People are frequently presented with choices in the economic world that have moral and ethical ramifications. Individuals can differ substantially in how they approach these decisions and how they perceive how they will affect society.
Some of these choices include whether or not to buy products created in factories that abuse their employees, how much money should be spent on aiding people in other nations, and whether or not it is moral to run deceptive or misleading advertisements in order to attract customers. In this article, we’ll look at the importance of economic ethics and how it relates to the rest of the world.
Numerous schools of thought have been referred to as ethical economics. It refers to what is generally known as political economy in the broadest sense. Political economy examines how people and communities distribute resources to meet their needs and desires. Production, consumption, commerce, distribution, and economic expansion are all addressed. It also covers topics like poverty (welfare), international trade and finance (exchange rates), and government policy (taxation).
There are several reasons why economic ethics matters. The most obvious is that unethical economic practices hurt society and can undermine prosperity by hurting people and damaging human relationships. But there’s another reason: ethical economics may be good for business. Companies with strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) records often outperform their competitors regarding profitability, productivity, and efficiency.
That makes sense if you think about it—people are more likely to buy from a company they trust, and we tend to trust companies that act ethically. Companies that treat employees well also experience lower turnover rates, saving money on recruitment and training costs. And consumers who believe companies treat them fairly spend more money on those products than those who don’t feel respected.
Before deciding if a specific economic practice is ethical, you must first understand what economics is. In simplest terms, economics describes what happens when people use limited resources to fulfill unlimited wants. The challenge for an economist is to find out how best to allocate those resources so that everyone gets as much as possible of what they want.
Economists call these practices efficient and inefficient because they help us make better decisions about how we spend our money. If something is more efficient, it uses fewer resources to produce more output. If something is less efficient, it uses more resources to produce less output.
What is the Principle of Ethics in Economic Life?
The principle of ethics in economic life is an ethical framework used by individuals when making economic decisions. In an economic system based on ethical principles, it would be impossible to steal from one another or lie to each other to get ahead. It would also mean that we have a responsibility to ensure everyone has access to goods and services necessary for survival and quality of life.
An economic system with ethical values at its core can better meet human needs and achieve goals such as full employment, sustainable development, and social justice. Ethics in economic life is about how people treat each other and how they respect their fellow human beings.
Economics can teach us about ethics in several ways. One example is that by studying economics, you begin to notice how people respond to incentives and how these incentives change their behavior and decisions. A second way that economics teaches us about ethics is through historical examples.
You may have heard about Adam Smith’s invisible hand or his self-interest argument. It might seem like a stretch to connect such an abstract concept with everyday life, but there are many real-world examples where we see people acting according to their own self-interest. The third way that economics teaches us about ethics is by helping us understand our choices better. Many times, we make decisions based on what seems most convenient at that moment.
For instance, I might buy a soda from a vending machine because it’s faster than getting one from inside my office building. But if I thought more carefully about my decision, I would realize that buying a soda is not really worth all of those extra calories and money. In fact, buying drinks outside of work has become so expensive for me that I now carry around reusable bottles instead!
The marketplace requires companies to consider ethical values, and those are not always clear. The rules that regulate companies usually have some ethical value attached to them. Companies often face situations where they must choose between two or more courses of action, each with its ethical implications.
Ethical dilemmas arise when a company is presented with choices between right and wrong or good and bad, such as choosing whether to comply with legal requirements versus operating within its core values. Companies have several options for resolving an ethical dilemma: When faced with an ethical dilemma, companies can choose from several different approaches for resolving the issue.
Just like in any other field, there are lots of people who violate the rules of ethics in economics. As with all professional fields, each person is expected to abide by a standard set of principles when working and engaging with others within their field. Regarding economic life, these ethical principles include honesty, fairness, transparency and accountability.
Some examples of people who have violated these ethical standards would be companies such as Enron and Lehman Brothers. Both companies were found guilty of violating some of these ethical principles, which led to their dissolution. Another example would be Bernie Madoff, who was found guilty of operating an illegal Ponzi scheme and stealing billions from his clients.
What Are The 7 Principles of Ethical Decision-making?
Even the finest of us sometimes find it difficult to make ethical decisions because they are fraught with intricacies and subtleties. Even if it could be difficult, it’s essential to establish a set of guiding principles. We’ll explore the seven ethical decision-making principles as we travel this path together in order to make sure that our decisions are moral, consistent, and true to our values.
The first principle is integrity. As the cornerstone of ethical decision-making, integrity necessitates being honest and possessing steadfast moral values that direct our decision-making process.
When we speak of integrity, we are talking about consistency of actions, values, methods, principles, and outcomes. In an ethical context, you should be capable of trusting yourself, a vital aspect of which includes making decisions that reflect your values and principles, not just your immediate desires or pressures.
Moreover, demonstrating integrity can establish your credibility, allowing others to trust you, and enhancing not just personal relationships but also professional ones.
The second principle is respect. It’s about acknowledging the inherent value of all individuals and treating them with dignity. Doing so involves honoring others’ rights, opinions, and beliefs, even when they differ significantly from our own.
In a world brimming with diversity, respect enables us to appreciate differing viewpoints and fosters a culture of acceptance. Beyond interpersonal interactions, respect extends to the environment and all its inhabitants. Recognizing our interconnectedness with nature and treating all living beings with kindness and respect is a critical component of ethical decision-making.
The third principle is responsibility. Responsibility means being aware that our decisions have consequences and being prepared to accept them, be they positive or negative. This principle is intrinsically tied to accountability, suggesting that we should answer for our actions, particularly to those who are affected by our decisions.
From a broader perspective, responsibility also means being a good steward of the resources we use and the tasks we’re given, further highlighting the role of ethics in our daily lives.
