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Ethics: Lots of Rocks and Hard Places A Presentation To Association of Government Accountants Michael Poulton Dickinson College.

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Presentation on theme: "Ethics: Lots of Rocks and Hard Places A Presentation To Association of Government Accountants Michael Poulton Dickinson College."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ethics: Lots of Rocks and Hard Places A Presentation To Association of Government Accountants Michael Poulton Dickinson College

2 Types of Ethical Approaches Ego systems Utilitarianism Ethical Formalism Rights Justice Egalitarian Libertarian Social Contact Ethic of Caring Stakeholder Virtue ethics

3 Egoism Do whatever creates “happiness” – Not merely things that “feel good” – Things that makes us feel good about our lives Self-interest paramount Self-interest collectively will benefit all Rational reconciliation of self-interest conflicts will benefit all (Adam Smith) Problems: What does “happiness” mean? Can we really resolve self-interest conflicts? Can we always be that rational? How does self-interest influence our decision-making?

4 Utilitarianism (teleological) ( Mill/Bentham) Looks at the rightness or wrongness of the consequences of action An act is neither good (a utility) or bad (a disutility), only the results can be measured(JS Mills and J Bentham) The good solution is one that benefits, in total, the greatest number of individuals Problems: The “good” may sacrifice some individuals Who gets what portion of the “good”? How do you measure benefits and costs?

5 Ethical Formalism (deontological) (Immanuel Kant) Motives of an act more important than consequences Do things because it is our “duty” to others to do them Universality of principal is necessary Each human is respected Each is free to chose if an act is moral or not Problems: Situations differ. Can the universal really apply? Can consequences be ignored? What about cultural or perceptual differences?

6 Justice Approach The administration of that which is “just” in terms of reward or punishment Distributive justice – how a society distributes is blessings and burdens Compensatory justice – how do we compensate those who have been wronged Retributive justice – how to we punish or penalize those who do wrong? Problem: Can the application of justice always be equal? Do motivations mean anything? What about mitigating circumstances?

7 Rights Approach Rights do not come from reason, but are rights to which we are all inherently entitled Moral rights cannot be changed by politics Negative rights – exercise rights w/o undue influence from the state or anyone Positive rights – someone has to protect the rights we all have – equal treatment Problem: Are these rights truly universal? Who defines what those rights are? What if a sovereign state denies rights? Then what?

8 Egalitarian Approach (John Rawls) All individuals are equal and have equal claim to all of societies goods and services Rawls – “Veil of ignorance” in applying justice independent of race, wealth, etc. – each person must have the same liberty possessed by all others – social and economic inequalities are accepted only if they benefit everyone Problem: Can the problems of utilitarianism be resolved this way? Can the “veil of ignorance” ever be realizes?

9 Libertarian Approach (Robert Nozick) Only “right” is to be left alone plus – right of acquisition – right of transfer Freedom from coercion from whatever source, government or otherwise No other freedom is recognized Problem: Are we so heartless? Is it really dog-eat-dog? What about natural differences in people? How to we handle the social aspects of our lives and how do we pay for them?

10 Social Contract (Donaldson and Dunfee) Business has a “social contract” to supply the goods and services people want Only legislation can change the contract Integration of the social contract theory by: – Application of universal, globally applied hypernorms that must be recognized – Respect for local community norms Problem: Can this be applied to every problem? Who defines the contract? hypernorms? are they truly universal? Wouldn’t a virtuous person do this anyway?

11 Ethics of Caring Origins in Buddhist and Feminist Ethics We are all connected We all have an obligation to care about the plight or suffering of others To ignore others is to ignore ourselves Problem: Can we really be responsible for all suffering? Can we always be in a position to respond? Can one pick and choose what one cares about?

12 STAKEHOLDER APPROACH TO ETHICS (Kenneth Goodpasture) COMMUNITY SUPPLIERS CUSTOMERS EMPLOYEES INDUSTRY FINANCE INST CORPORATE LEADERSHIP SHARED VALUES ? BUSINESS ACTIVITY ? LAW, GOVERNMENT REGULATION LEGAL OBLIGATIONS MARKETS AND PROFITS FIDUCIARY OBLIGATIONS VIA SEC OSHA EPA FDA VIA STOCKHOLDERS, LABOR MARKETS, FINANCIAL MARKETS

13 Ethics of Virtue (Aristotle) Traits that a good person should possess. Not an ideal of how we ought to behave, but rather what we do is an integral part of our nature. We are what we do in various ethical situations because of who we are. Problem: Who decides what “virtuous” is? What do we do in specific circumstances? How do we define what is a good or bad act? What is the basis for morality, here?

