Volume 14, 2003
Proceedings of the Fourteenth Annual Meeting
Public Responsibility and Business Ethics
Economic and Philosophical Versions of Theory
This paper examines the relationship between economic and philosophical theories of public responsibility and business ethics viewed in the wake of the recent corporate scandals in the U.S. An emerging economic theory subjects voluntary responsibilities and ethical choices to a financial cost-benefit analysis (whether short run profitability or long run wealth creation). Duties are defined only at law in the extreme version of such an economic theory. A philosophical theory essentially disregards financial performance outcomes to assert on other grounds (moral and legal, typically) responsibility and ethical standards for business. The strain between economic and philosophical theories is becoming more pronounced in the economic literature. This paper is a first cut at formal statement of the problem.