Assume that you are the American head of Podiatronics’ Asia Regional Headquarters, located in Tokyo. Your company sells shoes worldwide, and your job is to manage relations with Korean contractors who produce the shoes in Vietnamese factories staffed mostly by young women. You are visiting one of the factories, just outside of Hanoi, on an especially hot day, and you take off your jacket and put it on a chair next to the supervisor’s desk on the factory floor. When you return to pick it up after a tour around the facility, you find that your wallet is missing. Annoyed, you tell the Korean factory manager, who is deeply offended by this affront to his honor. He immediately halts work and has his Korean assistants line up the 200 Vietnamese women in the factory’s courtyard. There they are ordered to strip off all their clothes so that a search for the wallet can be made. Those showing reluctance are threatened with dismissal, so no one refuses and the women begin to strip.
What do you do as you watch this scene begin to unfold in front of you? You might say, “Stop this at once. I am not the kind of person who tolerates such things, and neither is my company.” Your statement suggests that you value tolerant, decent behavior as an end in itself. This is one variant of what is called virtuous behavior.
More likely, you will make a quick calculation involving the benefits of getting your money back and supporting an important subcontractor and the costs of damaging the employees’ morale and perhaps evoking government wrath. These are major negatives, so you say, quietly, to the factory manager, “Please find an excuse to stop this. Nothing good will come of it, and the loss is minor. I will compensate you for any embarrassment with in-