The required texts for this course are
(available from the Campus Bookstore)
• William H. Shaw, Ethics at Work: Basic Readings in Business Ethics, Oxford University Press, 2003. Shaw
• Ted Nace, Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy, Berrett-Koehler, 2003 Nace
• A significant portion of the required reading material is located on the MyUH site for this course and the form of files titled Weekn.doc (0
Course Objectives: This course will examine ethical and public policy issues raised by the conduct of business enterprises both in the United States and abroad. Issues will be organized around the responsibilities of business enterprises to various stakeholders (investors, employees, competitors, suppliers, surrounding communities) as well as for the natural and social environments. Issues will be examined from a variety of perspectives such as the rights and responsibilities of property owners, the common good, social justice and democratic participation.
Assignments: writing assignments and participation exercises for the first four weeks are set out on a separate page below. Precise assignments (questions to be addressed, etc.) for the rest of the semester will be set in this way in three to five week blocks closer to the dates the assignments are due. Reading Assignments appear by week on the summary and detailed course calendars that accompany this syllabus.
Assessment: Tests will count 40% toward the final grade, essays 40%, class attendance and participation 20%. A ‘plus and minus’ grading scale will be used with numerical equivalents based on A=10, A-=9 down to D=1. The final grade will be based on weighted averages of grades received on essays and tests and on a grade based on the number of participation exercises credited together with a possible bonus for contributions to class discussion.
Late work: Late essays will be reduced by one grade (A- to B+, etc.) and by one further grade for each subsequent week that the essay is not handed in. ‘Participation exercises’ submitted within a week of their due dates receive half credit; no credit after that. Tests taken late may receive a reduced grade at the instructor’s discretion.
The mid-term and final tests will consist of questions (and words to be defined) selected from “review sheets” which will be issued with the blocks of assignments that will be set periodically throughout the semester. The first of these review sheets is included with this syllabus.
This course is writing intensive. Six 3 to 4-page and one 1-page assignments are due on the dates set out on the summary course calendar; all of these assignments must be completed to pass this course. On all these assignments you will have one week after the return of your essay with comments to redraft it for a better grade, if you are not satisfied with the grade you received on the first draft. Late essays, not submitted in time to be returned before this deadline, are not eligible for an improved grade.
‘Participation’ will involve a variety of assignments including brief written answers to questions. See ‘Assessment’ (above) for how these contribute to the final grade. To receive credit for a participation exercise, students must be present in class with the responses they have prepared on hard copy. (Email submissions of participation exercises receive half credit.) Students who attend class unprepared or who are unable to attend class may receive half credit for each exercise they hand in within a week of the original assignment (or in unusual circumstances, at a date agreed after consultation with the instructor.)
Advisories 1. Policy on style and on e-mail submissions: All papers must be paginated. Quotations and sources used are to be referenced in any style that conforms to appropriate standards of scholarship. Students may send their papers as email attachments and receive comments via the same medium, provided the attachment has been formatted in a manner that is “ready to print.” The instructor will not print out any emailed papers.
2. Students who need reasonable accommodations because of the impact of a disability, should (i) contact the KOKUA Program, room 013, QLCSS, 956-7511 or 956-7612; (ii) speak with the instructor who will be happy to work the KOKUA Program to meet any access needs related to any documented disability.
3. “Plagiarism includes but is not limited to submitting, in fulfillment of an academic requirement, any work that has been copied in whole or in part from another individual's work without attributing that borrowed portion to the individual; neglecting to identify as a quotation another's idea and particular phrasing that was not assimilated into the student's language and style or paraphrasing a passage so that the reader is misled as to the source; submitting the same written or oral or artistic material in more than one course without obtaining authorization from the instructors involved; or "drylabbing," which includes obtaining and using experimental data and laboratory write-ups from other sections of a course or from previous terms.” (The University of Hawai’i Student Conduct Code)
The consequences of plagiarism are commonly catastrophic.
4. The following extract of the statement of the learning outcomes the Department of Philosophy expects of students, who major in philosophy, is relevant to this course.
• Students acquire the skills
- of careful reading and interpretation of philosophical texts,
- of writing clear, succinct, and well-argued papers,
- of responding critically to the ideas advanced by others,
- of expressing ideas logically and coherently.
• Students are acquainted with at least one major topic in the contemporary study of philosophy.
Tentative Video Schedule for Weeks 1-7
Wk1: Ethics and business What is it to believe in market forces? Does Eliot Spitzer’s
Fry and Laurie disgrace in March 2008 affect the value of his work as AG
Spitzer: March & McClellen of NY? Was the marketing of sub-prime credit any more or
Sub-prime scandals less reprehensible than what Marsh & McClellen did?
