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2.5
The Ethics of Warfare

Military Funeral by B Keeler.jpg

"Military Funeral" by B Keeler

The nature of warfare and business, the veneer of their ways, means, and ends, do make people question the validity of attempting to bridge the two spheres in order to find commonalities. One such hurdle involves the starkly different consequences of behaviors that professionals in both areas are expected to engage in. On its face, it would appear to be an absurd prospect that anything could be learned by comparing and contrasting the ethics of war and business. How war is waged, the conduct of combatants and post-war engagement would seem to have little correlation to improving the engagement of a simple business transaction or developing long-term business strategies. The values, concepts, laws, and regulations that determine how warfighters should behave on the battlefield also appear incompatible with those of owners, executives, managers, employees, and contractors working in the private sector. By the end of this lengthy chapter, however, you should be able to see that they are indeed aspects of ethics that are comparable, as the nature of ethics itself (socially expected behaviors) share similar fundamental principles for all humanity.

Throughout this section, we will:

  • Define the concepts of ethics and morals.

  • Determine the benefits that ethics provide society.

  • Discuss the nature of conflicting duties.

  • Assess how schools of thought assess right from wrong.

  • Discuss how ethics can complement or conflict between cultures.

  • View examples of military and business ethics.

  • Discuss the difficulties of employing ethics.

  • Apply military ethics for businesses.

This chapter may be one of the more controversial chapters only because the nature of morals and ethics themselves are constantly argued about as a matter of principles. Testing others on how they would handle their own variant of the “trolley problem” or some other hypothetical scenario unique to their profession. Because what is “good” or “bad” is somewhat subjective, and societies shape their morals and ethics, I can’t necessarily say anything about the topic as a certainty. What I may believe is correct according to my principles may not be correct according to yours, so if we were to argue, it would be about foundational principles shaped by our beliefs, faith, and experiences of the world, which is less likely to be changed through reasonable debate. That being said, however, the way people have structured their ethics and the priorities in which they place certain values, concepts, laws, and regulations over others are shared amongst all ethical frameworks, regardless of the profession or culture.

Defining Ethics And Morals

Since these terms are the crux of this entire chapter, we should define them as best we can. For some, ethics and morals are synonymous, while others differentiate them as the proper conduct within personal and professional settings. We will look at a few sources to see how they define them and get an idea of the breadth and scope of what these terms can encompass. First, we will look at the US Department of Defense.

Let's look at the updated 2011 version of the 1993 publication of the Department of Defense Directive 5500.7-R Joint Ethics Regulation. This publication provides specific guidance on what servicemembers, DoD civilians, and organizations can and can't do to maintain an ethical environment. On the topic of ethics, they state:

 

Ethics are standards by which one should act based on values. Values are core beliefs such as duty, honor, and integrity that motivate attitudes and actions. Not all values are ethical values (integrity is; happiness is not). Ethical values relate to what is right and wrong and thus take precedence over non-ethical values when making ethical decisions. DoD employees should carefully consider ethical values when making decisions as part of official duties. (96)

 

It should be noted that within the publication, they do not discuss morals. They are focused on specific actions that are allowed or disallowed, usually concerning things that may garner favors or provide financial incentives to act in particular ways. They don't necessarily discuss why, for example, servicemembers can't receive gifts above a specific dollar amount or why senior military leaders can't have their personnel assist them with private business ventures, only that these are prohibited activities. Naturally, the intent is to reinforce fairness within the organization, but that intent isn't directly stated.

 

The reason for only discussing ethics, and more specifically, providing ethical guidance, is that proper ethics training will be conducted at the Service-level. As they stated, ethics is based on values, and each component, Army, Navy, Air Force, etc., has its own core values that they promote within its force. The Joint Ethics Regulation can be leveraged to ensure that at least some aspects of ethical conduct are shared amongst all branches of the Armed Forces while not necessarily compelling them to adopt a unified values system. As we will see later, ethics and morals are tied heavily to the culture of the organization, what the social group sees as being necessary for the group to function effectively, and by avoiding forcing values upon subordinate components, thereby influencing their history and heritage, these organizations can continue to operate using their values as the foundation of their morals and ethics.

 

If we look at the Services beneath the Department of Defense, we start to see the discussion of ethics and morals, less in the direct sense and more in a philosophical sense. This can be odd as you may think specificity applies more to the lower echelons as their personnel would benefit more from direct guidance, but I would argue that at the Service-level at least, their ability to tailor discussions specific to their people: Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, etc., is better than the non-descript title of service member used by the Department of Defense in building a cohesive values system.

 

The US Army's Chaplain Corps published its own material on the topic of morals and ethics in the Department of the Army Pamphlet 165-19 Moral Leadership. In this publication, they provide a greater sense of what morals and ethics are when they state:

 

Morals refer to a sense of right and wrong in principles, values, and conduct… While the terms moral and ethical are often used interchangeably, the two overlapping terms may be distinguished. Moral may be understood to refer to general right and wrong in the broadest sense. Ethical systems, codes, norms, and expectations for conduct should seek to be moral. This is true of the Army ethic described as having "its origins in the philosophical heritage, theological and cultural traditions, and the historical legacy that frame our Nation."

 

Ethics refers to a system of moral principles, or rules of conduct recognized in respect to a class of human actions, a particular group or culture. Ethics reflects upon how morality is practically applied to decisions made in contexts and communities, such as the Army, that possess shared guidelines, norms, expectations, and commitments. Some ethics are universally applicable throughout the Army, such as the Army ethic, the Army Values or the Joint Ethics Regulation's detailed guidance regarding gifts, political activity, non-federal entity relationships, and conflicts of interest. Some ethics are particular to more local or specific standards of moral or professional behavior. (2)

 

When reading these paragraphs, you will notice they use the term "interchangeable" when describing how people use the words "ethics" and "morals" and then go into how, in fact, they differ. This is not the first time I have seen people begin this topic when trying to describe them to a general audience, both in military and in business publications. This means that it is a common issue for both sectors, if not all, of human endeavors where ethics and morals come into play. That being said, we can start seeing the differentiation.

 

Here, we have the Army, or at least the Chaplaincy for the Army, implying that morals are about rights and wrongs and that they are built upon foundational aspects established within a social group: its principles, values, and conduct. In reference to the topic, principles are specific, concrete rules or guidelines that provide clear directives for ethical decision-making, such as "Do not lie" or "Treat others with respect." In contrast, values are more general and abstract, reflecting deeply held beliefs and priorities like honor, duty, or loyalty. While principles offer rigid and specific guidance, values influence an individual's character and overall ethical direction, allowing for flexibility and adaptation to various circumstances. Conduct itself is the manifestation of principles and values in action. A person who holds the values of honesty in high regard and is forthright in their speech to others could be said to be operating morally. That is, if honesty is the "right" thing to do. Other than our beliefs and what our social group says is "right" and "wrong," we don't necessarily have a method for determining what is right and wrong. If something is moral because it is right, and it is right because society says it is moral, then we have an endless loop until we have some objective criteria that say it is so.

 

Later in this chapter, we can discuss the criteria that make things moral. In the meantime, however, the Army looks to its heritage and its purpose for society to help define its morals and, subsequently, its ethics. In regards to ethical conduct, other than those specified by a higher authority, such as the Joint Ethics Regulation from the Department of Defense, the Army uses its history, references to the US Constitution, and harkens back to tradition and religion to establish a moral foundation for its own ethical framework. This is reflected in The Army Ethic White Paper from 2014, which states:

 

The origins and foundation for the Army Ethic include a philosophical heritage, based upon the writings of prominent Greeks and Romans; a theological heritage, based largely upon Judeo-Christian writings and teachings; and a cultural and historical heritage -- for example, our tradition of the Citizen-Soldier and the All-Volunteer Army. These foundations are enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution and our Bill of Rights. They are also reflected in US Code… They are further expressed in our oaths and creeds. (6-7)

 

 

Later, in the 2017 white paper entitled, The Army Framework for Character Development, they have the finalized concept of the Army Ethic that they pulled from the 2015 edition of the Army Doctrine Reference Publication 1: The Army Profession, where they state:

 

The Army Ethic includes the moral principles that guide our decisions and actions as we fulfill our purpose: to support and defend the Constitution and our way of life. Living the Army Ethic is the basis for our mutual trust with each other and the American people. Today our ethic is expressed in laws, values, and shared beliefs within American and Army cultures. The Army Ethic motivates our commitment as Soldiers and Army Civilians who are bound together to accomplish the Army mission as expressed in our historic and prophetic motto: This We'll Defend.

