Fairness as Moral Virtue
Robert Folger Tulane University
Morality includes fairness as a notable virtue. This chapter contrasts fairnessas-morality (ethical conduct) with the fairness of social and organizational studies. The fairness that those disciplines portray only faintly resembles fairness-as-morality. Their legacy -- an anorexic fairness -- instead reduces fairness to selfishness. Despite noble efforts to break the stranglehold of economic rationality and self-interest maximization, their version of fairness remains closer to greed and envy than to the moral virtue that can sustain the commonweal.
What makes justice as virtue a management topic? If "justice is the first virtue of social institutions" ( Rawls, 1971, p. 3), the morality of fairness applies in an organizational context: "while management must satisfy many interests, including those of the shareholders, there is often very little to guard the interests of the public, and even those of the corporation itself, from the self-interest of the managers" ( Wilbur, 1997, p. 576). Imagine a totally selfish person as CEO of a large corporation, able to wield power with impunity and with potentially devastating impact. Using externally imposed sanctions to curtail this person's power would require monitoring and guaranteeing punishment severe enough to deter malevolent intent. We might not want to rely exclusively on laws, courts, and the police as countervailing forces.