Wk2: Stakeholders v. stockholders Do business have any business other than maximizing
Walmart: Frontline profits? What, if any, responsibilities do businesses
Walmart: Greenwald have to anyone (Suppliers, competitors) other than
their owners/ shareholders?
WalMart, McWane Should businesses be free to externalize costs?
Hg in fish Should businesses be free to act politically to prevent
Mountain top removal, their industries from being made to internalize costs? The unforeseen
Wk4: Customers Is the question of harm to consumers entirely a business
Bisphenol A, decision? Do businesses have fiduciary duties to
David Graham and the FDA
Wk5: Employees Do businesses have fiduciary duties to employees?
McWane, Is the question of harm to employees entirely a business
Chicken Exposé decision?
Defaulting on pensions and benefits
Wk6: Markets I Do credit markets need to be regulated to protect the
Credit markets vulnerable? What constitutes a “living wage”? Should
Labor markets: Vanderbilt, those in employment be guaranteed a “living wage”?
Nickled and dimed
Wk7: Markets 2 Should public utilities be (1) privately owned, (2) state
Internet access regulated, (3) publicly owned? Is the internet a public
LA [hard] Times utility? Is a “free” market in equities a social good?
Phil 300 - Assignments for Weeks 1-4
Written assignment for Thursday January 15: (1) Fill out the information sheet that accompanies this handout. (2) On the back of the information sheet (or, less preferably, on a separate sheet of paper) write a brief introduction of yourself, including your projected career trajectory and your reason for taking this course. (3) Submit a response to the short writing assignment (based on the LSAT writing sample) included in this packet.
Participation exercise (#1) for Tuesday January 20: One half of the class will report on Freeman’s “legal argument” and one half will report on Freeman’s “economic argument” (Week2.doc). In each case identify the conclusion Freeman wants to draw.
Participation exercise (#2) for Thursday January 22: What objections does Goodpaster cite (Week2.doc) to, what was at the time he wrote, a recent Pennsylvania anti-takeover law? Indicate whether you believe the objections are reasonable?
Participation exercise (#6) for Tuesday January 27: According to Lawrence Tribe environmentalism based on homocentrism is in danger of justifying degradation of the environment and Hoffman say a similar danger threatens business ethics based on business self-interest. (Shaw, p. 177) In three to five sentences answer the question, “If one embraces homocentrism about the environment, can one still reject the claim that business ethics should be based on business self-interest?”
Written assignment for Thursday January 29 [3pp]: In Week3.doc are two assignments about the ethics of selling. Do just one of the two:
(1) the first, from Cicero has three examples and the assignment is to take the side of either Antipater or Diogenes in the disputes for the three examples.
(2) The second is from the introduction to a recent textbook on business ethics and the assignment is to write responses to the questions that accompany the two examples.
A look at Carson in Shaw, pp. 112-128 may prove useful whichever you choose.
Participation exercise (#3) for Tuesday February 3: Should we separate commerce and state as rigorously as we separate church and state? E.g. should commercial advertisements be kept out of public schools and politicians with commercial connections be scrutinized in the same way as those with religious convictions?
Participation exercise (#5) for Thursday February 5: Is it worth paying more taxes to have product safety and environmental regulations more rigorously enforced?
Assignment for Thursday January 17th 2008
The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) currently involves a 35 minute “writing sample” which are extremely good writing exercises and to improve your general writing ability, your first assignments for Friday January 18 will be from the most recently issue LSAT PrepTest. Prompts of this kind call upon you to defend one of two options. These options always come with two criteria (or desiderata) and usually each option fares better by one of the criteria than by the other. To mount a defense you need to do more than argue in favor of one option; you also need to anticipate and answer the arguments that can be mounted on behalf of the option you are not supporting. These two parts may together take the form of an argument that your option does better overall than the other option and may in addition involve arguing that it is more important to satisfy the criterion by which your option does well than to satisfy the criterion by which the other option does well. In general it is wise to focus your argument on the criteria and how the options measure up to them rather than on the what can be said in favor of the option you have chosen to defend.
Directions: The scenario presented below describes two choices, either one of which can be supported on the basis of the information given. Your essay should consider both choices and argue for one over the other, based on the two specified criteria and the facts provided. There is no "right" or "wrong" choice: a reasonable argument can be made for either.