14 US Boy Scout Oath A Scout is: TRUSTWORTHY LOYAL HELPFUL FRIENDLY COURTEOUS KIND OBEDIENT CHEERFUL THRIFTY BRAVE CLEAN REVERENT

15 Girl Scout Oath I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to very Girl Scout

16 Israeli Scout Oath A Scout is: - trustworthy - loyal to his people, his country and his language - a useful member of society, loves work, and helps others - a friend to everyone, and brother to all scouts - is polite - loves nature and protects it - is obedient - never loses hope - thrifty - is pure in his speech and deeds.

17 Chinese Scout Oath A Scout will exhibit always: Honesty Loyalty and filial devotion Helpfulness Loving kindness Courtesy Justice Responsibility Cheerfulness Industriousness and thrift Courage Cleanliness Public spirit

18 South African Scout Oath A scout’s honor is to be trusted A scout is loyal A scout’s duty is to be useful and help others A scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other scout A scout is courteous A scout is a friend to animals A scout obeys orders A scout smiles and whistles under all difficulties A scout is thrifty A scout is clean in thought, word and deed.

19 Japanese Scout Oath A scout is faithful A scout is friendly A scout is courteous A scout is kind A scout is cheerful A scout is thrifty A scout is courageous A scout is thankful

20 Waffen Schutzstaffel (SS) Loyalty - Unparalleled and wholehearted - Dedicated to a life full of care, full of responsibility, full of work Obedience - Orders are sacred - You cannot expect obedience, if you are not obedient yourself. Bravery - Our bravery can never be questioned Truthfulness - If we keep agreements, we must keep them - If we make a promise, it must be kept - A promise is sacred.

21 An Accountant should exhibit: Integrity Objectivity Professional Competence and Due Care Confidentiality Professional Behavior Independence An accountant should reject the threats of: Self-interest Advocacy Familiarity Self-review Intimidation

22 Socrates Visits Wall Street: A (post-meltdown) Dialogue on Ethics and Leadership Thomas I. White Copyright 2011 An Ethical Framework

23 BETTER LIFE Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. Aristotle - The Nicomachean Ethics 1094a (Book I, Ch. 1) What do we want to achieve? What’s the aim?

24 BETTER LIFE DIVIDE UP THE WORK How can we achieve a good life for everyone?

25 BETTER LIFE DIVIDE UP THE WORK BUSINESS GOVERNMENT EDUCATION SCIENCE MEDICINE RELIGION ARTS How do we divide up these jobs to achieve this better life?

26 BETTER LIFE DIVIDE UP THE WORK WORKOBS BUSINESS: GOVERNMENT: EDUCATION: SCIENCE: MEDICINE: RELIGION: ARTS KIND OF LIFE ORDER, PROTECTION, ACCOUNTABILITY, JUSTICE GAIN AND SHARE KNOWELEDGE, SKILLS MAKING MONEY FIND NEW FRONTIERS AND CREATE NEW THINGS CREATE THINGS OF BEAUTY HEALTH WAYS TO RAISE OUR SPIRITS OR COPE What do these divisions give us? What do we mean by a “better life”?

27 BETTER LIFE DIVIDE UP THE WORK KIND OF LIFE BUSINESS: GOVERNMENT: EDUCATION: SCIENCE: MEDICINE: RELIGION: ARTS ORDER, PROTECTION, ACCOUNTIBILITY, JUSTICE KNOWELEDGE, SKILLS HEALTH MAKING MONEY GOODS, SERVICES FAIRNESS Is the point of a governmernt ? What is its purpose? FIND NEW FRONTIERS AND CREATE NEW THINNGS WAYS TO RAISE OUR SPIRITS AND COPE CREATE THINGS OF BEAUTY

28 BETTER LIFE DIVIDE UP THE WORK BUSINESS: GOVERNMENT: EDUCATION: SCIENCE: MEDICINE: RELIGION ARTS KIND OF LIFE ORDER, PROTECTION, ACCOUNTIBILITY, JUSTICE KNOWELEDGE, SKILLS HEALTH GOODS, SERVICES THAT WE WANT FAIRNESS PRODUCING FIND NEW FRONTIERS AND CREATE THINGS What is a “good”? What is “money”? RAISE OUR SPIRITS AND COPE WAYS TO CREATE THINGS OF BEAUTY

