Hebrew Torah).  Ethics is a soft science. There are no hard and fast rules applied here; rather, it is a behavior of one or several justified by them and approved, or not by approved, by the masses they affect. More recent investigations are credited to Moore (1903, 2003) who examined ethics as self-serving without regards to the masses. Following Moore, Rawls (1971, 2002) observed that an individual can only serve ethically if he or she takes into consideration how his or her actions affect the masses.

References

Blasko, J. (2010). Ethics of the 21st century: Outsourcing relationships, thus avoiding blame when something goes wrong. UMI: 2391031. Champaign-Urbana. IL: University of Illinois.

Conversi, D. (2009). Art, nationalism, and war: Political futurism in Italy (1909-1944). Sociology Compass Journal. New York, NY: Wiley and Sons.

(The) Josephson Institute. (2011). Brochure, published document about ethical pillars. Los Angeles, CA: Author.

Kalisk, Abraham, 1741-1810. (2001). Ethics and business people. An ancient study in the eyes of 20th century scholars. Chicago, IL. Hebraic Institute.

Moore, G. (1903, 2003). Principea ethica. Reprinted by Prometheus Books. London, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Morris, D. & Rensock, J. (2008). To maintain a tight economy corporations must sometimes rob Peter to pay Paul. New York, NY: Wiley and Sons.

Pride, W., Hughes, R. & Kickapoo, J. (2008). Business (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton, MacFarland Co.

Rawls, J. (1971, 2002). The ethic of John Rawls. First and second print by the same publisher. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

World Health Organization. (2009). The effects of tobacco on public health. Switzerland: Author.

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