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Author Topic: The Price of Ethics  (Read 3444 times)
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« on: April 14, 2009, 12:23:28 PM »

The following essay was submitted for college business and received perfect score.

What is the price of ethics? How do we place a value on the morals of a society and what are the ramifications of having little or no ethical standards by which to govern one’s self or an entire nation.

Perhaps the real question should be what is the price we will pay for lacking in ethical standards and will society survive long enough to realize the economical and environmental ramifications?

The Price of Ethics

The foundations of ethics were set by our ancestors of year’s long past and endured trials and tribulations untold until the founding of industry in the 1700’s. It was viewed by Thomas Jefferson as a thing of evil and he was quoted as saying;

"I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our
moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our
government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of
our country." (Jefferson, 1816)

In more recent years, this has appeared to be the case as more corporations vie for power and influence concerning local and Federal Government using lobbyist and unethical conduct as illustrated in most media outlets morning headlines across the nation. It has become so commonplace that most citizens simply shake their heads and move on not giving it a second thought.
   The goal of this article titled “The Price of Ethics” is to take a closer look at the steady decay of ethics in both business and government and how it influences society as addressed in the two sections that follow. The first of these being the very definition of “Ethics” proper and the underlying reasons why most feel they have eroded. The second section titled “Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain” which postulates the long-term ramifications of political and corporate shortsightedness.

To understand ethics we must first define it as it is commonly known and accepted by society.

“…that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.” (ethics. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1).)

Our forefathers seemed all too aware of the ramifications a fledgling nation would face in the event it lost its moral compass and had instituted laws to prevent this from happening but after centuries of corruption, its erosion was inevitable. Society has come to value tangible goods over ethics or morality and this is demonstrated every day in the corporate and political arenas of society through both word and deed.

Often the question of “What about future generations?” has been asked with the standard reply being “Who cares? I’ll be dead!” This can be equated to the analogy of giving a monkey a hammer and a nuclear bomb…it is only a matter of time until they get it right... Sure, we might be enjoying the benefits now but if there is nothing left in the long term, what is the point?
Often people say that those who are corrupt or unethical should be held accountable through governmental regulation and oversight and this is occurring through the introduction of new legislation such as those being introduced by Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana which requires;

“… statewide officeholders, some appointed officials, legislators and local or district politicians representing more than 5,000 people to make public information about their sources of income, investment activities, other assets, liabilities, property holdings and business affiliations.” (, 2008)

This is not just isolated to Louisiana; several states are following this trend of laying down the proverbial law and should be applauded for their efforts. Nevertheless, is it enough? Will it solve the problem? Only time will tell if these legally mandated regulations will be as effective as everyone hopes or if the problem lays deeper in the overall viewpoints of modern society. Perhaps we need to be more preemptive in dealing with the problem of morality and ethics before it becomes a problem by changing the way society views its fellow man and world as a whole.
Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

In today’s markets, the acquisition of wealth is the prime driving force behind industry. Corporations make decisions based on how they affect their market shares and investors’ stock prices more than, by what is right or wrong. This is not to say that every business is corrupt or that they will utilize any means at their disposal to maintain profitability, only that it is natural for any employee to perform in an outstanding fashion in order to obtain the recognition of their peers and to retain their employment.

It is easy to lose yourself in the moment while under pressure and easy to assume that one little bending of the rules “this time” will have little effect in the grand scheme of things, but it does. Everything adds up until it can no longer be ignored and must be addressed by either those who created the problem or by those unlucky enough to be affected by its end results.

How many times have we read about companies who were caught dumping toxic waste illegally in an effort to save money and appear more profitable? How many times have you read about birth defects caused by contaminated water supplies, soil or air? There are numerous examples of these events occurring on a daily basis.
In recent news the Chinese Government came under fire for lax environmental regulations after the toxic chemical melamine was found in children’s milk products, which killed four children and sickened over 50,000 others. The CEO in charge was publicly executed for the humiliation he caused the government.  (The Associated Press, 2008)

The answer to the question of “is it worth it” should be obvious, if there is no tomorrow, what good is the money you strive to make today?


The Price of Ethics is a question that cannot be answered by any one article or opinion but requires one to take into account the complete picture of our social and economic environments. The drive to acquire wealth is not innately evil when conducted in a responsible and ethical manner but when greed blinds humanity the long term ramifications are beyond the comprehension of most. We may not be alive to pay the price, but someone will pay.

In closing, please consider the immortal words of Albert Einstein.

"I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves -- this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts -- possessions, outward success, luxury -- have always seemed to me contemptible.” (Einstein, 1931)



Associated Press, The. (2008, September 26). China Tainted Food Scandal Widens. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from CBS News:

Einstein, A. (1931). The World As I See It (the thirteenth in the Forum series, Living Philosophies. ed., Vol. 84). New York: Forum and Century.

Jefferson, T. (n.d.). Favorite Jefferson Quotes. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from University of Virginia Library: (2008, November 6). La. ethics reform draws praise. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from The

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