The publisher of a popular how-to book on a computer graphics software product is deciding between two courses of action. The first is to order a new printing of the current edition of the book, which would otherwise probably be out of stock within three months. The second is to forgo a new printing and risk running out of copies until a revised edition of the book is ready for publication, at which point there will be no need to print more copies of the current edition. Write an argument supporting one of these courses of action over the other, using the following considerations to guide your decision:
• The publisher always tries to avoid printing more copies of a book than it can sell.
• The publisher wants to have a ready supply of some edition of the book so that customers do not instead purchase a competing publishers book
The particular software product that the book covers is soon to be updated, which will render the current edition of the book out of date. The revised edition of the book, which will cover only the new version of the software, can be in print within six weeks after work on the revision is begun. The company that produces the software has a history of releasing a new version every twelve months, and if the company keeps to this schedule the new version will be released within three months.
In order for a new printing of the current edition of the book to be cost-effective, the publisher must sell copies of the book at its current rate or better for at least six months. The current version of the book has been selling well and demand for the book has remained fairly steady. A source within the software company has hinted to the publisher that release of the next version of the software is likely to be delayed several months. In the past when a new version of the software was released, the majority its users did not upgrade to the new version for months.
PHIL 300 - Review Sheet #1 (Weeks 1-4)
Explain the following terms or distinctions using one or two sentences.
skepticism v. anti-realism ethics egoism
ethical relativism consequentialism utilitarianism
Mohism deontology virtue ethics
caveat emptor / caveat venditor non sequitur capitalism
stakeholder (wide & narrow senses) privity of contract tragedy of the commons
oligopoly/oligopsony problem of agency “mock participation”
public v. private corporation stockholders v. creditors power of eminent domain
stakeholder analysis v. synthesis fiduciary relationship Nemo Dat Principle (NDP)
ethically quixotic ethically inauthentic biocentric v. homocentric
Answers to the following should take five or six sentences and be based on what you have read in the text or heard discussed in class.
1. What is the relationship between law and morals?
2. What bases do Mill and Kant offer for collective coercion to be legitimate?
3. For what reason did then NY Attorney Eliot Spitzer take Marsh & McLennan to court?
4. Relate the account of ‘ethics’ given by your instructor to the three senses of ‘business ethics’ distinguished by Roger Crisp. (See Shaw p.1, Q1)
5. What faults does J.R. Lucas find in the claim that the sole aim and responsibility of a business person is to maximize profit? (Shaw p. 15, Qs1 and 2)
6. On what are the rights of ownership based? What obligations normally attend ownership? What limitations on one’s ownership rights might follow from limiting one’s liability as an owner? (See Shaw, p. 21)
7. Why would Kant not approve of regarding “Treat persons as ends unto themselves” as part of a theory of “good management practice”? (RP p. 6a)
8. What does Freeman mean by a “normative core”? What examples does he supply?
9. “What would a fair contract among corporate stakeholders look like?” (RP p. 8)
10. How does the Poletown case illustrate Goodpaster’s challenge to the stakeholder theory?
11. Distinguish ethical and strategic reasons for taking the views of any group of stakeholders into account.
12. What does Goodpaster find morally questionable about the multi-fiduciary stakeholder approach?
13. Explain how Hoffman’s examples are meant to count against Bowie’s two points about business and the environment.
14. What’s the difference between lying and deception? According to Carson, does withholding information constitute deception? What about concealing information? (Shaw p. 112, Q1)
15. What three criticisms of Holly does Carson make? (Shaw p. 112, Q4)
16. What principle guiding Henry Ford was challenged by Alfred Sloan and with what result?
17. What principles of ethically appropriate sales techniques does the Golden Rule support? What principles is the Golden Rule insufficient to support?
Answers to the following should take between one and two pages and will be evaluated on the quality of arguments which are marshalled in support of the answer chosen.
1. When non-philosophers discuss ethics, they often gravitate toward ethical relativism. Why do you think this happens? Does the fact that different societies have upheld different ethical standards imply that we must be ethical relativists? (Shaw, p. 14, Q2)
2. Crisp concedes that there is serious disagreement about many topics in business ethics. Assess his three responses to the objector who contends that business-people should ignore philosophers until they can reach some consensus about these matters. (Shaw, p. 14, Q4)
3. Critically assess the idea that because the shareholders own the corporation, its obligations to them are paramount. What responsibilities do shareholders have? (Shaw, p. 29, Q5)
4. Should property rights trump the interests of the community where the property is located?
5. Do firms with the advantage of oligopsony have any responsibilities to their suppliers?
6. What obligations do employers have to employees? What obligations do employees have to employers? Do employees have a right to a share of the profits? (Shaw, p. 29, Q6)
7. Evaluate Freeman’s “fair contract theory”.
8. Take either the side of Milton Friedman or that of his critics over the question of corporate responsibility to stakeholders other than stockholders.
