Putting the Law in Its Place: Business Ethics and the Assumption that Illegal Implies Unethical

Putting the Law in Its Place: Business Ethics and the Assumption that Illegal Implies Unethical Many business ethicists assume that if a type of conduct is illegal, then it is also unethical. This article scrutinizes that assumption, using the rideshare company Uber’s illegal operation in the city of Philadelphia as a case study. I argue that Uber’s unlawful conduct was permissible. I also argue that this position is not an extreme one: it is consistent with a variety of theoretical commitments in the analytic philosophical tradition regarding political obligation (i.e. the moral duty to obey the law because it is the law). I conclude by showing why business ethicists would have a better rejoinder to the “dominant view” of business ethics associated with Milton Friedman if they dispensed with the assumption that illegal implies unethical. Keywords Analytic philosophy · Political obligation · Political philosophy · Corporate social responsibility · Legal disobedience Abbreviation PPA Philadelphia Parking Authority Uber’s conduct in these cases is illegal. But is it unethi‑ Introduction cal? The answer to this question might strike some as obvious: of course it is unethical to knowingly violate the For the past several years, in cities around the world, the law! Even Milton Friedman thinks that firms’ attempts to ride‑share company Uber has been offering illegal taxi maximize profits http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Business Ethics Springer Journals

Putting the Law in Its Place: Business Ethics and the Assumption that Illegal Implies Unethical

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2018 by Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature
Subject
Philosophy; Ethics; Business and Management, general; Management; Business Ethics; Quality of Life Research
ISSN
0167-4544
eISSN
1573-0697
D.O.I.
10.1007/s10551-018-3904-4
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Many business ethicists assume that if a type of conduct is illegal, then it is also unethical. This article scrutinizes that assumption, using the rideshare company Uber’s illegal operation in the city of Philadelphia as a case study. I argue that Uber’s unlawful conduct was permissible. I also argue that this position is not an extreme one: it is consistent with a variety of theoretical commitments in the analytic philosophical tradition regarding political obligation (i.e. the moral duty to obey the law because it is the law). I conclude by showing why business ethicists would have a better rejoinder to the “dominant view” of business ethics associated with Milton Friedman if they dispensed with the assumption that illegal implies unethical. Keywords Analytic philosophy · Political obligation · Political philosophy · Corporate social responsibility · Legal disobedience Abbreviation PPA Philadelphia Parking Authority Uber’s conduct in these cases is illegal. But is it unethi‑ Introduction cal? The answer to this question might strike some as obvious: of course it is unethical to knowingly violate the For the past several years, in cities around the world, the law! Even Milton Friedman thinks that firms’ attempts to ride‑share company Uber has been offering illegal taxi maximize profits

Journal

Journal of Business EthicsSpringer Journals

Published: May 28, 2018

References

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