Must CEOs Be Saints? Contra Moriarty on CEO Abstemiousness by Robert KolbIn this journal, Jeffrey Moriarty argued that CEOs must refuse to accept compensation above the minimum compensation that will induce them to accept and perform their jobs. Acting otherwise, he maintains, violates the CEO’s fiduciary duty, even for a CEO new to the firm. I argue that Moriarty’s conclusion rests on a failure to adequately distinguish when a person acts as a fiduciary from when she acts (...) on her own account as a person. Further, Moriarty’s argument assumes that the CEO knows this minimum level of compensation. However, we learn the suitability of compensation only through the market process of wage negotiation, not through some process of introspection. I conclude that a CEO who abstains from interfering with the board of directors and its compensation committee is morally free to negotiate for the highest wage available. (shrink)
There is considerable overlap between the interests of business ethicists and those of political philosophers. Questions about the moral justifiability of the capitalist system, the basis of property rights, and the problem of inequality in the distribution of income have been of central importance in both fields. However, political philosophers have developed, especially over the past four decades, a set of tools and concepts for addressing these questions that are in many ways quite distinctive. Most business ethicists, on the other (...) hand, consider their field to be primarily a domain of applied ethics, and so adopt methods and conceptual frameworks developed by moral philosophers. In this paper, we discuss some of the salient differences between these two approaches, and suggest some ways in which business ethicists could benefit from taking a more “political philosophy” approach to these questions. Throughout, we underline the importance of seeking greater compatibility among the principles used in normative theorizing about markets, regulations, corporate governance, and business practices. (shrink)
John Rawls says that one of the requirements for stability is “[s]ociety as an employer of last resort” (PLP, lix). He explains: “[t]he lack of . . . the opportunity for meaningful work and occupation is destructive . . . of citizens’ self-respect” (PLP, lix). Rawls implies in these claims that the opportunity for meaningful work is a social basis of self-respect. This constitutes a significant shift in his account of self-respect, one that has been overlooked. I begin by clarifying (...) Rawls’s account of self-respect in A Theory of Justice, then consider some post-Theory developments in it. After exploring the nature of Rawls’s commitment to the opportunity for meaningful work, I ask why he comes to think it is a social basis of self-respect. I extract a partial answer from his writings, then speculate about his full reasoning. Finally, I consider whether Rawls is right that the opportunity for meaningful work is a social basis of self-respect. I give some reason to believe that he is. (shrink)
The central problems of political philosophy (e.g., legitimate authority, distributive justice) mirror the central problems of businessethics. The question naturally arises: should political theories be applied to problems in business ethics? If a version of egalitarianism is the correct theory of justice for states, for example, does it follow that it is the correct theory of justice for businesses? If states should be democratically governed by their citizens, should businesses be democratically managed by their employees? Most theorists who have considered (...) these questions, including John Rawls in Political Liberalism, and Robert Phillips and Joshua Margolis in a 1999 article, have said “no.” They claim that states and businesses are different kinds of entities, and hence require different theories of justice. I challenge this claim. While businesses differ from states, the difference is one of degree, not one of kind. Business ethicshas much to learn from political philosophy. (shrink)
In early writings, stakeholder theorists supported giving all stakeholders formal, binding control over the corporation, in particular, over its board of directors. In recent writings, however, they claim that stakeholder theory does not require changing the current structure of corporate governance and further claim to be “agnostic” about the value of doing so. This article’s purpose is to highlight this shift and to argue that it is a mistake. It argues that, for instrumental reasons, stakeholder theorists should support giving all (...) stakeholders control over the corporation, in the form of control over its board. That is, stakeholder theorists should support stakeholder democracy over the status quo. A larger goal of this article is to steer the conversation about stakeholder theory toward questions of governance and control. Stakeholder theorists tend to sidestep these questions, but it is vital that they be addressed. (shrink)
In 2003, CEOs of the 365 largest U.S. corporations were paid on average $8 million, 301 times as much as factory workers. This paper asks whether CEOs get paid too much. Appealing to widely recognized moral values, I distinguish three views of justice in wages: the agreement view, the desert view, and the utility view. I argue that, no matter which view is correct, CEOs get paid too much. I conclude by offering two ways CEO pay might be reduced.