9. Do businesses have an ethical obligation to avoid intervening in the political process to defeat or weaken environmental legislation? Do individuals in businesses that externalize serious costs have a positive duty to support legislation that would require their businesses to internalize those costs?
10. “Natural things other than human beings are intrinsically valuable and have, therefore, moral standing” (Hoffmann, Shaw p. 174) Do they?
11. Is manipulative advertising aimed as vulnerable groups (children) ever acceptable? Who should be responsible for (1) determining, (2) reducing, vulnerability of such groups?
Whose values are these?
RESPECT: We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance don't belong here.
INTEGRITY: We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won't doit.
COMMUNICATION: We have an obligation to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another... and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people.
EXCELLENCE: We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do. We will continue to raise the bar for everyone. The great fun here will be for all of us to discover just how good we can really be.
Index of Optional Reading
Bowie.doc “Money, Morality and Motor Cars” by Norman Bowie (addressed by
Hoffman, Shaw Week 5).
Dewey.doc The Historic Background of Corporate Legal Personality by John Dewey—
article addressed by both Horwitz and Luban (Week10.doc).
Citiphilia.doc The culture of the City of London (UK equivalent to Wall Street).
Citiphobia.doc How the culture of the City looks after the recent “credit crunch”.
Easterly.doc The Virtues of Markets and Necessary (Moral) Conditions of those Virtues
Ehrenrch.doc “Working for Wal-Mart” by Barbara Ehrenreich
from Nickeled and Dimed: On (not) Getting By in America.
Employees.doc Ellerman: Kantian Persons v. things, Reiman: Work May be Hazardous to
Your Health, Various: BP & Safety, Cusac: Brazen Bosses, Olsson: Up
Enron&c.doc Financial Scandals: Enron and (Slightly) Earlier: pieces by Peter Behr &
April Wit, Anita Raghaven, Lawrence E. Mitchell
Friedman.doc Milton Friedman and two of his critics (plus a famous court case).
Gigerenzer.doc A psychologists looks as moral behavior.
HedgeFunds.doc Explaining what a hedge fund is and what it takes to start one.
HenWees.doc Hooray Hen-Wees by John Christensen. Review of Baker, Week16.doc
Insider.doc Web report of prizes for journalism received by The Insider
LIBOR.doc The London Interbank Offered Rate (and its importance).
ManyWhist.doc Article from the NY Times on a whistleblower who has a lot to expose.
Mitchell.doc How the managerial era gave way to the present era of speculation
Obsolescence.doc Giles Slade on how frugality became obsolete in our culture.
payWOperf.doc Extract from a book on whether executives are worth their compensation.
Puncases.doc Cases discussed by David Luban (Week10.doc)
New York Central & Hudson River RR v. U.S. 212 U.S. 481 (1909)
United States v. Bank of New England 821 F.2d 844 (1st Cir, 1987)
United States v. Hughes Aircraft Co. Inc. 20 F.3d 974 (9th Cir. 1994)
State v. Shepherd Construction, Inc. et al. 248 Ga 3; 281 S.E. 151 (1981)
United States v. Allegheny Bottling Company 695 F.Supp. 856 (E.D. Va. ’88)
Ridley.doc A more complacent view of Ricardo’s ‘Law’ of Comparative Advantage
than will be found in Brockway (Week 15.doc)
Sadhu.doc The Parable of the Sadhu by Bowen H. McCoy widely reprinted.
Compare to Vandivier’s parable of a whistle blower (Week4.doc)
SladeAp.doc Contains extracts on Branding and Packaging, Disposable Pocket
Watches,Condoms and Women’s Hygiene Products, The 1927
Cadillac LaSalle, Product Addictions, Tailfins, Edsels, and VWs
Smoke.doc Various documents relating to the film, The Insider, its producer
and the circumstances that it exposed.
StClara.doc A radically condensed account of the famed Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific
RR case by historian of law, Morton Horwitzt (to supplement
Nace, Chaps 8-10).
WilkMarm.doc Selections from The Impact of Inequality by Richard Wilkinson and
The Status Syndrome by Michael Marmot
WILvIBP.doc Wilson v. IBP and Arndt a case with elements similar to one in the
Dangerous Business video: Back injury, nurse hired to confirm
accusations of malingering, etc.