Threaded Discussion Question: Describe how utilitarian thinking underlies much economic and business decision making.
Please respond to the question with a minimum of 200 words.
Please reply to two of your classmates postings with a minimum of 150 words. Make sure your reply is substantial. Don’t just say, “I like what you said and I agree with you.” If you do agree, explain why…
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory in which the most ethical choice is the one that produces the greatest “utility” or good for the greatest number of people. It’s the most common approach to find moral reason in business practices since it is able to account for costs and benefits. At the same time, the greatest amount of welfare (or good) is something businesses believe they can promote alongside their goal of making a profit.
However, this approach to ethics in a business environment can encounter several issues. One of the issues with this theory is that it only considers the consequences since the “ends justify the means.” However, the future and its consequences can’t be predicted, posing a limit to the analysis of the outcomes of the business practices. In utilitarianism, the benefits must outweigh the harms for all the stakeholders (consumers, employees, shareholders, etc), but the impacts can only be guessed.
For instance, in the case of chemical manufacturers, companies tend to underestimate the negative impact of the pollution that they can cause to society as a whole. In many cases as well, the bad consequences aren’t larger than the benefits of a company’s unethical conduct and the company is simply faced with having to pay a fine for practicing immoral or illegal activities. Often, the profits derived from the polluting activities are larger than the fine the chemical manufacturers have to pay.
According to Hartman et al (2014), utilitarianism is defined as an ethical tradition which serves as a guidance to lead individuals to make decisions based on overall consequences of their acts, which has a primary emphasis on the outcomes. When applying utilitarianism, the individuals need to consider the overall consequences of their actions in the situation where they determine what to do with options on hand. In essence, the right option is to maximize the benefit of a majority.
In a business context, the option that will deliver the best financial returns may appear to be the right decision regarding financial consequences, which may not happen to be the option that is ethically right. Solely pursuing the best financial consequences will inevitably impair ethical values. Hartman et al pointed out that the better consequences also take human well-being in to consideration, which includes happiness, health, dignity, integrity, freedom, and other aspects that affect all human beings. Since the utilitarianism values the greatest good for the greatest number, a decision that comprehensively promotes the greatest values for the most individuals is considered the most appropriate decision. As such, certain aggressive decisions that may maximize some individuals’ financial interests fail to address the needs of the greater number of individuals and therefore can not be justified ethically under utilitarianism.