Micro Business Ethics

Micro Business Ethics

One of the subjects dealt with in my blogging is free market fundamentalism, a subject intertwined with Neo-Liberalism. What does this have to do with business ethics? These philosophies have real impacts on policy across the glove. They are often used to determine economic decisions for entire nations and corporations. If we as business ethics teachers stay away from the big questions because it is less controversial and easier to deal with the small, what kind of people are we?

Micro Business Ethics
Micro Business Ethics

It seems to me obvious that these philosophies are embedded in business interests across the globe. They are spread and encouraged by well financed think tanks, lobbyists and political contributions. This belief system practices wage discipline, privatization, the destruction of public services and the replacement of democratic institutions by business “experts.” Considering these facts, business philosophy should and must be an area of concern for business ethics. When a school board is superseded to allow an appointed body to defund public schools and create a parallel charter school system, democracy has been thwarted. When once well paid workers are reduced to food stamps and penury, we should discuss whether the power of business is being used for good or evil.

Much of the writing of traditional business ethics concerns the individual confronted with intellectual dilemma. I call this Micro Business Ethics. I’ve read textbooks where the focus was heavily aimed at this part of the field. For instance, each chapter opened up with an ethical question for an employee in business or corporation. More commonly, textbooks have sections dealing with individual ethics, organizational ethics and business philosophy, although I have one almost totally devoted to larger business philosophy and questions of ethics both national and international.

And all of these textbooks are labeled “Business Ethics.”

Why don’t we borrow from the field of economics? According to Wikipedia microeconomics “studies the behavior of individuals and small impacting organizations in making decisions.” That sounds like a good definition of Micro Business Ethics. How about adding a macro for the larger problems?

I would define macro-economics as dealing with organizations larger than “close” corporations or sole proprietorships such as national and multi-national corporations up to international organization like the International Monetary Fund and including nation states like Greece. But instead of dividing the field of business ethics into two parts, I can’t help be feel that doctrine and philosophy need their own area of concentration which I would call simple business philosophy.

That’s how I think the field should be divided.

James Pilant

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