 

Living the Army Ethic inspires our shared identity as trusted Army professionals with distinctive roles as honorable servants, Army experts, and stewards of the profession. To honor these obligations, we adopt, live by, and uphold the moral principles of the Army Ethic. Beginning with our solemn oath of service as defenders of the Nation, we voluntarily incur the extraordinary moral obligation to be trusted Army professionals. (ii)

 

At the very bottom of the page that has this quote, there is a simple comment, and it says, "The Army Ethic - our shared identity, supporting roles, and guiding moral principles." Its simplicity belies its value. The authors of this white paper, signed off by the Army, believe that the Army Ethic consists of three components.

 

  1. Shared Identity: The heritage and history of an organization shape people's sense of belonging and community. In fact, it is through some collective identity that groups develop a culture, duties, obligations, and what one should or shouldn't do within them. Those norms that we follow, discussed back in Chapter 1.4: The Human Domain, were identified and promoted within a group to ensure the group's continued survival within their unique environments. Having and promoting one's shared identity ensures that individuals take into account their place within the community and act accordingly to ensure some modicum of success moving into the future. For the Army, in this case, identity is shared through acknowledging one's status as a Soldier, the contributions and sacrifices of our predecessors, and our efforts to improve the organization for future generations.

  2. Supporting Roles: In the Army Ethic, they identify their unique supporting roles to the nation as 1) honorable servants, 2) Army experts, and 3) stewards of the profession. This satisfies the "purpose" of the organization, meaning the purpose of the US Army and its people. Holding ourselves to ethical standards, and a code of conduct is what makes us honorable servants. That we train and study our craft to be competent Soldiers capable of accomplishing the tasks assigned to us is what makes us Army experts. Taking care of our people and our equipment and looking towards improving our organizations beyond our own careers is what makes us stewards of the profession. In the last Chapter 2.4: The Purpose of Warfare, we stated that the purpose of warfare was to compel an adversary to change policy through the use or threatened use of violent forms of influence. To the Army, these three supporting roles are what make us capable as individuals to serve this purpose.

  3. Guiding Moral Principles: With this third component, moral principles, we are back to the conflict of "right" and "wrong." Morals, as the above statements from DA PAM 165-19: Moral Leadership said, morals come from principles, values, and conduct. We have our principles set forth in our publications and policies, such as the Joint Ethics Regulation and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Army has its values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. It has its guides for conduct from its history, heritage, and the various legal documents they are bound by, such as the Law of Armed Conflict and, of course, the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

 

So, from the Army perspective, these three things make up the ethic of their organization and their profession. As of the time of writing this passage, these statements are by far the greatest description of morals and ethics that I could find within military publications. Indeed, that moral principles are themselves the foundation of ethics and that these can be shaped by a group or culture means that, at least on the societal level, morals are subjective and could be the reason that governments and their subsequent military services prefer to focus on actionable ethical guidelines rather than spend time discussing what is "right" and what is "wrong" to the millions of personnel that make up the Armed Forces of the United States. It would be much easier to give explicit instructions under the umbrella of these ethical guidelines, which have been tailored to produce a desired moral byproduct throughout the force.

 

On this topic of ethical guidelines, the components of the Armed Forces have their own ways in which they foster ethics. In some aspects, ethics are trained within the different Services, either as the main focus in a discussion on ethics or tangential to some other training, such as the ethical use of government credit cards. In the first situation, annual training requirements may compel service members to engage in class or distance learning courses that cover these topics. Let's take a look at the US Navy.

 

The Department of the Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, in a transcript for their "2023 Initial and Annual Ethics Training," stated:

 

One of the foundations for building and maintaining this culture are the Standards of Ethical Conduct. As you go through this ethics training, I encourage you to think about how these laws, rules, and regulations apply to both your professional and your personal lives. I expect leaders at every level to incorporate the ethical standards of conduct into all daily operations and to foster an environment where employees feel they have the power to raise concerns at any time. Across our Department, we must do more than just talk about ethics; we must put these standards into practice every single day.

 

That same ethics training leverages "14 Principles of Ethical Conduct" which includes seven things a federal service employee, including Sailors, Marines, and Navy Civilians, should do, and seven things they shouldn't.

 

  1. Place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.

  2. Act impartially to all groups, persons, and organizations.

  3. Give an honest effort in the performance of your duties.

  4. Protect and conserve Federal property.

  5. Disclose fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.

  6. Fulfill, in good faith, your obligations as citizens, and pay your Federal, State, and local taxes.

  7. Comply with all laws providing equal opportunity to all persons, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap.

  8. Do NOT use nonpublic information to benefit yourself or anyone else.

  9. Do NOT solicit or accept gifts from persons or parties that do business with, or seek official action from, DoD (unless permitted by an exception).

  10. Do NOT make unauthorized commitments or promises that bind the government.

  11. Do NOT use Federal property for unauthorized purposes.

  12. Do NOT take jobs or hold financial interests that conflict with your government Responsibilities.

  13. Do NOT take actions that give the appearance that they are illegal or unethical.

  14. Do NOT use public office for private gain.

 

For many of us reading these points, they seem like obvious ethical expectations of people in government service. I, as an American, obviously share an identity with the Americans who wrote them. I, as a government servant, fulfill many of the same purposes as those who wrote them. I, as a citizen of a culture whose laws and norms were shaped by precedent, can share many of the same moral guidelines as those who wrote them. If you find that these ethical guidelines are correct and "right," then we may share many of the same foundational elements that make up this ethic. America and its beliefs were not born in a vacuum, and it shares much of its history, principles, culture, and aspirations for the future with other nations. Obviously, our history is tied to our birth in independence from the British crown, but our religious, moral framework, common law practices, and shared cultures mean we also share many ethical principles with the United Kingdom and the other nations in the Anglosphere. Additionally, our principles have been shared or spread through this influence of the Anglosphere via the elements of national power (diplomatic, informational, military, and economic) so that nations with distinctly different cultures have adopted or were compelled to adopt some of these principles; such as India, Japan, and South Korea.

 

Naturally, if nations and peoples don't have some aspect of shared identity, purpose in society, and foundational morals, then the ethical principles they develop may differ. That being said, different cultures may come up with the same morals because those morals are grounded in some tangible benefit to the survival of the group, such as not stealing from each other; we can also expect that certain ethics may manifest differently than what we have experienced in our own culture. In Chapter 2.3: On Leadership, on the topic of character in leaders, I mentioned that we may view individuals as corrupt when, in fact, they simply have different priorities in values. As Americans, we value both selfless service and loyalty to the nation, as well as loyalty to one's people. We may call someone corrupt because they funnel government capital to their own friends and family, but they may see it as a dutiful obligation to their kin and comrades. Dutiful service to the nation may be seen as honorable and selfless to us, but to another culture, it may be seen as naive or selfish careerism to place the well-being of strangers over those immediately around you. We may share similar foundational morals, but priorities shift and conflict when it comes to finalizing ethics.

 

James H. Toner calls this conflict in morals and ethics "dueling duties" in his book Morals Under the Gun: The Cardinal Virtues, Military Ethics, and American Society. He discusses the priorities in morals that ethical guidelines for conduct create that determine what one should or shouldn't do. Toner states:

 

But the word "should" implies that there are things we must do, things that we have a duty to do. Ignore those basic duties, we can reason, and we will bear the burden of ethical failure and moral cowardice. But what duties are "basic"? There are principles or prescriptions regarded by some as prima facie (immediately plain or clear)… But any prima facie duty is a requirement only if there is no stronger prima facie duty. When duties conflict - and the conflict of duties is the very basis of military ethics - we must do what best satisfies all our obligations. This, in turn, is a function of judgment. [This], in essence, is that justice (doing what is right) is a matter of prudence. (78-79)

 

We have the morals that we use to shape our ethical conduct in the military profession, and we develop our own justifications for why we prioritize things the way we do. We don't want to inadvertently kill non-combatants when we battle with the enemy, but if we don't kill enemy combatants at this particular time and place, then we can perceive a worse outcome. We can use ways to mitigate non-combatant casualties, maybe even avoid them altogether, but in the end, if the opportunity costs of engaging them in a certain way (or not at all) tell us that our best course of action is that we accept these collateral casualties, then we may say that "the ends justify the means." For others that have different priorities, they may have developed their own justifications for what they believe which are just as strong as ours. When two opposing priorities with strong moral and ethical justifications exist, it seems that animosity would likely occur. In an ethical dilemma, the other side may not be immoral, ignorant, misguided, naive, or outright evil; they simply are making an ethical choice that was reinforced by reason that differed from ours.

 

Warfare is full of ethical quandaries that we must tackle to accomplish our mission, but even outside of combat, in the day-to-day operations of a military organization, just as it does for other government agencies, there are still ethical dilemmas. The Joint Ethics Regulation is itself based on national-level guidance given to all government bodies from the Office of Government Ethics, and Executive Orders from the Office of the President of the United States, who serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Naturally, like all organizations, the military has its daily operations and functions that handle equipment, budgets, and personnel. The same ethical problems that can befall other government bodies can impact the Department of Defense and its Service components. It is here that we may find a common connection with business ethics.