Should people who perform equal work receive equal pay? Most would say ‘yes’, at least insofar as this question is understood to be asking whether employers should be permitted to discriminate against employees on the basis of race or sex. But suppose the employees belong to all of the same traditionally protected groups. Is (what I call) nondiscriminatory unequal pay for equal work wrong? Drawing an analogy with price discrimination, I argue that it is not intrinsically wrong, but it can (...) be deceptive, in which case it is wrong. (shrink)
The view of business ethics that Christopher McMahon calls the “implicit morality of the market” and Joseph Heath calls the “market failures approach” has received a significant amount of recent attention. The idea of this view is that we can derive an ethics for market participants by thinking about the “point” of market activity, and asking what the world would have to be like for this point to be realized. While this view has been much-discussed, it is still not well-understood. (...) This paper seeks to remedy this problem. I begin by showing, against some recent commentators, that McMahon’s view and Heath’s view are fundamentally the same. Second, I clarify the sense of “efficiency” at work in the market failures approach. Finally, I argue that, in its current form, this view has little relevance to the real world of business. I conclude by sketching two ways of modifying it to fit our world. (shrink)
ABSTRACT:In this address, I distinguish and explore three conceptions of wages. A wage is a reward, given in recognition of the performance of a valued task. It is also an incentive: a way to entice workers to take and keep jobs, and to motivate them to work hard. Finally, a wage is a price of labor, and like all prices, conveys valuable information about relative scarcity. I show that each conception of wages has its own normative logic, or appropriate justification, (...) and these logics can come apart. This explains some of the debate about wages and makes the project of justifying a wage simpliciter difficult. I identify which logic we should choose, since we must choose, and say what this means for how we should think about the justification of pay. (shrink)
Debates about the ethics of executive compensation are dominated by familiar themes. Many writers consider whether the amount of pay CEOs receive is too large—relative to firm performance, foreign CEO pay, or employee pay. Many others consider whether the process by which CEOs are paid is compromised by weak or self-serving boards of directors. This paper examines the issue from a new perspective. I focus on the duties executives themselves have with respect to their own compensation. I argue that CEOs’ (...) fiduciary duties place a moral limit on how much compensation they can accept, and hence seek in negotiation,from their firms. Accepting excessive compensation leaves the beneficiaries of their duties (e.g., shareholders) worse off, and thus is inconsistent with observing those duties. (shrink)
Many arguments have been advanced in favor of employee participation in firm decision-making. Two of the most influential are the "interest protection argument" and the "autonomy argument." I argue that the case for granting participation rights to some other stakeholders, such as suppliers and community members, is at least as strong, according to the reasons given in these arguments, as the case for granting them to certain employees. I then consider how proponents of these arguments might modify their arguments, or (...) views, in response to this conclusion. (shrink)
This book deals with three major French thinkers of the seventeenth century, Descartes, Pascal, and Malebranche. It examines their influential critical accounts of the impact of the body and of social relationships on experience, and the need to correct this by reference to metaphysical or religious truth.
Desert plays a central role in most contemporary theories of retributive justice, but little or no role in most contemporary theories of distributive justice. This asymmetric treatment of desert is prima facie strange. I consider several popular arguments against the use of desert in distributive justice, and argue that none of them can be used to justify the asymmetry.
Business ethicists have written much about ethical issues in employment. Except for a handful of articles on the very high pay of chief executive officers and the very low pay of workers in overseas sweatshops, however, little has been written about the ethics of compensation. This is prima facie strange. Workers care about their pay, and they think about it in normative terms. This article's purpose is to consider whether business ethicists' neglect of the normative aspects of compensation is justified. (...) I examine several possible justifications for neglecting compensation and show that they fail. What remains is a case for thinking that it is worthy of normative analysis. (shrink)
Some writers think that John Rawls rejects desert as a distributive criterion because he thinks that people are not capable of deserving anything. I argue that Rawls does not think this, and that he rejects desert because he thinks that we cannot tell what people deserve. I then offer a criticism of Rawls's rejection of desert based on its correct interpretation.
