Carr argues that business ethics are different from the normal individual and religious ethics that limits one's ability to make decisions or act in a way that is not right. Ethics in business according to Carr require people make exceptions to be able to make a profit and also to gain a competitive advantage. Carr argument holds that business ethics allows leaders and business people to do what is right for the business even if it is against their individual ethical code and bearing to ensure that the best interest of the business is held first. From Carr's point of view, business ethics is a game strategy that every business should embrace to be able to stand out in the market and also to make sustainable profits. Without business game strategy point of view, many businesses according to Carr could not exist because they are against individual and community ethics of fairness and equality.
Game ethics require businesses to be vigilant of opportunities that exist in the market to be able to succeed and gain a competitive advantage. Carr likens the business ethics to the rules that are upheld in some games where one needs to pull a trick to remain on top. In that case, the one who is able to play according to the business game strategy is able to win whereas those that are not willing to shut their individual consciousness and play according to the business game strategy are the one that loses in business. Therefore, business ethics are different from the individual ethics and religious ethics and they cannot interact. As Carr puts it, bluffing in business is ethical and a necessity for any business to be able to stand out in the market.
Games are all about concealing one's intentions even from those that are close to you to be able to stay safe. Many businesses are aware of the importance of concealing their business information because of possible industrial espionage and also to avoid any conflict between the ethics of the individual consumers and the strategies that the business create to be able to get an upper hand in the market. For instance, although businesses are aware that revealing product information to the consumers can help win trust amongst the consumers they are also aware that revealing that information will possibly cause the business lose its competitive edge and they naturally have to conceal the information. In business ethics, according to Carr its survival of the fittest and every business has to play extra hard to play the game right and get a competitive advantage.
Carr's concept of business ethics is that the actions of the business people vary depending on the business needs and also what will be more beneficial to the big picture. Therefore, Carr notes that individual ethics might be different from the business strategy that one uses but because the business needs require one to bluff one has to consider a different approach from their individual ethical bearing. Business ethics have to be differentiated from individual ethics and when business people maintain individual ethics in making business decisions the business loses a competitive edge. Business bluffing according to Carr is different from individual ethics and successful business people are aware to maintain a gap between their individual ethics and the business ethics. Business ethics which allow bluffing and cheating for more profit or strategic advantage are a reserve for business only because they are not applicable in personal relationships. For instance, Carr uses an example of casino player in which even friends are forced to be suspicious of each other and conceal their actions from their friends to be able to win. In this case, business ethics have to be kept apart from individual ethics and they are kept in place to guard a business against losing its edge. In another case, although espionage is unethical many businesses use industrial espionage to gain a competitive edge by spying on their competitors.
Ethical Immunity in Business
From a personal view, I agree with Carr's argument that business bluffing is ethical and allowed especially by those involved in business decision making. Businesses are immune from individual and religious and other general ethics that guide decision making and actions of people. Businesses are allowed to lie to both their consumers, the government and the employees when it is necessary for the business to gain an upper hand. As Koehn notes, business ethics according to Carr promote ideologies that businesses are independent and decisions are made towards benefiting the business and not the entire industry. The Koehn notion that businesses can cooperate does not represent the majority view that the business environment is competitive and cooperation reduces business profits and market share. Therefore, the argument by Carr that business bluffing is ethical because it allows businesses to win is right. For instance, businesses can bluff on the quality of their product whereas there are other premium products in the market which is ethically not acceptable from an outsider point of view but for businesses bluffing is very important in creating a competitive advantage over other businesses which makes cooperation not feasible (Piker, Andrew 337). Businesses that are able to bluff the authorities, customers, employees and the competitors are able to achieve the greatest success in the market whereas those that decide to play holly loses its competitive edge.
Carr's game analogy shows that businesses are deceptive and it cannot be viewed as unethical but instead it should be viewed as a strategy for businesses to gain a competitive edge based on the existing rules that regulate the extent of deception and gains for the businesses. Business ethical immunity case is supported by the general acceptability of activities in the business that from private perspective is not right. For instance, some businesses withhold their business records and actual income to avoid paying high taxes. Although such an action is deceptive, from a business orientation the business leaders have to make such decisions to be able to maximize profits. Another example of business immunity to ethics which agrees with Carr's argument is the business involvement in business ethics as a game analogy is the case of business corporate social responsibility. Business organizations carry out corporate activities like providing health care services and sponsoring sports and important projects at the community level to gain a competitive advantage by improving the reputation of the business. However, the game changes in the deception of the person who bears the cost of the corporate social responsibility projects. In this case, businesses pass the cost of carrying out corporate social responsibility projects to the consumers by increasing prices. Therefore, the major beneficiary, in this case, is the business because all the costs pass to the consumers and the business gets the required market attention to drive sales. This example agrees with Carr's argument that business ethics are different from individual ethics because it is a game strategy put in place to earn a business a competitive advantage.
The primary counter-argument on business immunity in ethics is that game strategy activities are not sustainable in the long run. Business organizations should make decisions that are more authentic to retain the trust and high employee engagement. The deception culture promoted in the game analogy makes business activities and profitability unsustainable in the long-term. Business transparency today can be a source of better organization reputation compared to a deceptive game analogy that denies consumers important information and in other cases, businesses hold goods to increase prices which if revealed could hurt the business reputation. Instead, business leaders and organizations should create win-win situations which are more sustainable and ethical based such as consequentialism and virtue ethics because every action has consequences that can affect business sustainability (Bose, Utpal 17).
Business ethics are permissive and they allow business people to make decisions to win greater advantage over their competitors and also to amass more benefits. The primary role of businesses is to make profits and the business bluffing allows businesses to make decisions that may not agree with the religious and individual ethics but the bluffing is meant to allow businesses and business people to win. Business people and managers should be observant of what they stand to gain according to Carr but since businesses do not make laws their decisions and activities have to be dynamic to adapt to the existing laws.
Bose, Utpal. "An ethical framework in information systems decision making using normative theories of business ethics." Ethics and information technology 14.1 (2012): 17-26.
Carr, Albert Z. "Is business bluffing ethical." Beyond integrity: a Judeo-Christian approach (1996): 55-62.
Koehn, Daryl. "Business and game-playing: the false analogy." Journal of Business Ethics 16.12-13 (1997): 1447-1452.
Piker, Andrew. "Ethical immunity in business: A response to two arguments." Journal of Business Ethics 36.4 (2002): 337-346.
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