Professional Ethics Dr. Charles Hinkley
Greetings Students, Welcome to Professional Ethics! Virtually everyone has some idea about what it means to be ethical and what it means to be a professional. Ethics is the study of right and wrong, good and bad, virtue and vice. The professions are honored and authoritative occupations devoted to the public good. Such professions include law, medicine, engineering, teaching, the ministry, politics, business, and journalism. Professional ethics, then, covers a broad range of moral issues related to the duties of professionals such as doctors and nurses, attorneys and judges, business leaders, politicians, and other professionals and the institutions and systems which shape the professions. In this course, we will focus on law, business, and politics. We have a good array of subjects to analyze, and I look forward to learning from the books and our discussions. Sincerely, Dr. Charles Hinkley
Syllabus Instructor: Dr. Charles Hinkley Office hours: Psychology Bldg. Rm. 134 TTh 10:00-11:00 and by appointment Required Textbooks: Luizzi, Vincent, A Case for Legal Ethics: Legal Ethics As a Source for a Universal Ethic, SUNY Press, 1993. Zitrin, Richard and Carol M. Langford, The Moral Compass of the American Lawyer, Ballantine Books, 1999. Course Description: Philosophy is the intelligent exploration of life’s most profound questions. Ethics is a branch of philosophy that addresses the nature of moral goodness, virtue and vice, good and evil, and right and wrong. Ethics is not merely a disinterested search for moral truths but an honest and often passionate quest to live well in a complex and changing world. Professional ethics focuses on the moral duties and virtues of professionals; traditionally, physicians and nurses, attorneys, and people in business. Today, professional ethics has expanded into many other fields and most companies have ethics policies covering such topics as sexual harassment, discrimination, confidentiality, and informed consent. We will focus on business, legal, and political ethics.
Objectives: By the end of this course, you will have achieved three important goals. First, you will be conversant about the major schools of ethical thought and how they might apply to concrete situations. Second, you will become a better thinker and writer. Becoming a more logical person involves clarifying words, phrases, statements, and questions and understanding the fundamentals of inductive and deductive logic and fallacious thinking. Moreover, specific instructions will be provided to improve students’ sentence structure, rhetoric, and defense of a thesis. Third, you will gain insights about your beliefs, values, doubts, and limitations. Specifically, you will better judge your level of knowledge, more intelligently interpret your moral experiences, and better recognize sources of conflict and resolutions to conflict. It is clear that although we will focus on professional ethics, the concepts that we learn apply to other facets of life. Assignments and Grading: Students are required to write two 4-5 page essays, each worth 100 points. The final exam will be an “in-class” essay worth 100 points. Class participation is expected. Students who contribute to class discussions impressively can receive 10 additional points towards their final grade. Grades will not be curved, and there will be no extra credit assignments. Any student found guilty of academic dishonesty will receive an “F” for the course. A: 90-100 B: 80-89 C: 70-79 D: 60-69 F: 50-59 Attendance: Attendance is required. Absences will be considered unexcused without sufficient reason (illness, funeral, university-sanctioned event, etc.) presented by the student. Students with more than two unexcused absences will have their final grade dropped one letter. Schedule: Assignments will be posted at the beginning of each class time. Generally, we will read one chapter for each class.
Professionalism What are the characteristics of a professional?
1) Expertise Professionals such as physicians and attorneys have specialized knowledge that requires several years of study and training. Professionals usually excel in academics, are among the few accepted into advanced professional academic programs, and must pass rigorous exams to be licensed practitioners.
2) Honor and Prestige Concomitant with their expertise, professionals often hold prestigious and privileged offices that command respect.
3) Autonomy Autonomy means having the ability and authority to make choices. The public regards professionals as experts; thus they have a high degree of autonomy at the workplace. In other words, professionals have a great degree of decision-making power.
4) Public Good Professionals serve an important social role in making a good society. Ideally, attorneys are dedicated to justice; physicians to health; teachers to education; journalists to truth, and so forth. Although it is acceptable for professionals to sell their services, the virtuous professional is dedicated to serving an important social role and to realizing or furthering the goal of that profession.
Questions What characteristics would you add to the meaning of a professional? Although not everyone at the workplace is a professional, professional conduct is expected from all employees in many organizations. Do you think discussing personal matters (e.g. family issues, or dating habits) is appropriate at work? To what extent should supervisors and managers be friends with subordinates and other managers and supervisors? Is it appropriate to have drinks after work with other employees? What should be expected from all employees at office parties?
Globalization Globalization refers to the increasing financial and cultural interconnectedness among nations and societies. The benefits of globalization include more opportunities for trade and investment. The burdens include outsourcing, the economic exploitation of third-world citizens, and the homogenization of culture.