Holmes Rolston has defended certain forms of hunting and meat eating when these activities are seen as natural participation in the food chains in which we evolved. Ned Hettinger has suggested that some of Rolston’s principles that govern our interactions with plants and animals might appear to be inconsistent with Rolston’s defense of these activities. Hettinger attempts to show that they are not. We argue that Rolston’s principles are not consistent with hunting, given Hettinger’s modifications. In his defense of Rolston, (...) Hettinger has challenged animal welfare ethicists to show that they can value animal predation while consistently condemning human hunting. We answer that hunting and meat eating by humans are “cultural” rather than “natural” activities. (shrink)
If an employee is committed to his firm—if he is “attached” or “bound” to it—then his firm may be able to obtain a discount on his labor. This paper asks: Is it wrong for firms to do so? If we understand just or fair pay solely in terms of voluntary agreements between employers and employees, the answer seems to be ‘no.’ Against this, I argue that, in some cases, it is ‘yes.’ In particular, it is wrong for firms to try (...) to obtain discounts on their committed employees’ labor when their employees reasonably expect that they will not try to obtain them. In the process, I probe the limits of exploitation and question the relevance of contribution to fairness in compensation. (shrink)
Following the introduction of do-not-resuscitate orders in the 1970s, there was widespread misinterpretation of the term among healthcare professionals. In this brief report, we present findings from a survey of healthcare professionals. Our aim was to examine current understanding of the term do-not-attempt-resuscitate, decision-making surrounding DNAR and awareness of current guidelines. The survey was distributed to doctors and nurses in a university teaching hospital and affiliated primary care physicians in Dublin via email and by hard copy at educational meetings from (...) July to December 2014. A total of 519 completed the survey. The response rate in the hospital doctors group was 35.5%, 19.8% in the nurses group but 68.8% in the specialist nurses group and 40% in the primary care physician group.Alarmingly, our results demonstrate that 26.8% of staff nurses and 30% of primary care physicians surveyed believed that a patient with a DNAR order could not receive any/at least one of a list of simple treatments including antibiotics, physiotherapy, intravenous fluids, pain relief, oxygen, nasogastric feeding or airway suctioning, which were higher percentages compared to the other hospital doctors and experienced nurses groups with statistically significant differences. Furthermore, a higher percentage of staff nurses and primary care physicians believed that a patient with a DNAR order could not be referred to hospital from home/a nursing home, when compared with other healthcare groups. Our findings highlight continued misunderstanding and over-interpretation of DNAR orders. Further collaboration and information is required for meaningful Advance Care Plans. (shrink)
Desert plays an important role in most contemporary theories of retributive justice, but an unimportant role in most contemporary theories of distributive justice. Saul Smilansky has recently put forward a defense of this asymmetry. In this study, I argue that it fails. Then, drawing on an argument of Richard Arneson’s, I suggest an alternative consequentialist rationale for the asymmetry. But while this shows that desert cannot be expected to play the same role in distributive justice that it can play in (...) retributive justice, it does not fully vindicate the asymmetry, since desert can still play an important role in the former. (shrink)
This paper offers a sympathetic critique of Christopher McMahon’s Authority and Democracy: A General Theory of Government and Management. Although I find fault with some of his arguments, my goal is not to show that these arguments are irreparable, but to highlight issues that deserve further consideration. After defining some terms, first, I raise an objection to McMahon’s rejection of the moral unity of management (MUM) thesis. Second, I draw attention to his “moralization” of the workplace, and examine the role (...) it plays in his arguments about the relative strengths of the different kinds of authority. Third, I raise questions about his reliance on an analogy between states and firms. I suggest that states and firms are in some ways more alike, but in other ways less alike, than he allows. (shrink)
