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Business and Professional Ethics Journal

Volume 26, Issue 1/4, 2007

Michael D. Stouder, Scott L. Newbert
Pages 55-70

Treating Stakeholders Fairly
The Golden Rule as a Moral Guiding Principle for Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to cultivate the moral direction and development of their organizations, precisely because those organizations are new. Towards this end, we suggest that the Golden Rule is a simple, practical heuristic for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a fair social contract with their stakeholders. Because justice is an important central moral criterion in organizations, we attempt to show theoretically that the Golden Rule passes critical tests of justice, as outlined in the work of John Rawls, and can also serve as a universally relevant hypernorm which have been argued to ground all social contracts. We introduce some important contextual findings from the entrepreneurship literature in order to ground our discussion and create realistic scenarios for entrepreneurs and their stakeholders. In so doing, we present an important potential limitation of the Golden Rule in practice and suggest how entrepreneurs might reconcile it. Ultimately, we believe that if entrepreneurs were to reflect upon their particular situation, they would have good reasons to choose to employ the Golden Rule as a part of their overall strategy for moral and economic success.

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