Capitalism Capitalism is an economic system based on property rights. In capitalist societies individuals have a right to own and profit from owning private property. So, in capitalist societies individuals have the right to own businesses and natural resources (e.g. land). In Marxist terms, capital is the means of production such as businesses that produce goods and services. Capitalist systems are also known as free-market economies. A capitalist system opposes the government ownership of industry. Capitalism is known for providing individuals with opportunities to gain wealth but with also being exploitive.
Laissez-Faire Capitalism Adam Smith is the intellectual father of laissez-faire capitalism. Smith believed that governments should not intervene too much in the economy, and that people should have the right to embark on and profit from their own ideas and endeavors. Smith believed that people are naturally egoistic or self interested and acquisitive. We want to gain wealth. Smith envisions a society where people will meet their own needs and the needs of others if governments do not impede people from profiting from their work. The idea is that intelligent, industrious people will develop goods and services that satisfy people’s needs and desires. This system does not need government intervention, but is guided by the invisible hand of supply and demand.
Communism Karl Marx is the intellectual father of communism. Marx was writing in the mid to late 19th century where he witnessed the capitalist exploitation of wage earners around the world. According to Marx, capitalism is an oppressive system, because capitalists exploit their workers by providing meager wages and benefits and taking the lion’s share of the profits for themselves. Marx also believed that capitalism was inefficient with its boom and bust cycle. This problem is exemplified by stock market rises and crashes. For Marx, workers (the proletarians) should seize private property through revolution; property is to be communally owned. Communists believe that the government should be more proactive in planning economic development, rather than relying on free enterprise to meet needs. Communist societies are known for a more egalitarian distribution of wealth but also for limiting opportunities and for being authoritarian.
Social Contract Theory Social contract theory is one of the great traditions of political philosophy in Great Britain and the United States. The idea is that political authority must be justified. Social contract theorists believe that for a government to be legitimate, the citizens must consent to be governed. In other words, there must be a social contract between those who govern and those who are governed. The key question is, to what are citizens consenting? Different theorists answer this question differently. Thomas Hobbes believed citizens consent to a powerful government in exchange for security. John Locke, however, argued that governments must protect natural rights. Other notable social contract theorists include Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Rawls.
Distributive Justice The issue of distributive justice pertains to how a society’s wealth should be distributed. Some people believe that people are entitled to whatever they rightfully (i.e. without theft or violating people’s rights) gain in a free-market economy. Given the enormous disparity in wealth, others believe that the government should play a role in redistributing wealth. Wealth can be redistributed through taxation, raising the minimum wage, and welfare programs.
Social Responsibility Today, businesses are asked and pressured to be socially responsible. There is even a niche in personal finance known as socially responsible investing. A socially responsible business should attempt not to harm the environment and should have a record of treating its workers well. Socially responsible mutual funds might also divest of tobacco companies or corporations that use child labor.
McCain-Feingold This bill sets out to reform campaign finance by placing limits on “soft money”—money from corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals. The bill prohibits national political parties from receiving unlimited contributions for support of national elections. The bill requires more disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures. The bill also seeks to limit ads financed by corporations and unions that are disguised to support particular candidates. Finally, the bill would strengthen laws prohibiting foreign nationals from financially contributing to elections.
Pork-Barrel Politics Pork barrel politics refers to congressional representatives using federal funds or manipulating legislation for their own constituents at the expense of the nation’s interest. When bills are proposed politicians often will only support the legislation if something is added to the bill that serves their interest or their constituents’ interest.
Keynesian Economics John Maynard Keynes believed that a mixed economy is best. That is, free enterprise in combination with government intervention is needed. Remember that capitalism is characterized by a boom and bust cycle. During an economic downturn businesses typically institute layoffs and hiring freezes. To combat rampant unemployment, Keynes recommended government spending on programs, even if that meant creating a deficit. Those interested in balancing the federal budget will find Keynesianism difficult to accept.
Supply-Side Economics Supply-side economics is also known as “trickle-down” theory. The idea is that the government provides tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans to boost the economy. Why? Because the rich will then have more money to develop new businesses, expand or renovate old businesses, and invest in new technologies. These entrepreneurial endeavors will create new jobs so everyone in society ultimately benefits. By embarking on new projects the wealth will trickle down to middle and lower class Americans. Critics claim that the middle and lower classes are not likely to benefit from such tax breaks.