29 BETTER LIFE DIVIDE UP THE WORK KIND OF LIFE RESPECT, TREATING OTHERS THE WAY YOU’D WANT TO BE TREATED BUSINESS: GOVERNMENT: EDUCATION: SCIENCE: FIND NEW FRONTIERS AND CREATE NEW THINGS MEDICINE: HEALTH RELIGION: RAISE OUR SPIRITS AND COPE ARTS: WAYS TO CREATE THINGS OF BEAUTY ORDER, PROTECTION, ACCOUNTIBILITY, JUSTICE GAIN AND SHARE KNOWELEDGE, SKILLS,PROVIDING GOODS, SERVICES THAT WE WANT FAIRNESS, What other things besides fairness should better life consist of?

30 BETTER LIFE DIVIDE UP JOBS KIND OF LIFE RESPECT, TREATING OTHERS THE WAY YOU’D WANT TO BE TREATED BUSINESS: GOVERNMENT: ORDER, PROTECTION. ACCOUNTABILITY, JUSTICE EDUCATION: SCIENCE: FIND NEW FRONTIERS AND CREATE NEW THINGS MEDICINE: RELIGION: RAISE OUT SPIRITS AND HELP US COPE ARTS: WAYS TO CREATE THINGS OF BEAUTY KNOWELEDGE, SKILLS HEALTH MAKING MONEY, PROVIDING GOODS, SERVICES THAT WE WANT ** FAIRNESS, -DO NO HARM -TREAT OTHERS APPROPRIATELY What else should we expect?

31 Tangible Harm? Inappropriate treatment? “Ethical Yardstick”

32 -DO NO HARM -TREAT OTHERS APPROPRIATELY - KEEP PROMISES TO: Clients Employees Employers Individuals What’s an important way for any organization to treat others?

33 -DO NO HARM -TREAT OTHERS APPROPRIATELY - KEEP PROMISES TO: Clients Employees: Customers: Consumer sovereignty Vendors: Equitable dealings Risk trust Biggest risk

34 A Basis for Corporate Values KIND OF LIFE WE WANT / A DECENT LIFE ETHICS DO NO HARM/PREVENT HARM + TREAT OTHERS APPROPRIATELY + KEEP OUR PROMISES

35 THINGS ANY MANAGER MUST ASK EVERYDAY DO OUR ORGANISZATIONAL ACTIONS MATCH OUR VALUES ? -- ARE WE TREATING EVERYONE FAIRLY AND APPROPRIATELY ? -- IS ANYONE BEING HURT AS A RESULT OF WHAT WE DO ? -- WHAT IS THE RISK OF DOING HARM IN THE FUTURE, THAT IS, HAVE WE THOUGHT ABOUT THE SECONDARY, EVEN TERCIARY CONSEQUENCES OF WHAT WE ARE ABOUT TO DO? -- ARE WE KEEPING OUR PROMISES -- DO WE REWARD ETHICAL BEHAVIOR?

36 Aristotelian Virtues A permanent disposition to act in a certain way. The sum of skills to be a morally good person. A moral skill consisting of: Practical Wisdom Justice Moderation in all things Courage

37 Cicero’s Version of Courage Confidence – trust in your own ability to do the right thing Patience – willingness to endure difficulties over time Perseverance – steady adherence to a moral course of action to solve a conflict Must use a measured approach to all three

38 So, what to we do if we witness something unethical, illegal or just unfair?

39 A Definition for Our Times “.. the capacity to do what one judges as ethically called for in spite of one’s instinctive reaction to the perceived dangers and difficulties in which such an action will result.”

40 Moral Courage Courage = the capacity to cope with fear Recognizing/accepting the fear of the loss of what we have – Our lives – Livelihood – Peer acceptance – Prestige – Authority – Self-respect

41 Lex parsimoniae We are human and, therefore, fallible with our bounded rationality, should we try to chose the most complicated possible solution. Thus, when faced with complicated or even conflicting alternatives in an ethical situation, we should apply Occam’s Razor and chose the simplest one. The simplest ethical alternative is to simply do one’s duty.

42 A Credo It is one’s duty to be an active participant, personally and at work, in social discussions defining the “good life” for everyone and do all that is necessary to achieve it, giving full consideration to the notions of justice, fairness and human rights. It is also one’s duty to have the moral courage to lead the way or help in any way you can to stop whatever you consider unjust, unfair, unsustainable or inherently cruel. But if you find that you are unable help, then personally and professionally do no additional harm to anyone or anything.

43 The End Thanks


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