Present State of Business Ethics

Present State of Business Ethics

As an academic discipline or sub-discipline business ethics is roughly twenty-five years old. A large percentage of the people who work within it were trained as professional philosophers; the other single krgest group consists of people from management backgrounds often with degrees in sociology or other social sciences (but rarely economics) and more recently strategy. Many of these people are serious academics who apply their various skills to identifying, understanding, and resolving ethical issues in commerce.

Nevertheless, many other individuals bring to the discussion of these ethical issues prejudices that reflect the present state of the academic world in general, specifically: ignorance of economics, an anti-market bias, a regulation-as-panacea mentality. Many if not most of the articles that appear in business ethics journals reflect this bias and are largely written for an intellectually incestuous academic audience with little or no knowledge of or impact on actual commercial practice.

What we have collected for this special issue of the Journal of the Association of Private Enterprise Education are articles written by individuals within the discipline of business ethics who do not reflect the ordinary academic bias. Quite the contrary, they are prominent voices who are precisely the voices that would be of interest to readers of this journal. In a variety of ways what they have attempted to do collectively and individually is to bring readers up to date on the state of the discipline and its recent history (Ryan), expose the anti-business bias within the discipline (Machan), examine the misguided political model as opposed to an economic model that informs the discipline, (Marcoux), identify the root intellectual misconceptions that distort so much of the discipline (Capaldi), examine the problems inherent in so-called stake-holder theory (Boatright), and show how proposed regulatory remedies actually provide incentives for unethical conduct (Hasnas).

We not only hope that these articles will be informative and of intrinsic interest but we conceive of them collectively as setting the stage for a renaissance within the business ethics community. The renaissance we envisage is one in which the discipline will emerge as methodologically more rigorous, begins with an open mind instead of a political bias, and takes seriously what economics and law have to tell us about public policy debate.

Copyright Association of Private Enterprise Education Spring 2006

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