Monetarism Monetarism is an economic philosophy developed by Milton Friedman. Friedman believed that governmental interventions, especially involving the supply of money, did more harm than good. Other economist had thought that more needed to be introduced into the economy, because the wealthy were saving their money instead of embarking on new ventures that helped everyone. Friedman believed that market forces would eventually improve the economy. The supply of money should be held constant unless it is introduced to keep pace with the natural growth of the economy. We can’t just print more money to combat poverty; that just leads to inflation (rising prices).
Doing/Allowing The doing/allowing distinction is a fundamental concept of ethics that is relevant to medical, legal, and political issues. The heart of this distinction is this: all other things being equal, doing harm is worse than allowing harm. An application of this principle is that people can be held legally liable for harming others but not for failing to help, unless their job requires them to help in some capacity (e.g. a doctor is required to help his or her patients). This concept is relevant in the light of Margaret Thatcher’s claim that, “You are not doing anything against the poor by seeing that the top people are paid well”(p.23). The idea is that it might be true that government and business are not helping the poor, but they are not harming them. The moral and legal significance of the doing/allowing distinction is debatable.
Self Interest Great philosophers such as Plato, David Hume, Thomas Hobbes, and many others have claimed that people’s self interest is a fundamental moral and political problem. The fear is that people will attempt to satisfy their own interest at the expense of others. Hobbes and Adam Smith believed that it is human nature to be selfish. Even when philosophers believe that genuine altruism is possible, there is still the problem that many people will mistreat others for their own gain.
World Trade Organization (WTO) The WTO is an international organization that regulates trade between nations. The WTO attempts to foster free enterprise by eliminating or limiting taxes, tariffs, and laws that impede trade. Supporters of the WTO argue that free trade benefits all countries involved. Critics claim that the WTO’s purpose is to advance the interests of multinational corporations. Consequently, they claim that the WTO undermines human rights, labor interests, and environmental interests. Why? Because laws that protect rights, the poor, and the environment are often regarded as anti-business.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) NAFTA is an agreement among Canada, Mexico, and the United State to remove barriers to trade. Like the WTO, the goal was to foster business. The hope was that NAFTA would create jobs, raise living standards, protect the environment, and transform Mexico from a third-world country into a new market for American and Canadian exports. Critics say that NAFTA isn’t so much a trade agreement as it is an investment agreement. Critics maintain that the pursuit of profits has resulted in relaxing laws and regulations that protect our food supply, environment, and our jobs. The bottom line is that foreign investors now have more incentive to relocate factories and to privatize public goods such as energy and healthcare.
Questions What does Hertz means by the “silent takeover”? Do you believe corporations have too much power? Should the minimum wage be raised? If so, by how much? Should citizens be entitled to a living wage? Why do you think fewer than half of American citizens vote in national elections?
Tort Reform What is tort? What is a civil wrong? What is tort reform? What is a contingency fee? What are the reasons for defending tort reform? What are the reasons for opposing tort reform? What changes have been proposed?
What is a tort? A tort is a civil wrong where a person seeks compensation for damages from a person or corporation alleged to have caused the damage. The tort system refers to the judicial process related to compensating victims who suffer injuries from various accidents such as automobile collisions and medical malpractice.
What is a civil wrong? Civil law involves the judicial resolution of a claim by one person against another person. Civil law is codified by the legislature. In civil proceedings the judge’s role is to apply the existing laws to the facts of the case; the judge does not have an opportunity to interpret the law. In these cases, a judge is not bound by precedents set forth by other judges because in these cases the judges do not make the law according to their own interpretation. Instead, these judges are bound by the existing statutes. The civil law was developed to limit the power of the judicial branch of government. Civil law is contrasted with the criminal law where the state prosecutes a person for criminal conduct. The standards of evidence to prove a case differs in civil and criminal proceedings. In civil proceedings a case must be proven by the preponderance of the evidence, whereas in criminal proceeding a case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
What is tort reform? Tort reform refers to proposals to limit the number of lawsuits and the monetary amount a victim can receive for damages.
What is a contingency fee? If something is contingent is means that it depends. So, a contingency fee means that the client pays the attorney a fee depending on whether the case is won and the settlement. In this situation, the plaintiff’s attorney must bear the financial cost of preparing the case.
What are the reasons defending tort reform? • The current tort system encourages lawsuits, because lawyers and victims are hoping for huge settlements. • Suits against doctors are escalating the cost of medical malpractice insurance, thereby driving some doctors out of medical practice.
What are the reasons opposing tort reform? • Victims of accidents deserve to be compensated for damages. • The threat of lawsuits provides an incentive to avoid causing harm to others.
What changes have been proposed? • Limit non-economic damages (damages for pain and suffering) to $250,000. • Limit attorney fees. The suggestion is that the larger the compensation award, the less of a percentage the attorney should receive. • Allow members of the jury to consider benefits that victims have received through their insurance policies. • Require awards over $50,000 to be made in payments.
