Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Consumer Ethics

Is it ethical to download music illegally? To read books and magazines in a bookstore without making a purchase? To buy an article of clothing, wear it to a function, and then return it? To visit a bricks-and-mortar store in order to learn about a product, then leave the store and buy the product cheaper online?

Jason Fertig, an assistant professor of management at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, Indiana, poses these questions, and others, in order to help future business leaders think critically about their ethical obligations as consumers. In an article published by the National Association of Scholars, he writes:
I urge students to convince me whether these consumer behaviors signal potential unethical behavior at later times. Similar to the downloading issue, who would make the better executive, a person who respects the merchandise at a bookstore (or at least buys a coffee when spending considerable time at the store) or one that tries to justify reading GQ cover-to-cover in the store, when there is a copy at the local library that is available for free use?
Fertig notes that his aim is to help students understand that self-knowledge and self-control are fundamental elements in ethical decision making. "It is about knowing how to battle your own flaws," he writes. "Knowing when to blow that whistle on yourself when no one else will."

1 comment:

  1. Fertig asks "who would make a better executive," the one who would make the ethical decision or the one who would make the unethical decision?, suggesting that the former would make a better executive. Economists Levitt and Dubner of Freakonomics fame would likely disagree. Is the ability to make minor ethical decisions such as this a requisite for business management? Often what breeds success is exactly the opposite, not being stuck to always blindly doing the "right" thing but rather understanding the difference between ethical issues that matter and those that do not (such as this one).