Many firms keep pay secret. They do not make information about what their employees are paid available inside or outside of the firm, i.e. to other employees or to the public at large. Indeed, many firms discourage their employees from, or sanction them for, disclosing their pay. Against this, I argue that there are good moral reasons for firms to be transparent about pay. Pay transparency prevents injustice, promotes autonomy, and increases efficiency. After presenting the positive case for pay transparency, (...) I defend it against objections, including the most common reasons firms give for keeping pay secret. (shrink)
Most contemporary political philosophers deny that justice requires giving people what they deserve. According to a familiar anti-desert argument, the influence of genes and environment on people's actions and traits undermines all desert-claims. According to a less familiar – but more plausible – argument, the influence of genes and environment on people's actions and traits undermines some desert-claims (or all desert-claims to an extent). But, it says, we do not know which ones (or to what extent). This article examines this (...) ‘epistemological’ argument against desert. It gives reason to believe that it fails, emphasizing the importance of justice relative to efficiency and attempting to construct a practical way of measuring desert. (shrink)
Environmentalists consider invasions by exotic species of plants and animals to be one of the most serious environmental problems we face today, as well as one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss. We argue that in order to develop and enact sensible policies, it is crucial to consider two philosophical questions: What exactly makes a species native or exotic, and What values are at stake? We focus on the first of these two questions, and offer some preliminary suggestions with (...) regard to the second. Through a series of case studies, we show that it is not always clear whether a species is native or exotic. We identify five possible criteria that could be used for distinguishing natives from exotics. Rather than identifying one of these criteria as the 'correct' one, we suggest that the concepts of 'native' and ' exotic ' function more like what some philosophers have called cluster concepts. That is, there are several characteristics that are typical of native species, and a corresponding set of characteristics that are typical of exotic species. None of these characteristics is either necessary or sufficient for identifying a species as either native or exotic. We then identify several of the values that are at stake in dealing with exotic species, and we suggest that policies need to avoid being overly simplistic. (shrink)
From the late sixteenth to the late seventeenth centuries, French writing is especially concerned with analysing human nature. The ancient ethical vision of man's nature and goal survives, even, to some extent, in Descartes. But it is put into question especially by the revival of St Augustine's thought, which focuses on the contradictions and disorders of human desires and aspirations. Analyses of behaviour display a powerful suspicion of appearances. Human beings are increasingly seen as motivated by self-love: they are driven (...) by the desire for their own advantage, and take a narcissistic delight in their own image. Moral and religious writers re-emphasize the traditional imperative of self-knowledge, but in such a way as to suggest the difficulties of knowing oneself. Operating with the Cartesian distinction between mind and body, they emphasize the imperceptible influence of bodily processes on our thought and attitudes. They analyse human beings' ignorance of their own motives and qualities, and the illusions under which they live their lives. Their critique of human behaviour is no less searching than that of writers who have broken with traditional religious morality, such as Hobbes and Spinoza. A wide range of authors is studied, some well-known, others much less so: the abstract and general analyses of philosophers and theologians are juxtaposed with the less systematic and more concrete investigations of writers like Montaigne and La Rochefoucauld, not to mention the theatre of Corneille, Molière, and Racine. (shrink)
This essay provides an overview of business ethics. I describe important issues, identify some of the normative considerations animating them, and offer a roadmap of references for those wishing to learn more. I focus on issues in normative business ethics, but discuss briefly the growing body of work in descriptive business ethics. I conclude with a comment on the changing nature of the field.