 

In business ethics, there are ethical quandaries as well. A corporation has a duty to its shareholders to increase profits, but it also has a duty to the customers and clients that exchange capital for goods and services. In an ideal environment, the corporation can satisfy both shareholders and customers, but there is something akin to James Toner's "dueling duties" in this arrangement. You can provide greater satisfaction to your shareholders by reducing the value offered to customers and, conversely, providing more value to customers at the expense of shareholder dividends. In a worst-case ethical scenario, if you discover a possible safety issue with a product that might necessitate a recall and potential reimbursement to customers, then you have an ethical dilemma. Going through with the recall could cause great harm to the business and, therefore, the shareholders, for a safety issue that is only a possibility. Not going through with the recall could put all your customers who have purchased the product at risk, so you would be gambling with their safety. In this dueling duty, you would have to determine the best course of action based on your moral guidelines, the ethics of your industry, and the ethics that have been fostered by the business.

 

From my research, I have found that the military, especially the Army, provides great guidance on how to develop ethical guidelines for an organization. We will discuss these in greater detail later when we determine how humans decide what things are moral and how we determine the best ethical principles for our organization - military or business. First, however, we need to ensure that the business world and the military are speaking the same language. So this compels us to ask a question: Are ethics and morals defined and utilized in business the same way as it is with the military?

 

If we look at Robert W. Emerson's book Business Law 5th Edition, he defines ethics and morality respectively:

 

Morality: the body of self-imposed rules of conduct generally perceived to be right. (699)

Ethics: moral values and principles applied to social behavior. (666)

 

Morality, which is an all-encompassing term that covers the breadth of morals held by an individual or group, is often interchangeable with the word "morals" itself. Unlike the apparent incorrect interchangeability between morals and ethics, between morals and morality, it is more acceptable. This is because "morality" covers all possible morals, and "morals" can include multiple morals if not all of them. From Emerson's definition, we can see multiple points being made in that 1) morals are self-imposed, 2) they are related to conduct, and 3) they deal with rightness or correctness. These are similar to the Army's definition of morals, which discusses the "sense of right and wrong in principles, values, and conduct" found in DA PAM 165-19: Moral Leadership.

 

For Emerson's definition of ethics, we have two important aspects of it. One is that it relates to "social behavior," or how we conduct ourselves in social groups. The other is that ethics is shaped by "moral values and principles." Ethics, therefore, does not exist outside of one's social setting, but that doesn't necessarily apply to morals, which may or may not relate to our conduct with others. Ethics, however, does require a moral framework to differentiate between right and wrong actions. Ethics is an offshoot of morality in this case. Again, this is alluded to in the DA PAM 165-19: Moral Leadership when the Army discussed that "Ethics reflects upon how morality is practically applied to decisions made in contexts and communities (2)." However, Emerson doesn't mention that ethics can be directed or compelled by a higher organizational authority and laws. That being said, Emerson could easily counter by mentioning that even ethical guidelines adopted, by choice or compulsion, from others still have their originating source from some moral principle if you look far enough back. For example, as a Realtor, I am compelled to act truthfully with other parties that are not my clients as an ethical requisite for being a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Though I am compelled to adopt it as an ethical principle from the NAR, the NAR has created this ethical requirement in reference to moral principles related to fairness and honesty as its originating source.

 

Emerson notes, at least in one instance, that though ethics are derived from morals, morals don't necessarily trump ethics. Ethics itself is a compulsion to act in a certain way that is considered right or correct based on social expectations for an organization or profession. Ethics would naturally need to take priority over morals under certain situations; otherwise, there would be little point in having ethics as a separate set of guidelines. This is reflected in the author's discussion of moral obligations as a consideration for contracts.

 

A moral obligation (what a person ought to do) has no legal substance; it is not measurable and not commercial. Under this heading are agreements to pay the obligations of others or agreements to provide for relatives. In addition, love and affection, as such, will not support a contract, although they may be of the highest moral nature. There is no consideration in such cases. (96)

 

Consideration, the contribution of value (an act, forbearance, or promise) between parties, requires an exchange of actual value for it to be a binding contract. Consideration has to do primarily with the moral principle of fairness, and within the ethics of contract law, the best way to ensure fairness is for each party to contribute value to the arrangement. It provides evidence of a contract being established, which can then be enforced, ensures both parties take time to consider whether the arrangement is equitable, and distinguishes between contracts and gifts. To ensure fairness is maintained in contracts, consideration can only be attained through value. That there may be some other moral obligation involved is not enough. For example, society and individuals may see the parent of a child who has just recently aged into adulthood as morally obligated to cover for the failure of their child to pay off a debt, and the parent may concur and agree to do so. In court, however, that agreement does not represent a contract as no consideration was given between the parent and the damaged party. The adult child is the only one who is bound to the terms of the original contract.

 

Looking to another source, Roger Miller and Gaylord Jentz's textbook Business Law Today 6th Edition, they state:

 

Ethics can be defined as the study of what constitutes right and wrong behavior. It is the branch of philosophy that focuses on morality and the way in which moral principles are applied in daily life. Ethics has to do with questions relating to the fairness, justness, rightness, or wrongness of an action… Often, moral principles serve as the guiding force in an individual's personal ethical system. Although the terms ethical and moral are often used interchangeably, the terms refer to slightly different concepts. Whereas ethics has to do with the philosophical, rational basis for morality, morals are often defined as universal rules or guidelines that determine our actions and character… (193)

 

Miller and Jentz seem to allude that ethics serves as the framework for all moral conduct of an individual, whether it is part of a social group or not. That "fairness, justness, rightness, or wrongness of an action" isn't solely attributed to unique environmental variables but any action and that individuals can hold their own "personal ethical system" showcases some semantic inconsistencies with other business sector sources, like Emerson. For Miller and Jentz, when an individual decides to act based on perceived rightness or wrongness, it isn't necessarily a moral act but an ethical one. Morals come into play as the foundational criteria that help an individual perceive that an action is good or bad, and when they then decide to act on that perception, then the action is ethical, regardless of whether it applies to individual beliefs or a group expectation.

 

Again, this may purely be a semantic issue for the authors. They share that the conduct of individuals is based on a foundation of morals, which brings forth ethics, just as the US Army and Emerson discussed. The primary difference is that for the other authors, ethics are expected moral behaviors in relation to a particular social setting. If moral guidelines are unique to a particular group of people, an industry, a profession, or a business instead of the breadth of humanity, then it is no longer moral but ethical. It is not immoral for civilians to abandon other civilians when violence occurs and some are killed and wounded, but it is unethical for a Soldier to abandon their fellow Soldiers in the same situation. Granted, the Soldier is allowed to take the necessary precautions to safeguard themselves so that they can successfully retrieve the fallen comrade. It is part of the Warrior Ethos, an aspect of our ethic that we don't expect civilians to be bound to. 

 

Miller and Jentz, in their discussions, simply use adjectives to differentiate between the ethics of individuals and the ethics of groups. For example, they use "business ethics" to describe the body of moral behaviors within the social setting of the marketplace, corporations, owners, executives, customer relationships, and law. This is no different than anyone else when differentiating between the ethics of different groups: business, military, sports, academics, and even intimate relationships. Whenever there is an identifiable relationship between two or more people, a certain level of behavior is socially expected of those involved, and everyone differentiates between them through an adjective description of the type of ethic. In regards to the topic of business ethics, the authors state:

 

Business ethics focuses on what constitutes ethical behavior in the world of business. Personal ethical standards, of course, play an important role in determining what is or is not ethical, or appropriate, business behavior. Business activities are just one part of the human enterprise, and the ethical standards that guide our behavior as, say, mothers, fathers, or students apply equally well to our activities as businesspersons. Businesspersons, though, must often address more complex ethical issues and conflicts in the workplace than they do in their personal lives… (193)

 

Here, we see the authors treat business ethics as an extension of the previously discussed "personal ethical system" that is reflective of an individual's behavior under moral principles. However, because a workplace is a unique environment with its own problems that one doesn't face in one's personal life, it requires its own set of ethical guidelines. One such reason, they later discuss, that makes the business world more complex is the obligation to account for multiple parties. While Miller and Jentz call it "conflicting duties," for all intents and purposes, it is exactly the same as James H. Toner's "dueling duties" for military personnel. Remember that for Toner, the dichotomy of dueling duties was "the very basis of military ethics," and this is generally the same for business ethics as well, such as shareholder dividends vs. customer safety when deciding to conduct a recall or employee benefits vs. layoffs when trying to cut costs.

