Academic journal article Journal of International Business Ethics

Ethics and Economics: How Can They Be Integrated into Good Business Decision-Making? an Eastern European Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of International Business Ethics

Ethics and Economics: How Can They Be Integrated into Good Business Decision-Making? an Eastern European Perspective

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Can there be any doubt nowadays that business ethics is of extreme importance? The economic crisis in the entire world, as well as in Europe, where its impact has been especially acute, prompts us to reconsider the relation between material possessions (wealth) and man. Based on what has actually happened, it is evident that man has become enslaved to material goods, when in fact the opposite should have happened. However, to avoid empty moralising, the problem does not lie in contesting a person's right to personal possession, which was clearly defined by John Locke (and many great thinkers before him). The real problem arises when personal possessions take over man's freedom and his dignity, when man is overwhelmed by greed, gluttony, and arrogance, when he is confident of being the centre of the world with his economic power. This article will analyze the extent situation and hope to stimulate personal reflection in the field of business ethics, as well as on the level of personal relationships in our society, in Europe and throughout world.

Keywords: deontological ethics; economic utilitarianism; business decision-making

The Economic Crisis Morally Considered

Enslaved by his desires (no longer controlled by reason), man soon starts to lose his primal human honor understood as dignity and self-respect, and thus ends up humiliating himself and disabling his relations with other humans. Uncontrolled human greed does not allow any space for trust, cooperation, mutual care for the common good, or solidarity; on the contrary, it increases doubt, mistrust, fear, envy and unhealthy competition, which, unfortunately, often finds its limits only as a result of external circumstances, like the present-day economic and financial crisis.

We need a fresh discussion of the basic moral aspirations in all levels of social and personal life, if we want to preserve the basic dignity of human life, the fact that man respects himself, keeps his word, does not manipulate others nor allows himself to be manipulated, keeps his personal freedom and self-confidence, self-respect and integrity. If man does not possess these qualities he is in no position to create genuine relations with other humans, based on trust and honesty, rising above narrowly self-interested calculation, and his lust for domination. We must not forget that ethics does not begin somewhere out there, in some objectivist procedural rules. It begins in the depth of each person's heart. The subject is the criterion of an ethical act, in which freedom, or, as Aristotle would call it, prudence, together with will and morality, enable to do what is good and right, even though it is often demanding and difficult. Submitting oneself to whatever pleases the crowd, or to opportunistic calculations of short-term advantage, is ephemeral. It takes away man's core and personality, and such person eventually loses himself in his solitude of impersonality and self-humiliation.

Nevertheless, when we turn to ethical theory - particularly, to the ethical theories currently dominant in the literature on business ethics - do we find any real support for resisting this all-too-often dramatic decline in basic morality? From my perspective, it must be conceded that business ethics has been disappointingly weak in its response to this crisis. My thesis is that this weakness results from a failure in ethical theory, which has proven incapable of responding to the challenge of economic utilitarianism. This failure results from the fact that ethical theory - primarily the post-Kantian deontological approach to ethical reasoning - is formalistic and abstract in ways that are remarkable isomorphic with the reasoning involved in economic utilitarianism. Efforts to reconcile or synthesize deontological ethics and economic utilitarianism have only papered over the basic theoretical failure. What is needed is a fresh approach, rooted more substantively in the actual moral aspirations of our common humanity. …

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