Issues in Business Ethics and Society Coursework questions"

by Dr. Alan October 09, 2018

Busineess Ethics Assignment Samples

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Question

  1. Explain the similarities and differences between an economic cost-benefit analysis and a utilitarian approach to moral reasoning. Use an example of a case from the unit readings to illustrate your explanation. (Focus especially on Grace & Cohen, Chapter 1 and Sorrell & Hendry, ‘Narrow and Broad Business Ethics’ in e-Reserve). See also Steven Kelman ‘Cost-Benefit Analysis: An Ethical Critique’ and H. Leonard & R, Zeckhauser, ‘Cost-Benefit Analysis Defended’ in e-Reserve).
  2. Using an example, explain why Kant thinks that self-interested motivation is not compatible with moral motivation. How, if at all, might Kantian moral reasoning be applied in the business sphere? (Grace & Cohen, Chapter 1 and Sorrell & Hendry, ‘Narrow and Broad Business Ethics’ in e-Reserve).
  3. Compare and contrast the view (articulated by Milton Friedman) that the function and primary ethical obligation of a corporation is to maximise profits for the shareholders with Richard Freeman’s stakeholder analysis of the function and obligations of corporations. (Milton Friedman, ‘The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits’; William Evan and Richard Freeman ‘A stakeholder theory of the modern corporation: Kantian capitalism’, both in e-Reserve).

Explain Thomas Hobbes’ argument for a general alignment between morality and self-interest and explain one of the major objections to this view.  (Sorrell & Hendry, ‘Narrow and Broad Business Ethics’ in e-Reserve).

Solution

Explain the similarities and differences between an economic cost-benefit analysis and a utilitarian approach to moral reasoning. Use an example of a case from the unit readings to illustrate your explanation.
One of the major similarities between cost-benefit analysis and a utilitarian approach is that both these approaches stress on achieving best results and maximizing benefits while minimizing costs. The Cost-benefit analysis was believed to be an application of the Utilitarian theory by far. While cost-benefit analysis holds well, it is not fair to ignore the fact that its conceptual framework is completely based on what is moral.
The difference between the two is that while economic cost-benefit analysis is based completely on evaluation of pros and cons of a particular act, utilitarianism faces a perpetual dilemma of whether the good consequences actually outweigh the bad. There is a moral angle attached to it.(Kelman)(Tom Sorell)

One case that talks about the two concepts is: There is a wave of ongoing theft in the vicinity and the police are entrusted with the task of arresting the culprit to ensure that nobody commits such a crime again. After numerous failed attempts, they fail to nab the real criminal. To hide their inability and to instil fear in the minds of the real thieves, they decide to arrest an innocent civilian and fabricate a story of how he did all the thefts. The question which arises here is whether it is so important to curb the crime and avoid such acts of theft in future that one innocent man’s suffering can be ignored? Here what Utilitarianism speaks of is that it is morally correct to let one man suffer for the good of all others.(H. Leonard, 1983)

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Using an example, explain why Kant thinks that self-interested motivation is not compatible with moral motivation. How, if at all, might Kantian moral reasoning be applied in the business sphere?

According to Kant, if a person acts out of self-interest it is certain that that the act isn’t morally good. As an example, if we happen to find a missing child and know that there is a reward if we help that child reach his/her parents and we do so, it is not considered as moral good. Kant says that the act of helping the child reach the parents is governed solely by the reward money. Kant also says that emotions like sympathy cannot be seen in view of morality. Only those acts which are actually performed for morality are said to be morally right actions and barring good will, other features like intelligence or courage can and will be misused.
Kant’s moral reasoning can certainly be applied to the business sphere. But it will come with a few limitations. Let us take a simple example of a tobacco factory. It is definitely a business aimed at making profits just like all other businesses. The owner knows very well that cigarettes are harmful to the human body. What should he do in this case? Should he act keeping in mind good will or should he continue pursuing his self interest. In the business sphere, this clear judgement of self-interest and moral good should be present. If at all one fails to make a clear bifurcation, the purpose fails. Kant also spoke of categorical imperative that says what is said to be imperative must be done. Orders need to be followed.(Tom Sorell)

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