Viral Ethics: Covid-19 Questions

I stopped writing the TalkingEthics blog shortly after the 2016 election. I didn’t see any way to continue without getting mired in the nastiness and hatred that characterized any discussion involving politics, and I wanted to avoid that (and still do). It was also true that the media started paying a lot more attention to ethics as the new administration pushed what were already questionable boundaries. Plus, I started writing novels, which gave me a different kind of opportunity to explore ethical questions.photo-1586065390014-a796af790da7

All of that is still true today, but the Covid-19 crisis raises some serious new issues, and I’m starting to see neighbors and friends discuss them, so I decided to jump back in. I’ll start with a few thoughts on a handful of issues and ask you to join in the discussion with your own views (details on how to participate below). Let’s start with wearing masks.

Is it ethical to leave your mask at home? Here in Maryland, masks are now required in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other places of business where it’s Continue reading

The Ethics of Charitable Giving

Most of us would agree that sharing our good fortune in the form of charitable giving is an ethical thing to do, maybe even an ethical requirement. If we’re blessed with more money than we need, whether by hard work, good luck, or a combination of both, we ought to lend a helping hand to those who need it. Right?

But what does it mean to have more money than we need?

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Book Review: The Good Ones by Bruce Weinstein

Good onesThis is a book that anyone concerned with ethics in the workplace—and we all should be—needs to read for a number of reasons and on a number of levels. It’s packed with practical information and telling anecdotes that together provide an easy, informative and enjoyable read. Most important, it explains not only what “the good ones” do to earn the title, but also how we can learn from their success and why we ought to try to emulate it. That will help us become better people and, yes, will  help create a better and more profitable business. Continue reading

Greed Trumps Ethics Again–And Again

Can business ethics get any worse?  Later this summer, the Justice Department is expected to announce charges of criminal wrongdoing in GM’s handling of faulty ignition switches that led to a series of fatal accidents. The New York Times says GM will likely agree to a record settlement—more than the $1.2 billion that Toyota paid for a sudden acceleration problem. And Tanaka has finally admitted after years of denial that its explosive airbag problem justifies the largest recall in auto history (and that’s saying a lot). Continue reading

Family Values: Not What You Think

family valuesI wish Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift hadn’t called their new book Family Values. The title makes it too easy to pass over this important examination of the ethics and morality of family relationships in the mistaken assumption that it’s just another empty contribution to what passes for political debate. I hope the subtitle, The Ethics of the Parent-child Relationship, will catch enough eyes to bring the book to the fore because this work has something important to say, and whether you agree or not, it’s worth a healthy debate.
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In Defense of Lying

On more than one occasion, Talking Ethics has looked at the ethics of telling so-called white lies that may seem like they’re not doing much harm—“Dinner was delicious.” “I like your new haircut.” In doing so, we found that our readers (a self-selected group who take their ethics seriously) generally frown on lying of any kind, though most reject the absolutist view of Immanuel Kant and others who insist lying is always wrong because it undermines trust and constructive discourse. Now comes a new study suggesting that not only is lying sometimes okay, but it actually can be the right thing to do.
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The Redskins Need a New Name

The NFL season is still more than a month away, but here in football-crazed Washington, the Redskins already dominate the sports pages. And with that kind of coverage staring me in the face every morning, I can’t help thinking anew about the team’s controversial name—specifically, whether its continued use constitutes unethical behavior.
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The Slippery Slope in Business Ethics

Tempted to take an extra shampoo bottle from your hotel room? Or to say you’ve got a bad headache so you can leave work early to get ready for a big date? Be careful. What may seem like a small ethical transgression now could lead to much bigger problems in the future. At least that’s the result of a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Researchers trying to understand big corporate scandals found that when a small ethical sin goes unchecked, bigger sins are much more likely to follow.
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Business Ethics: Some Progress, But….

Corporate compliance officers—those hard-working, well-intentioned executives who worry about obeying the law and acting ethically—have had some good news recently. There are definite signs of progress on several levels. But some very high-profile failures, most notably the scandal at General Motors involving faulty ignition switches, make the rest of us wonder whether progress is really being made. The answer, I think, is, “Yes, but…” There are signs of improvement, but there’s still a long way to go.
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No Free Pass for Lying Politicians

When we conducted an informal survey last year asking people when it’s okay to tell a white lie, a large majority, 71%, came down hard on politicians, saying it’s wrong for them to shade the truth, even when it’s just a matter of emphasizing facts that support their point of view and ignoring those that don’t.

But lying by politicians remains rampant. Continue reading

Five Ethical Failures in the Sterling Affair

The NBA’s decision to ban Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is a reasonable first step, but it doesn’t begin to deal effectively with the underlying problems – or even address some of the ethical failures by the too-many actors involved.

Five separate failures immediately come to mind.
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