ABSTRACTThis paper responds to two issues in interpreting George Berkeley’s Analyst. First, it explains why the text contains no discussion of religious mysteries or points of faith, despite the claims of the text's subtitle; I argue that the subtitle must be understood, and its success assessed, in conjunction with material external to the text. Second, it’s unclear how naturally the arguments of the Analyst sit with Berkeley’s broader views. He criticizes the methodology of calculus and conceptually problematic entities, and the (...) extent to which they require one to bend the rules of classical mathematics. Yet, elsewhere, Berkeley’s opinion of classical mathematics and its intelligibility is low, and he defends a pragmatic approach to word meaning that should not find fault with so functionally successful a theory. The ad hominem intention of the text makes it difficult to discern to what extent Berkeley is committed to the sincerity of these criticisms. This component of the text is rarely discussed, but I argue that when trying to decide what Berkeley’s true position is in the Analyst, we should treat its ad hominem component as its primary intention. (shrink)
Compensation has received a great deal of attention from social scientists. Characteristically, they have been concerned with the causes and effects of various compensation schemes. By contrast, few theorists have addressed the normative aspects of compensation. An exception is Elaine Sternberg, who offers in Just Business a comprehensive theory of compensation ethics. This paper critically examines her theory, and argues that the justification she gives for it fails. Its failure is instructive, however. The main argument Sternberg gives for her theory (...) points in the direction of a different one. This, in turns, helps us to see what a justification of Sternberg’s theory must look like. While focused on Sternberg, this paper is of general interest. It identifies what are likely to be important positionsand arguments in debates about compensation ethics, and thus provides a jumping-off point for further research in this neglected area. (shrink)
The role or place of engineering is to engineer place, a location of engaging life events. That is the case for focal engineering, which is distinguished from two other kinds of engineering: traditional engineering and modernist engineering. These three kinds of engineering are discussed in terms of ways of knowing appropriate to them: know-how for traditionalist engineering, knowhow/know- what for modernist engineering, and know-how/know- what/know-why for focalengineering. Various notions of place and space are relevant to the three kinds of engineering (...) discussed. In traditional engineering, place and space are backgrounded. In modernist engineering, space begins to dominate, causing a disharmony in the place/space constellation. In focal engineering, place is stressed in order to re-harmonize the place/space constellation. (shrink)
The view that justice requires giving people what they deserve is both ancient and plausible. Yet many contemporary political philosophers, including John Rawls and Robert Nozick, have put forward distributive theories that give no place to desert. In this dissertation, I give reason to believe that the contemporary rejection of desert is mistaken, and that desert should be taken seriously by political philosophers. ;This project is incomplete in the sense that I do not say how seriously desert should be taken---how (...) important it is compared to other distributive ideals . This is an important task, but I do not have the space for it. Hence, while my dissertation is an important first step in restoring desert to a place of significance in theories of distributive justice, it is not the last word. ;In chapter 1, I consider different views about what it means to be deserving, and about the necessary and sufficient conditions for desert. I do not try to solve these debates, but rather stipulate the conception of desert I am interested in. In chapter 2, I offer arguments for its use as a distributive criterion. ;In chapter 3, I consider the "metaphysical argument" against desert. Deriving from naturalistic worries about the robustness of human agency, this argument denies that people are capable of the kind of responsibility required for desert. I distinguish three versions of it, and argue that all fail. The "epistemological argument," examined in chapter 4, doubts that we can know what people deserve. In response, I suggest a way of making distribution according to desert practicable. ;I consider in chapter 5 the asymmetry of desert: the fact that desert plays an insignificant role in most contemporary theories of distributive justice, but a central role in most contemporary theories of retributive justice. I give good reason to believe the asymmetry cannot be justified, considering five potential justifications of it, and arguing that none is successful. I conclude the dissertation by summarizing what I have done, then mapping out directions for future research. (shrink)
Possible futures can, for simplicity, be reduced to three broad options: “Business-as-usual economic growth”, “Green economic growth”, and “Ecological sustainability”. We critically discuss the feasibility and sustainability of each. We find that the Nightmare option will eventually be undermined by ecological deterioration and rising resource scarcity, while the Diversion option, we argue, is doomed to failure. The Vision option is for us the only viable future, but requires unprecedented socioeconomic changes. Regardless of path, either Earth biophysical changes, or socioeconomic changes—or (...) possibly both—will be unprecedented. Hence, predicting the future, never easy, will become much harder. (shrink)
Aimee Barbeau advances a thoughtful critique of my article, “The Connection Between Stakeholder Theory and Stakeholder Democracy: An Excavation and Defense.” Although Barbeau does much to push forward the debate about corporate governance, she does it without undermining my thesis. For what Barbeau has shown is not that stakeholder theorists should not endorse stakeholder boards of directors, but that they should also endorse other ways for stakeholders to participate in decision-making processes within firms.