Dissolving the moral dilemma of whistleblowing

Journal of Business Ethics 76 (4):413 - 426 (2007)
The ethical debate on whistleblowing concerns centrally the conflict between the right to political free speech and the duty of loyalty to the organization where one works. This is the moral dilemma of whistleblowing. Political free speech is justified because it is a central part of liberal democracy, whereas loyalty can be motivated as a way of showing consideration for one’s associates. The political philosophy of John Rawls is applied to this dilemma, and it is shown that the requirement of loyalty, in the sense that is needed to create the moral dilemma of whistleblowing, is inconsistent with that theory. In this sense, there is no moral dilemma of whistleblowing. This position has been labelled extreme in that it says that whistleblowing is always morally permitted. In a discussion and rejection of Richard De George’s criteria on permissible whistleblowing, it is pointed out that the mere rejection of loyalty will not lead to an extreme position; harms can still be taken into account. Furthermore, it is argued that the best way is, in this as in most other political circumstances, to weigh harms is provided by the free speech argument from democracy.
Keywords free speech  justice as fairness  loyalty  permission for whistleblowing  whistleblowing
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Robert A. Larmer (1992). Whistleblowing and Employee Loyalty. Journal of Business Ethics 11 (2):125 - 128.

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