 

While business ethics is shaped by one's personal ethical system, naturally, the adoption of an industry or profession's ethical guidelines would be required. Society has expectations on the conduct of its institutions and their people, and for a business to succeed, it must do so in a generally acceptable manner. Remember that the purpose of business from Chapter 2.4: The Purpose of War, was "to compel another to provide net value through cooperative forms of influence which are socially acceptable." Society will judge the conduct of its institutions to ensure they provide a benefit to that society - or at least they will argue and debate incessantly about whether their benefit is a product of some unethical behaviors.

 

Society puts laws in place to ensure the moral principles of fairness and justice are safeguarded in certain situations, and businesses shape their ethics in response to avoid legal and financial troubles just as an individual would adjust their own moral compass to avoid social backlash even if they didn't necessarily believe in the underlying moral principle themselves. This is one reason that some people, myself included, prefer to separate personal moral conduct from ethics. Whereas Miller and Jentz have their "personal ethical system" that includes individual conduct alongside professional individual and collective conduct, there is a benefit in separating the two.

 

For example, I find the consumption of alcohol to be immoral only because it inhibits the decision-making of individuals. I train Soldiers, carry weapons, raise my children, and manage my businesses and agents, so I need to maintain a consistent, sober perspective to ensure my decisions and actions are sound. I understand that this is a personal moral belief that is not shared with others, especially in the alcohol-loving US Army, which even includes odd alcoholic concoctions as a centerpiece of its organizational events, i.e., the Grog. I wouldn't enforce my morals on my Soldiers, though I might share my perspective. I would, however, enforce ethics, which is the proper conduct of professionals. It is the Army Ethic, and all Soldiers are expected to abide by it. The ability to distinguish, in words, personal actions from professional and organizational actions is important in developing a proper group ethic founded on moral principles. Describing individual moral actions as ethical, in the same breath as professional and collective actions, only conflates what are two separate frameworks with their own applications.

 

In Myrtle Flight's book Law, Liability, and Ethics for Medical Office Professionals 4th Edition, she provides an introduction to the application of laws and discussions on ethical dilemmas that office workers in the medical profession may face. When she introduces ethics to the reader, she states:

 

The study of ethics is grounded theoretically in philosophy, which can be defined broadly as the pursuit of wisdom. The word is derived from the Greek term ethos, meaning custom, usage, or character. Ethics referred traditionally to a custom of a particular community and evolved to include standards of good or bad and questions of moral duty and obligation… Morals are recognized as principles of "right" conduct…

 

 Right moral conduct is based on traditional religious teachings found in Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, and other traditions and cannot be separated from these thought systems without distorting its meaning. The term moral is sometimes used as a word of praise, as in "she is a very moral person," but on other occasions it has a much broader meaning, taking into consideration the virtues of courage, wisdom, balance, or fairness. (203-204)

 

Flight discusses the origins of ethics in much the same way that The Army Ethic White Paper discussed previously, having its origins in traditional thought, with a moral foundation developed by religious beliefs. She briefly mentions that other religious backgrounds can be a source of moral reasoning and that the ethical systems that are developed from them are irrevocably linked. Do note that we will go over whether or not we can effectively break the link between modern ethics and their religious origins and still be moral, but for now, there is value in discussing that the moral foundation of ethics in war and business can have its origins in differing religious beliefs.

 

While the US Army doesn't mention other religious schools of thought, that is because the Army itself, its history, heritage, and culture are shaped by the nation's history, heritage, and culture. The principles that shaped early America, the traditional liberalism of the Enlightenment and Judeo-Christian morals, and then almost 250 years of frontier living, expansion, industrialization, a soul-searching civil war, many overseas conflicts, the world wars, a global war on terror, and upwards of 80 years of our nation serving as the cornerstone of western thought and ideals, all of this will naturally impact our perspective on morals and ethics. Other people, with their own religiously shaped moral foundation, history, heritage, and culture, will naturally have their own perspective on what is good and bad, right and wrong.

 

If you remember our discussion on James H. Toner's "dueling duties" earlier in this chapter, you may recall that I thought the reason we may believe that others are corrupt or immoral could simply be a conflict in ethical prioritization. It isn't that the individual is an unethical fraudster and nepotist, redirecting funds meant for the nation to their own communities, friends, and family, but that their moral framework, shaped by religious beliefs, places their close-knit communities and relationships above the amorphous collection of peoples and the bureaucracy that make up many nations. Even in America, where many politicians will call for a reduction in spending for the Department of Defense, will hesitate to be the first to suggest that federal defense dollars and jobs should be taken away from their state or district's constituents, the idea of the ethical imperative of the "greater good" doesn't necessarily hold true for them.

 

That being said, Flight's acknowledgment that morals can have different religious foundations than our "thought systems," which impact how ethics are manifested in an organization, is important to remember. If true, and for now, I don't necessarily believe it to be false, then any ethical system for any profession, industry, or human endeavor, even romance, may not be inherently correct or incorrect. An action is ethical if it is justified by the community that engages in it, the role of the actor, and the moral principles that judge it as good or bad. If any of those three areas change, such as the religion that determines these moral principles, then the ethics may change. These three areas, the same three areas that make up the Army Ethic; shared identity, supporting roles, and guiding moral principles, might be the reason why trying to get other cultures to adopt a new ethical system or follow some ethical guidelines that are seen as obvious and "correct" may be fundamentally flawed. Certain ethics may not work without those foundational elements, and religious beliefs and "thought systems" make a major component of one of them: morals.

 

In Ronald Francis and Guy Murfey's book Global Business Ethics: Responsible Decision Making In An International Market, they state:

 

Ethics may be regarded as knowing what is right, doing what is right, and feeling what is right; morals and ethics share these features. The terms ethics and morals are sometimes used interchangeably, although there are distinctions. 'Morals' refers to the standards held by the community, often in a form not explicitly articulated. 'Ethics,' on the other hand, concerns explicit codes of conduct as well as value systems. Further, ethics has restricted application (as in legal ethics, medical ethics, etc). Not being a member of a profession exempts a person from being bound by that particular code.

 

A useful definition in this context is that ethics is a highly explicit codified form of behavior designed to produce particular ends and act in accordance with particular values. There are values that are not directly matters of ethics (such as wealth or success); there are values that are of direct concern (such as honesty or fairness). (108)

 

Francis and Murfey's description of morals and ethics shares many of the same hallmarks found with the other authors. They note that morals are themselves more akin to generalized guidelines because they lack the articulation one would expect of explicit standards and that ethics provide that articulation in the form of codes and explicitly stated values. They don't necessarily link ethics to morals directly, instead choosing to say that ethics has codes and values systems, and they don't appear to mention that morals could be individually developed or refined outside of "the standards of the community." They do later, however, indirectly link morals to ethics via certain values that they say are of a "direct concern" to ethics, after which they provide honesty and fairness as examples.

 

In regards to ethics, the authors mention that ethics are not universal and that certain professions have unique and tailored ethics for their organizations and industries. They state that being outside of these professions means that one is not bound to follow their ethical codes of conduct. It must be noted, however, that because these professions develop their ethics from codes and value systems, which are developed at least partly from the moral standards of the community, there may be some codes within one profession that are similar to others since they all originate from within the same community. For example, the ethics of law will require lawyers to maintain confidentiality on behalf of their clients, and in the same way, the ethics of medicine require doctors to do the same with their patients. The ethical requirements of their professions can be that they share privacy as an intrinsic value of the community and must do their part to uphold it through ethical conduct. In other communities, i.e. other cultures, that don't value privacy, they may not necessarily have attorney-client privilege and doctor-patient confidentiality as important ethical codes of conduct.

 

From all of these authors, we can get a general idea of what morals and ethics are, but there are some variations between them. Before we move forward, we will need to further define them for our purposes. If not to rectify the discrepancies, then at least for us all to have the same shared understanding of their meanings so that when, later in this chapter, I say "ethics" and "morals," then you know what I mean. That being said, I will be leveraging the US Army's chaplaincy and the Army Ethic for these definitions as I find they provide the best examples to build from. I will provide the definition and then break that definition down into its components in order to elucidate its meaning.

As defined by War Is My Business:

MORALS:

Morals are firmly held principles of how people should behave in relation to each other and their environments. Morals are perceived to be good or correct if they align with these principles and wrong or incorrect if they don't align. How morals are perceived are based on individual experiences, and the adoption of other moral frameworks; either because those morals were determined to be of greater utility or they were compelled to follow them as part of social acceptance.

 

ETHICS:

Ethics are codified guidelines for proper behavior for people and organizations within a profession, industry, or other collective human endeavor. The general public who operate outside of these groups aren't expected to follow these ethics, but they may nonetheless abide by them within their own group due to shared perspectives of the world and their contributions to it manifesting in similar ethical systems. Ethical guidelines are the product of three different areas that these groups of people share: 1) identity, 2) purpose, and 3) moral principles.