Questions In general, do you support or oppose tort reform? Clarify your reasons. Why do Zitrin and Langford oppose tort reform? What should be done with attorneys like Sam Hammond?
Sexual Harassment What is sexual harassment? What criteria are used to judge whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment? What laws pertain to sexual harassment? What is Texas State University’s policy on sexual harassment? Why does sexual harassment occur? Could your conduct be interpreted as sexual harassment? What should you do if you believe that you are being sexually harassed?
What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment usually involves unwanted verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature that interferes with a person’s ability to perform his or her work. Sexual harassment can be a single severe incident or a series of incidents that accumulate to create a hostile environment. In a legal sense, sexual harassment means conduct that discriminates against a person on the basis of gender whether or not the discriminatory conduct is of a sexual nature.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves an offer of something for something. In these cases a person guilty of sexual harassment offers some benefit such as a position of employment, pay raise, promotion, or better working conditions in exchange for a sexual favor. Hostile environment harassment involves sexual conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment that interferes with a person’s job performance.
What criteria are used to judge whether conduct constitutes sexual harassment? The subjective test for sexual harassment includes the idea that the alleged victim of harassment in fact feels that his or her working conditions have been adversely affected by the behavior.
The objective test for sexual harassment is whether conduct adversely affects conditions of employment. Since people often disagree as to what constitutes sexual harassment a common standard is needed to guide employees, employers, and judges. It is natural to ask whether a reasonable person would find such conduct as sexual harassment, but some critics say that men and women tend to view harassment differently and that the reasonable person standard is really a reasonable man standard. To avoid applying a reasonable man or a reasonable woman standard, some have begun to use a reasonable victim standard of judgment.
What laws pertain to sexual harassment? Title V11 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title 1X of the 1972 Education Amendments are understood to prohibit sexual harassment at work and school. Thus, sexual harassment is considered a violation of the victim’s civil rights. The Equal Employment opportunity commission drafted guidelines describing employers’ obligations to prevent and stop sexual harassment.
What is Texas State University’s policy on sexual harassment? Texas State University defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” that is the basis of a condition of employment or academic decisions. Sexual harassment includes behavior such as repeated and unwanted requests for dates, sexual flirtation, sexual statements or questions about a person’s clothes, body, or sexual activities, subtle pressure for a sexual relationship, unnecessary touching, direct or implied threats, leering, physical assaults, or a pattern that causes humiliation or discomfort.
Why does sexual harassment occur? • There are three models for understanding sexual harassment. • The biological model contends that sexual harassment is a natural outcome of people seeking sexual relations. Although seeking sexual relations is natural, sexual harassment is the inappropriate attempt to find sexual gratification. • The socio-cultural model asserts that sexual harassment is part of patriarchal society in which men seek to dominate women. This model is consistent with research that shows harassers are typically men and victims typically women. • The organizational model claims that harassment is a result of hierarchical institutions. There are asymmetrical power relationships within organizations that provides the avenues for individuals to extort sexual relations with their subordinates.
Could your conduct be interpreted as sexual harassment? You should ask yourself three questions. First, would want our spouse or lover to be aware of our conduct? Second, would you want your conduct to become public? Third, is your conduct necessary for conducting business? Err on the side of caution.
What should you do if you believe that you are being sexually harassed? Different situations call for different solutions. There are, however, guidelines to follow. It might be appropriate to communicate to the perpetrator that you do not find his or her conduct appropriate and that such conduct makes you feel uncomfortable. You might also seek to limit your conduct with the perpetrator. If the harassment continues or the perpetrator denies the harassment, it might be appropriate to suggest a meeting with a supervisor or individuals within the human resources department. Legal counsel might be needed. The more accurately you document the offenses, the more likely the situation will be resolved in your favor.
Questions Is it ever appropriate to tell jokes of a sexual nature at work? Is it ever appropriate to compliment a person at work on his or her appearance? Is it ever appropriate to discuss one’s relationships or sexual history at work? Is it ever appropriate to date someone at work? If employees engage in a lover’s quarrel while at work, how should the immediate supervisor address the situation?
Ethics What are the major theories of ethics?
1) Virtue Ethics Virtue ethics focuses on what it takes to be a good person, on character development, on virtue and vice. Plato and Aristotle advanced views on virtue ethics by focusing on improving the soul and cultivating the right attitudes and habits. For Aristotle, at least, the good life is the life of the excellent person. Aristotle believed that the excellent person lives moderately. In other words, being immoral means going to extremes.