Ethics and Excuses: The Crisis in Professional Responsibility

By Banks McDowell | Go to book overview
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9
The Professional and the Market--Is Efficiency the Predominant Value?

In this chapter, I want to explore why two excuses increasingly given to justify what I would regard as unethical action seem to have such persuasive power. They are: (1) I had to do it to keep up with the competition, and (2) I did not do anything illegal; therefore, I did not do anything unethical. These two excuses taken in conjunction could render professional ethics irrelevant in controlling professional behavior.

In considering whether and how we should reformulate professional ethics, a fundamental issue is the compatibility of market economic theory with the requirements for being an ethical professional. Does the atomistic individualism used in much of the economic and policy analysis of laissez-faire or the free-market system fit the concept of professional activity at all? This question leads to a broader issue than the subject matter of this book. What, if any, are the ethics of a performer in a free-market system? Can a person think of herself as a performer in the free market and at the same time be an ethical professional? Is an economic attitude geared toward profit maximization, gaining the largest possible share of the market, amassing the greatest amount of capital, obtaining the most efficient forms of economic functioning, competing in every allowable way for and on behalf of clients compatible with the ethical expectations we associate with being a professional?


THE POWERFUL HAND OF THE MARKET

It is now widely, but not universally, accepted that economies in North America, if not the entire world, ought to be built on and/or evaluated

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