For morals, we focus on the individual. The principles held by the individual are unique to them, but influenced by things external to them. One person may not find any problem with the consumption of alcohol, as it hasn't produced any negative experiences in their life, it hasn't been deemed immoral or wrong by their community or religion, and, in fact, they may even have a positive outlook on it. Another person may have had alcoholism ruin their life, hurt those they care about, and it may be viewed as a sin within their own religion or within their community.

 

The important aspect of a moral is the internalized importance it has for the individual person who believes it. If moral and immoral conduct makes a person good or bad, then a person with morals will feel good or bad based on how they conduct themselves. An individual who deviates from their own moral principles through temptation, laziness, or convenience will feel bad about themselves as they are not in line with their own beliefs and are putting themselves at risk. An individual who doesn't hold these morals will not have these apprehensions.

 

James H. Toner reflects this sentiment when he said:

 

If we suppose, as I do, that there is for each of us an interior law that we can recognize and follow - that we are in fact empowered to tell right from wrong - then if we fail to do what we should, we experience remorse. (67)

 

For ethics, however, we are looking at society's expectations of behavior for a group of people. The purpose of ethics is to ensure that society's various institutions and collective activities are conducted in such a way as to support the interests of that society and follow shared moral principles. There are ethics for its military organizations and personnel, its businesses, its sports, and even amongst pairs of individuals, such as spouses and colleagues. That we expect a certain level of conduct and decorum of people within certain professions, industries, and endeavors has a lot to do with what we expect them to provide us.

 

A military organization that doesn't act ethically, whether it is the unequal sharing of burdens amongst its personnel, improper relationships, unsafe training environments, and disregard for the conduct of war, is an organization that can't meet military readiness requirements and can't achieve desired ends for their higher echelon and the nation. A business organization that doesn't act ethically, be it not paying personnel what they are contractually owed, putting their workers in unsafe environments without proper safety measures, and cutting corners in regards to quality and environmental protection, is a business that is burdening their communities. An individual employee who doesn't act ethically, be it by not following standard operating procedures, not following safety guidelines, or skimping out on work that must be covered by others, is a liability to the organization and their colleagues.

 

Identifying the origins of ethical guidelines is important because it helps us in two ways. First, it can help us reinforce our own ethics by showing us how we need to frame the teaching of ethics to our own people. This includes stating our shared identity as Soldiers or Realtors, that we are Americans, or that we have common histories. Each person within the profession has a role to play within the organization and, therefore, in society. And that ethics shares many guidelines that are in line with the shared moral principles of that society.

 

The second benefit of knowing ethical origins is that common professions can have differing ethical systems. It helps us identify when and how people of different groups that share similar purposes may have ethical problems. The US Armed Forces serve the same role as the armed forces of most other nations; however, not all militaries share the same ethics because their ethics are based on identities that aren't the same, and their moral framework that shapes their culture may conflict with ours. As a result, things we may have passed off as corruption or incompetence in foreign military organizations may simply be that they have a different ethic, and they may lob similar accusations against us.

 

When ethics differ, especially amongst those in the same profession, such as military personnel and business people, knowing the foundational elements that make up a people's ethic will help us understand why cooperation may be difficult, or conflict may be probable between differing groups. However, even within the same culture and amongst people who share the same ethic, there might be conflict between ethics and morals. Such a conflict could be an existential threat to the longevity of the organization or the industry.

 

Jeffrey F. Beatty and Susan S. Samuelson’s book Essentials of Business Law 3rd Edition, this issue between ethics and morals is stated when they say:

 

Ethics is the study of how people ought to act. Law and ethics are often in harmony. Most reasonable people agree that murder should be prohibited. But law and ethics are not always compatible. In some cases, it might be ethical to commit an illegal act; in others, it might be unethical to be legal. (26)


How can laws be unethical? For a culture, it could be that the foundational moral principles, the history, and the purpose of professionals and organizations in that industry aren't complimented by the laws. If that is the case, why were such laws enacted in the first place? Can laws be immoral as well? Can a law based on moral principles be countered by the necessity of an industry and become ethically correct but morally wrong? To answer all of these questions and bridge the possible dissonance that they create, we need to dig down into how morals and ethics benefit human society and how they may deviate.

Benefits of Morals and Ethics for Humanity

Being a person who always does the right and just thing and having a strong moral framework is all well and good. Being a Soldier who follows the Army Values, selflessly serves their nation, develops the skills of their profession, and builds the strength of the Army while following ethical guidelines is all well and good. A business person who serves the needs of their clients, provides products and services desired by their communities, mentors and treats employees with respect, and follows business principles in an ethical manner is all well and good. We expect people "to do the right thing," and when they fail, we are disappointed in their actions and demand punishment or redemption. At times, when we don't expect them to do the right thing or anticipate they will behave in either an immoral or unethical way, it is because we don't have faith or trust in them to do so. Being "good" is good, but why?

 

Those of a religious persuasion may state that in our conduct here on Earth and amongst our fellow humans, we see our souls judged on a metaphysical plane:

 

  • For Ancient Egyptians, as they entered the afterlife (the Duat), the dead would acknowledge they had not engaged in the sins represented by the forty-two assessors of Ma'at. Afterward, their heart would be weighed on scales against the feather of Ma'at, which represents truth, and if the heart was lighter it was determined that the individual led a virtuous life and was allowed to enter the "Field of Reeds." Those that failed had their hearts consumed by Ammit, and their souls were annihilated.

  • For Ancient Greeks, while their beliefs mainly focused on actions that garnered the favor of the gods and avoided their ire, the "Myth of Er" found in Book 10 of Plato's Republic, they do discuss morals and judgment on one's soul in the afterlife. Er, son of Armenius, noted that the dead arrived to be judged and sent on to be rewarded or punished. For every good or bad thing they did to someone during their earthly lives, they, in turn, would have those things done to them tenfold in the afterlife. 

  • For Judeo-Christians and Muslims, depending on denominations, there will be a Final Judgment in which all souls will be judged in the presence of God based on how they have lived in accordance with scripture: the Torah for the Jews, the Bible for the Christians and the Quran for Muslims. A person who lived a moral life and had faith would be judged well and live by God's side in heaven, and Christians and Muslims add to this with an emphasis that those who are judged poorly will live outside of God's presence in hell.

  • Buddhism and Hinduism believe in a cycle of death and rebirth with the ultimate goal of attaining a state of understanding of the universe that allows them to break this cycle. The cycle, called Samsara, is successfully broken when their followers engage in certain activities, which include following moral principles. The conduct of one's life would impact the nature of one's next life until one eventually breaks the cycle and attains a state of Nirvana or Moksha, respectively.

  • Aztecs, based on archeological findings and conquistador accounts, believed in a judgment in the afterlife that was based on the nature of death. Upon entering Mictlan, the realm of the dead, those who experienced an honorable death from battle or through sacrifice would have a more favorable afterlife.

 

Some of these religiously motivated origins for what we consider morals have shaped societies since antiquity. Obviously, whether or not there is something greater out there than what can be observed and experimented on here on the physical plane of our universe, I cannot say. What I can say, however, is that early Homo Sapiens, as their intelligence increased and began to think in greater abstraction, started to believe in greater powers and that we, as individuals, should behave in a certain way in relation to them. It helped to explain many of the phenomena of the natural world that escaped their understanding. But even as humanity progressed and the sciences could help illuminate the unknown, the heavy influence of religious thought and practices on morals still acted as a strong moral foundation for every society.

 

To remove the religious influence upon morals from societies that have become more secular or more diverse in religious beliefs, I believe, would be a somewhat futile and pointless effort. Even if the body of people that make up a nation no longer believe in the tenets of the religion that developed the morals of their society, they may very well adopt the same moral principles because that is what they have grown up with. Even if we stopped believing in the origins of Moses and the Ten Commandments, would we really dismantle our moral principles around murder and all the subsequent laws built around it? Except for nihilists, I would say probably not. We, in the West, have lived under these moral principles in one way or another, and our ways of life, or cultures, have been shaped by them. We would simply readopt those same morals, only with a new secular veneer.

 

I am not a theologian, merely an agnostic Soldier, and businessman, so I would never claim to understand what may be beyond our physical world. I could never confirm or deny the existence of souls, God or Gods, and an afterlife. What I can say is that our ancestor's and contemporaries' beliefs in these things have, and continue to have, an impact on our society and our cultures. I mentioned in Chapter 1.4: The Human Domain, that cultures and cultural norms are an extension of a group's perception of how they need to act within their environment in order to survive and thrive. Modes of communication, art, values, and religious practices have norms of behavior that people are expected to follow, and by doing so, the collective is able to succeed in spite of the environment. I say this only to say that, regardless of whether any particular religious belief is true or not, religion provides value to society by ensuring they are unified and that its members are held to a common set of guidelines. Otherwise, disunity and conflict could arise and threaten collective survival. Religious beliefs and the morals they compelled others to follow in order to be in line with those beliefs built communities that were functional, and this is where we get to the benefits that morals, and subsequently ethics, provide humanity by ensuring that individual behavior supports collective success.