The fourth principle is fairness. Ethical decisions must be unbiased, treating everyone with equal consideration regardless of their status, position, or personal attributes.
Fairness involves making decisions based on objective criteria, avoiding favoritism, and giving others equal opportunities. It supports justice and equity, fostering an environment where everyone can thrive.
The fifth principle is compassion. It involves empathy and understanding towards others, even if we disagree with them or their actions. Compassion drives us to consider others’ feelings and circumstances when making decisions, encouraging us to choose kindness over harm and understanding over judgment.
Further, it urges us to acknowledge the human element in every decision we make, bridging the gap between impersonal principles and humanistic ethics.
The sixth principle is courage. It requires us to stand up for our beliefs, even when it’s difficult, risky, or unpopular.
Courage may involve making tough decisions that may not be instantly gratifying or could lead to criticism. But, true ethical leadership comes from having the courage to do what’s right, not just what’s easy or what’s expected.
The seventh and final principle is wisdom. It involves making informed decisions based on the facts while allowing room for intuitive guidance.
Unlike popular belief, wisdom isn’t about knowing all the answers but understanding the complexities of ethical decision-making, asking the right questions, learning from past experiences, and foreseeing the possible outcomes of our decisions. It’s about balancing head and heart in decision-making, applying both rational thought and emotional intelligence.
In summary, integrity, respect, responsibility, fairness, compassion, courage, and wisdom are the seven principles of ethical decision-making. Understanding and practicing these principles can pave the way for better decisions that align with our ethical standards and promote a more just, compassionate, and equitable world.
Ethical decision-making isn’t merely a choice; it’s a commitment to living a life that respects and enhances the freedom of others. With these principles as our guiding light, we can navigate the complex labyrinth of ethical decisions with confidence and clarity.
What Are The 7 Steps to Ethical Decision-making?
Organizations struggle to develop a simple set of guidelines that makes it easier for individual employees, regardless of position or level, to be confident that his/her decisions meet all of the competing standards for effective and ethical decision-making used by the organization.
Step 1: Define the problem
The most significant step in any decision-making process is to determine why a decision is called for and identify the desired outcome(s). How you define a problem shapes your understanding of its causes and where you will search for solutions.
First, explore the difference between what you expect and/or desire and the current reality. By defining the problem in terms of outcomes, you can clearly state the problem.
Consider this example: Tenants at an older office building are complaining that their employees are getting angry and frustrated because there is always a long delay getting an elevator to the lobby at rush hour. Many possible solutions exist, and all are predicated on a particular understanding the problem:
- Flexible hours – so all the tenants’ employees are not at the elevators at the same time.
- Faster elevators – so each elevator can carry more people in a given time period.
- Bigger elevators – so each elevator can carry more people per trip.
- Elevator banks – so each elevator only stops on certain floors, increasing efficiency.
- Better elevator controls – so each elevator is used more efficiently.
- More elevators – so that overall carrying capacity can be increased.
- Improved elevator maintenance – so each elevator is more efficient.
- Encourage employees to use the stairs – so fewer people use the elevators.
The real-life decision makers defined the problem as “people complaining about having to wait.” Their solution was to make the wait less frustrating by piping music into the elevator lobbies. The complaints stopped. There is no way that the eventual solution could have been reached if, for example, the problem had been defined as “too few elevators.”
How you define the problem determines where you go to look for alternatives/solutions– so define the problem carefully.
Once the problem is defined, it is critical to search out resources that may be of assistance in making the decision. Resources can include people (i.e., a mentor, coworkers, external colleagues, or friends and family) as well professional guidelines and organizational policies and codes. Such resources are critical for determining parameters, generating solutions, clarifying priorities and providing support, both while implementing the solution and dealing with the repercussions of the solution.
Step 3: Identify available alternative solutions to the problem
The key to this step is to not limit yourself to obvious alternatives or merely what has worked in the past. Be open to new and better alternatives. Consider as many as solutions as possible — five or more in most cases, three at the barest minimum. This gets away from the trap of seeing “both sides of the situation” and limiting one’s alternatives to two opposing choices (i.e., either this or that).
Step 4: Evaluate the identified alternatives
As you evaluate each alternative, identify the likely positive and negative consequence of each. It is unusual to find one alternative that would completely resolve the problem and is significantly better than all others. As you consider positive and negative consequences, you must be careful to differentiate between what you know for a fact and what you believe might be the case. Consulting resources, including written guidelines and standards, can help you ascertain which consequences are of greater (and lesser) import.
You should think through not just what results each alternative could yield, but the likelihood it is that such impact will occur. You will only have all the facts in simple cases. It is reasonable and usually even necessary to supplement the facts you have with realistic assumptions and informed beliefs. Nonetheless, keep in mind that the more the evaluation is fact-based, the more confident you can be that the expected outcome will occur. Knowing the ratio of fact-based evaluation versus non-fact-based evaluation allows you to gauge how confident you can be in the proposed impact of each alternative.
Step 5: Make the decision
When acting alone, this is the natural next step after selecting the best alternative. When you are working in a team environment, this is where a proposal is made to the team, complete with a clear definition of the problem, a clear list of the alternatives that were considered and a clear rationale for the proposed solution.
Step 6: Implement the decision
While this might seem obvious, it is necessary to make the point that deciding on the best alternative is not the same as doing something. The action itself is the first real, tangible step in changing the situation. It is not enough to think about it or talk about it or even decide to do it. A decision only counts when it is implemented. As Lou Gerstner (former CEO of IBM) said, “There are no more prizes for predicting rain. There are only prizes for building arks.”
Step 7: Evaluate the decision
Every decision is intended to fix a problem. The final test of any decision is whether or not the problem was fixed. Did it go away? Did it change appreciably? Is it better now, or worse, or the same? What new problems did the solution create?