 

This collective benefit to society, regardless of its ties to religious origins, is reflective of an evolved trait for our species. As stated by Douglas A. Pryer in his chapter entitled "What We Don't Talk about When We Talk about War'' in the book War and Moral Injury: A Reader, edited by him and Robert Emmet Meagher:

 

I've become convinced that Ethics doesn't consist of purely academic, impractical restraints. Rather, Ethics is firmly rooted in human biology. Our capacity for seeing others as beings like ourselves who should be treated as we want to be treated is an important reason our species dominates the planet. Indeed, without innate moral forces, Homo sapiens would not be able to live in groups, let alone in large, powerful nations. (69-70)

 

Ensuring one's own people follow moralistic and ethical guidelines in the conduct of their actions is of paramount importance in regard to society's expectations of that group. We expect our fellow countrymen to behave a certain way in certain situations, and we act accordingly. Of course, there are certain behaviors that are tied to cultural norms that aren't directly linked to morals and ethics but become apparent when people are overseas and engage in actions that others see as peculiarly foreign, e.g., talking loudly to others and smiling, engaging in small talk with strangers, and wearing baseball caps are commonly associated with Americans. However, within a society, cultural norms are expected to be followed so that individuals can effectively engage with one another in conversation or business in a fair way. In a society that holds honesty as a moral principle, we would expect others to speak truthfully and mean what they say. In a society that holds integrity as a moral principle, we expect individuals to be unwavering in their principles and will not be easily influenced to change. Those who hold the duty to the family as a moral principle may engage in actions that are family-focused and not necessarily for their own personal benefit.

 

In a later chapter entitled "On War and Redemption," the author, Timothy Kudo, a US Marine Corps officer, tells us of his experiences in the shooting of who they thought were Taliban combatants but turned out to be non-combatant Afghan youths. His experiences in Afghanistan would shape his perspective on the topic of ethics. As the story goes, these Afghan youths were approaching Kudo’s unit on a motorcycle just after the Marines had concluded a firefight with what they thought was a Taliban fighter in a nearby building. The Marines attempted to scare the youths away by waving, yelling, and eventually launching a smoke grenade at them. As Kudo states:

 

They paused, then resumed course. We yelled and waved for them to stop. They persisted. I thought: they might kill my Marines, but if we kill them, we might be wrong. Cracks and flashes erupted from the motorcycle. The only hard fact about the rules of engagement is that you have the right to defend yourself. You decide for yourself to pull the trigger. The Marines returned fire for ten long seconds…

 

The building was empty. No bodies, no blood, no bullet casings. The fog of war lifted. I had been certain what was happening and I was wrong. The combination of confusion, chaos and adrenaline can't be explained unless you've experienced it. We ran to the motorcycle. One Marine made a quiet plea, "Please let them have weapons. Something. Anything." They were dead. Their weapons were sticks and bindles. The muzzle flash was light glaring off the motorcycle's chrome…

 

Even now, I don't know what led them to drive toward a group of Marines firing machine guns, despite warnings, yells, and waving. I know our decision was right and, given the outcome, that it was also wrong. (80)

 

As I and others in the military sphere have mentioned, war is naturally chaotic. People have to make life-or-death decisions based on limited and ambiguous information about the environment. In the case of Kudo and his Marines, the information about the environment tells them they are in danger and have to act. However, when information is limited, and humans have to react, they react according to their habits and what they have been trained to do based on what they perceive about their environment. We covered phenomena in greater detail in Chapter 2.2: On Training, but these Marines, as are Soldiers, are trained to return fire when they are attacked, as doing so increases the likelihood of survival by responding with overwhelming firepower at the attacker. In this case, they weren't attacked; they only perceived that they were attacked based on environmental stimuli. But why would they think they were being attacked instead of what it actually was: sticks, rattling, and reflections?

 

While I can't be certain, studying human nature would lead me to believe they were primed to assume the environment was one of a violent nature. Like the old saying, "When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras," these Marines are in a foreign land to fight for their nation's objectives. They are on patrol looking for Taliban fighters. They are briefed on risks and what to do when they receive effective fire from the enemy. Their entire career, as Kudo later mentions, involves "training to kill for years," and they desire to test their mettle and value in battle. As a result of this priming to think in violent terms, it makes sense that in an environment of limited information, their minds would err on the side of assuming that the stimuli were threatening and respond accordingly. In addition, the collective response of humans, as in when one decides to act, acts as tacit approval for others to respond in kind, meaning that even if everyone questioned whether these youths were a threat or not, the moment one acted on the ambiguity and fired at the perceived threat, that was all the mind needs to clear up the dissonance and to justify one's own action as part of the collective.

 

And when Kudo questioned why these youths continued to approach them, given all of the warnings the Marines presented them, I would argue much in the same way. This was their home, running out doing errands for their family and returning back to their place. This, for them, was probably a day like any other day, and they were primed to think in those terms. Possibly, as we all do, they were driving down the road, lost in thought, and didn't notice the Marines. When they see these strangers waving, yelling, and launching smoke, their thoughts are probably one of confusion and uncertainty. These youths, just like the Marines, have seconds to make a decision, but in the realm of habitual responses, they were primed to think in non-violent terms. So, in the matter of moments they approached the Marines, they were thinking, "What is this? We don't know, probably nothing, let's continue and find out," while the Marines were thinking, "What are they doing? Is that gunfire? Probably yes, return fire!"

 

Knowing that we evolved from our ancestors, who had to live in dangerous environments, climbing up trees to avoid whatever animal was rustling in the tall grass, they survived by erring on the side of assuming it was a lion, even if it was actually a gazelle. Those who presumed it was a gazelle and didn't climb the tree were killed and didn't pass on their genes when, that day, it was actually a lion. However, those who survived didn't do so by making judgments and generalizations about their environments when information was lacking clarity. The environment we are primed to believe we are in will determine how we respond and react to stimuli, and when that stimulus is limited, we respond in the way that provides us with the best outcomes. For non-combatants, in their daily travels, there will be many weird things that are strange or out-of-place that make them question "why," but they can't stop at everything because often it is nothing and gets in the way of their daily tasks; so they ignore and continue. For the military, who throw themselves into dangerous situations as a part of their profession, they have to assume everything that is strange, and out-of-place is a possible threat, such as strangers on motorcycles, bags of trash on the side of the road, or strangers running from buildings, as possible threats that could kill them; so they react using battle drills that put them in an advantage should the threat be true.

 

I speak about this incident as a matter of ethics rather than including it in our chapter covering training because Kudo would later state:

 

Back in the United States, I look at people and think: "You have no idea what right and wrong are." Much that I once held as matters of conscience is now just custom or culture. The challenging thing about ethics is you have to figure them out for yourself. What the war taught me is that first, you should always strive to do the right thing even though you can't control the outcome. Second, wrong decisions have tragic, irreversible consequences. (81)

 

The fact that they didn't immediately identify an unknown entity as a threat, and instead attempted to identify who they were, and deter their movement through non-lethal means shows that humans can be trained to avoid engaging in destructive acts as an opening move. Many times, these non-lethal forms of communication actually work, and non-combatants back away, and no lethal engagement is undertaken. Training in ethical processes that produce acceptable outcomes, even when sometimes the outcomes are negative, such as in Kudo's case, belies that it is still a net positive for military operations. Yes, it didn't work in this case, but it does in other cases, and engaging in proper rules of engagement, following battle drills and standard operating procedures, and following the laws of armed conflict help reduce the negative moral, ethical, and political consequences of war by using ethics as a mitigation to certain military actions. If the standard response for these Marines was to wait until one of them was physically shot and then triangulate the direction of the shot to whom the shooter may be and then positively identify their affiliations, then many Marines would die as a result. If the standard response was to shoot at every possible unknown entity in the battle space, then many non-combatants would die as a result. Training for habitual responses is ethical because it provides our people the means to safeguard their lives, but encoding ethics into the drills and processes of these responses helps reduce the likelihood of negative consequences overall, even as Kudo mentions, these accidents still sometimes happen in warfare.

 

Ethics, the expectations of behavior for persons and organizations within a profession or industry, makes them a known variable to outsiders. We expect them to act in certain ways, meaning ethically, because that behavior will influence a particular outcome. A military that employs violence in pursuit of its purpose to the state or group needs to do so ethically. The reason is that ethical conduct is expected and accounted for when planning occurs and that the anticipated negative consequences of unethical conduct may be too severe. Similarly, a business engages in consensual exchange of goods and services with others in pursuit of its purpose and needs to ensure it does so ethically for the same reason. This may be one of the primary reasons why ethics is so important to a social species like ours. Because 1) ethical organizations don't plan for unethical actions undertaken by their members, and/or 2) the consequences of unethical actions produce negative outcomes that are too consequential. And this is what I mean by these two points.

 

In the first point, an organization made up of multiple people and many echelons or departments, franchises, and subsidiaries that strive to follow ethical guidelines for their industry could see their efforts undone by unethical behavior committed by their people. The US Army is a massive organization made up of around one million active, reserve, and national guardsmen and more than 300,000 civilian personnel. Even though they promote the Army Ethic and discuss the proper conduct of its Soldiers during combat and in their non-combat activities, regardless of the effort, unethical activities are bound to occur as a result of its sheer size alone. But, even taking this into account, every unethical activity engaged in by Soldiers damages the reputation of the Army and, subsequently, the trust the people have in its conduct and ability to meet its mission.

 

In the chapter titled "Why Ethics Matter," written by Charles J. Dunlap Jr. for Tom Frame and Albert Palazzo's book Ethics Under Fire: Challenges for the Australian Army, we get a good perspective from the eyes of an American professor and former military officer writing for the benefit of members of the Australian Defense Force on ethics and its importance in maintaining trust.

 

But is a trustworthy military really important to the people it serves? Instances where the implicit trust between the military and civilian population has failed reveal that a positive relationship between these two groups allows national security policies a greater probability of success. The atrocious violations at Abu Ghraib by American military personnel brought into question into the public sphere internal lapses of ethical conduct. From a broader view, 'it is fair to say that Western societies expect ethical standards regardless of the circumstances.' Policy is more likely to succeed when civil-military trust levels are high, and individual military members who misbehave threaten this institutional trust. (21)

 

The torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison tarnished the image of the US Army in the eyes of the American people, the international community, and the Iraqis. The Soldiers who were directly involved were punished, and some of the senior officers who had responsibility over these detention facilities also received demotions and reprimands for their failure to supervise the conduct of these Soldiers. If you are familiar with the Stanford prison experiment, then you understand the dangers of unchecked and unsupervised conduct of those in positions of authority that can devolve into brutal abuse of prisoners. Couple this psychological possibility with the real-world implication where the guards are warfighters, the prisoners are perceived as enemies that would kill you and your buddies if given a chance, and not given adequate oversight by their supervisors, then what occurred would seem, to me, a logical outcome.

 

It is important for those in leadership or regulatory positions to supervise the conduct of those they have responsibilities over, not only to ensure that they accomplish what they are tasked to do but also that they do it in a way that doesn't negatively impact the organization's overall objectives. Counterproductive actions are at the heart of the first point in why ethics is important for humanity. A group that desires longevity needs to operate within the bounds of what society expects. For an organization like the military, one that operates through a hierarchical system of command from senior civilian leaders down to the lowest ranking servicemember, to achieve what is ultimately a political outcome for the state, then it requires everyone to follow the rules. Not because they are "good" or "just," but because the course of action development for military operations plans for people to follow ethical guidelines.

 

Modern military operations for the US Army rely heavily on the concept of Mission Command, a topic we will cover in greater detail in the next Chapter 3.0: Business Operations with Military Concepts, but mission command requires two things: shared understanding and trust between seniors and subordinates. Military operations in the 21st Century are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous and require small units to respond quickly to changes in their environments. They can't wait for further guidance and must act with the tools and information they have on hand at the time. The senior leader needs to ensure the subordinates share the same "big picture" understanding of the operational environment, their intent for operations and that the senior leader has faith in their subordinate's competency and justifications to act. Understanding the operational environment, following the commander's intent, and having competency in the profession of arms is corrupted when the subordinate engages in an unethical action because, by definition, the act is outside the realm of acceptable behavior for someone in that line of work.

 

The second point of ethics' benefit to humanity is that the negative consequences of unethical action are too severe, and it deals with the long-term nature of the world we seek to create or foster for our organization and the people the organization serves. The purpose of any organization is to fulfill its role in society, but if it engages in activities that make society worse off or only functions to benefit those within the organization, then it should be disbanded or dismantled, at least from the perspective of the society harmed by their conduct. This can include criminal or terrorist organizations that serve their own interests at the expense of the state, but also rebel groups that seek to overthrow the state in order to establish their own; it will be up to the people and society to make that determination.

 

Beatty and Samuelson understand this when they quote John Akers, the former chairman of IBM when he said:

 

Ethics and competitiveness are inseparable. We compete as a society. No society anywhere will compete very long or successfully with people stabbing each other in the back; with people trying to steal from each other; with every little squabble ending in litigation; and with government writing reams of regulatory legislation, tying business hand and foot to keep it honest. That is a recipe not only for headaches in running a company, it is a recipe for a nation to become wasteful, inefficient, and non competitive. There is no expecting the fact: the greater the measure of mutual trust and confidence in the ethics of a society, the greater its economic strength. (27)

 

Naturally, a business will gain a short-term benefit from cheating partners, taking advantage of customers, finding sneaky loopholes in the law, and conducting espionage against competitors, but we must remember the reason for the "golden rule" in that we do unto others as we wish others would do unto us. What I mean to say, and what Akers alludes to, is that in our effort to gain profit, we must be careful not to promote a business environment that is harmful and cumbersome for all. An environment that encourages ethical conduct be it military or business, is an environment that allows greater autonomy for its participants. To counter an unethical environment, the powers that be would need to reactively emplace regulations and laws to ensure everyone does what they ought to do, based on their profession.

 

Imagine every form of law or regulation ever instituted by a government or organization. They aren't proactive but reactive to unethical or immoral behavior in the environment. Just think about those apparently ridiculous warnings and caution signs telling a customer or the general public not to do a certain activity that we think should be common sense. If we see a warning label that says not to ingest detergent, it is because someone did it. If we see a caution sign that tells workers not to put their fingers into moving machinery, it is because someone did it. If we see a blatant label of "front towards enemy" on a claymore mine, it is because some soldiers emplaced it backwards. These are all reactive responses to previous mistakes undertaken by individuals, so these warnings were put there to inform the reader, or at least show due diligence by the owners and supervisors, that they made an attempt to inform someone before they ruined their lives. The same applies to laws and regulations, except they are intended to protect society from the consequences of actions through legal deterrence and risk mitigation instead of just protecting an individual from their own ignorance. The fact that many public businesses and work sites need warning labels and caution signs, that inform the public of dangers, as a regulatory requirement to protect people from themselves is a testament to that.

 

Ethics is about self-regulation from within a profession, an industry, or an organization. Encouraging an ethic through developing a shared identity, acknowledging the individual and organization's roles for society, and using the society's moral framework as a guide for what is a "good" or "bad" action can help to ensure that society doesn't come in to institute and enforce regulations. Being ethical breeds trust, and trust coupled with competency in one's profession allows for greater autonomy to achieve the purpose of our organization, be it training to fight and win or producing widgets and making a profit. If we are unable to foster an ethical environment, the hammer of society's ire will come to dismantle us, reform us through regulation, or replace us with someone who will comply with what society finds is in their best interests.

 

But ethics, or things we ought to do, are not necessarily mutually exclusive requirements to act, as we mentioned, they often can conflict with one another. It will require us to assess which ethical principles take priority in any given situation. Because this conflict is so important and central to the discussion of ethics, it would do us "good" to dig into it in greater detail.

Dueling and Conflicting Duties

When it comes to conducting immoral or unethical actions in order to enrich oneself or for the sake of personal pleasure at the expense of society, clients, colleagues, shareholders, the organization, and one's own family, then I would be hard-pressed to find someone that wouldn't say that it was wrong to do so; except maybe the most nihilistic individuals who believe nothing truly matters. Embezzling a business's capital in order to pay off gambling debts; being lazy and shirking duties so that another has to pick up the slack; selling client and customer information to a third party without their knowledge; and even cheating on one's spouse only favor the individual at the expense of others is unethical, based on the individual and society's moral foundation. These things are much easier to assess as "bad" and "wrong," and we only question the nature of the punishment, which is to correct the individual and deter future misdeeds of others.

 

However, when our profession requires us to perform certain actions that are both ethical and unethical, moral and immoral, "good" and "bad," we have a dilemma. Torture is "bad," but the prisoner has intel we need to save lives. The use of weapons that indiscriminately kill farmers is "bad," but the enemy is moving through their farmland, and our only effective tool to defeat them is cluster munitions that have a high dud rate. Killing non-combatants is "bad," but the enemy has parked a combat vehicle next to them, and we need to destroy it. Killing a wounded enemy who is no longer a threat to you is "bad," but there is no hope to save them, and their last few minutes alive will be nothing but suffering.

 

When we make a decision in an ethical dilemma, we may use reason to justify our decisions. Yes, torture is bad, but our people will be saved from the information; besides, they are the enemy. Yes, cluster munitions can leave a lot of unexploded ordnance on the battlefield that could kill future farmers that till the land, but that is only a future hypothetical, and we are dealing with a real-world life-or-death threat now; besides, we collect the data of where we use cluster weaponry so they can clear the fields after the conflict. Yes, we don't want to harm non-combatants as that is immoral, unethical, and will work against our messaging to the local populous, but we need to destroy that vehicle before our friends move into the town and come under fire from it; besides, engaging in a direct firefight may harm many more non-combatants when both sides start firing weapons at each other. Yes, killing wounded adversaries is bad, but we don't have the means to save them from their wounds or ease their suffering; besides, this isn't out of hate; it is a mercy killing, something they would want us to do for them.

 

All of these examples are justifications that can be made to reinforce people's decisions to act in the face of a dilemma between ethics and morals. As we discussed in Chapter 1.4: The Human Domain, human behavior is driven by emotion. It is required for humans to act quickly to external stimuli in order to survive, and evolution has shaped our species in such a way that we can respond to certain perceived patterns in certain ways that improve our chances of surviving. Generalizations and stereotyping allow us to quickly come to a conclusion on how to act in the face of familiar or learned situations and act instinctively through habituation, something we discussed heavily in Chapter 2.2: On Training. After we have decided to act, either instinctively, through a quick determination, or through lengthy deliberation, we then use our logic and reason to justify our actions. This is to ensure we don't inadvertently ostracize ourselves from our communities based on what we have done by trying to influence others into a shared understanding of the decisions we have to make. Basically, we use logic and reason to set up scenarios for others, and sometimes ourselves, to explain the unethical or immoral aspects of an action by focusing on the overwhelming moral and ethical implications of that same action.

 

On the battlefield, however, some ethical and moral quandaries are difficult to discern as a result of the chaos of battle and the ambiguity of the actors involved, much like in the previous story provided by Timothy Kudo, his Marines, and the Afghan youths on the motorcycle. Even in situations when the deciders have all the information, like the proverbial trolley problem, they still debate on what the right thing to do is. Now, imagine you are presented with an ethical or moral dilemma that you barely comprehend. You don't have all the information to make an informed decision, but you still have to make a decision: action or inaction.

 

There is a discussion covering the conflict between morals and the ethics of the law of war, in which combatants and leadership need to decide between scenarios that involve both actions that are legally permissible but morally questionable and actions that are illegal but are morally necessary. In this discussion by Helen Frowe in her The Ethics of War and Peace 2nd Edition, she noted the difficulties of applying the rules of war when information about the situation is limited.

 

Combatants cannot discriminate on the basis of moral liability, which will likely be indiscernible on the battlefield. Rather, they must discriminate on the basis of more readily apparent facts, such as the wearing of uniforms, the possession of weapons, and so on. (47)

 

In Kudo's story, he had two duties: to protect his Marines from threats and to avoid causing harm to non-combatants. The problem for him and his Marines is, as Frowe mentioned, what the correct thing to do was indiscernible to him at the time. His patrol attempted to provide some clarity, making the battlefield more discernible, by following the rules of engagement with these unknown people, to no avail. Knowing the right thing to do is difficult, not because they lacked moral principles; obviously, they had them, but because too many variables were unknown at the time. If the Marines knew they were non-combatants, the answer is simple: they wouldn't have fired. If the Marines knew they were enemy combatants, then they would fire. They decided to go that later route because they perceived them as actively attacking, establishing these unknowns as enemy combatants. Thus, they fired. The fact that their perception was incorrect is not a fault of their morals or ethics in this situation but entirely on the shoulders of human psychology and collective misinterpretation of external stimuli. Military personnel will need to make moral and ethical calls based on limited information. Sometimes, they will get it wrong, but as the military learns from these failures, they institute drills and processes to help the warfighter make better decisions at the tactical levels of war.

 

However, even with sufficient information to make a decision, we may still be left with conflicting duties because the ethics themselves are in conflict. Earlier, when we discussed dueling duties, we noted that both the military and the business world often have ethical requirements that sometimes conflict with one another and that what ends up occurring is the prioritization of ethics. For Soldiers, both the mission and obligations to family are of ethical concern. We exist to accomplish the mission, and we are required to provide for and take care of our families, especially dependents. However, when they conflict, and the road to war will always make them conflict, the mission comes first. This is similar to the situation when military leaders are both required to accomplish the mission and safeguard their personnel; accomplishing the mission requires putting personnel in harm's way to do it; the mission comes first. However, to ensure we do our best to mitigate the negative effects of our other ethical requirements that are temporarily taking secondary priority to the mission, we institute drills and processes that ensure they get their due diligence. For example, for Army families, we have unit-required family care plans, ensure that Soldiers pay account for financially supporting dependents, and have family readiness groups that allow families to get information and support one another while the Soldiers are doing their jobs. For safeguarding our service members while they conduct their mission, we focus on training as we would fight, plan for contingencies to medically evacuate our wounded, and cross-train our people on various duties so that if one is wounded or killed, we can continue with the mission and the whole organization doesn't grind to a halt allowing more to be wounded and killed.

 

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin once discussed such a conflict of duties in their book, The Dichotomy of Leadership, when they spoke of the "ultimate dichotomy of leadership." Military leaders are charged with the care of their personnel. Of course, there is the paternal/maternal compulsion to care for subordinates as both a matter of principle and a matter of camaraderie, e.g., duty and care. However, the more practical and pragmatic reality is that each life is an asset necessary to accomplish the mission. We don't want our brothers and sisters-in-arms to die or be injured, not only because we are bound together in service but also because the dead and wounded can no longer serve their purpose. As these Navy SEALs said,

 

But as much as I wanted to protect them, we had a job to do. A job that was violent and dangerous and unforgiving. A job that required me to put them at risk - tremendous risk - over and over and over again. This was an example of the Dichotomy of Leadership, perhaps the ultimate Dichotomy of Leadership that a combat leader must face: it is a combat leader's duty to care about his troops more than anything else in the world - and yet, at the same time, a leader must accomplish the mission. That means the leader must make decisions and execute plans and strategies that might cost the men he loves so much their very lives. (19) 

 

Ethics requires us to be good stewards of our service. Jocko and Leif have the Navy and their SEALs, and we Soldiers have the Army and our respective units. Part of being a good steward is caring for people and equipment and making sacrifices so that the organization can accomplish its mission. But, of course, there must be a balance. Selfless sacrifice may be noble, but it must be weighed in relation to the organization's purpose. General George S. Patton was famously quoted as saying, "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." Being a steward of the lives of others, even ourselves, means we need to protect these valuable assets so they can continue to be of service. Sacrifices, sometimes, are necessary, but it is the mission and continued success of the organization that takes priority. The purpose of war is to compel a change in policy in another group through the use or threatened use of violent forms of influence, but it is through our military organizations, such as the SEALs, that we deliver that violence. While assets can be used to accomplish the mission and achieve our purpose, if the process of doing so means these assets are lost, we no longer have the means to continue to support future missions.

 

In this situation between stewardship and duty, while duty takes priority in the form of accomplishing the mission and therefore putting the lives of our people on the line to do so, stewardship and the care for those lives are next in priority. It forces leaders to think about accomplishing the mission, meeting objectives, and achieving desired ends in the most effective and efficient way possible. The battle is but a moment in time; there are future battles that must be fought and more objectives that need to be achieved to get to the desired end. But if the accomplishment of the mission, given the situation the organization is placed in, requires sacrifice and no better alternative is available, then so be it. The mission comes first, but through mission planning, we can ensure we accomplish the mission in such a way that our conflicting ethical duties are accounted for in an ethical way. It won't be as easy as this, as the mission accomplishes its purpose, and purpose is the reason for an organization's existence; it makes sense that the mission would take priority over others. Otherwise, there would be little value in having an organization that can't accomplish its purpose. Other ethical duties that may conflict, especially when those ethics are directly tied to moral beliefs, will be more difficult to balance. Or, as James H. Toner says of military ethics:

 

Military ethics is all about dueling duties. It is all about competing claims. And it will never be easy to make clear moral choices. (85)

 

In the first section of this chapter, when I first quoted Toner, he said, "The conflict of duties is the very basis of military ethics," I would argue that this is the primary dilemma of all ethics, not just the military. While the marketplace doesn't necessarily impart the same amount of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that the battlefield does, all of these variables are still present, just to a lesser extent. It doesn't matter that the military engages in posturing and battle, and a business engages in manufacturing and commerce. Military and business organizations are built and organized by humans, and as War Is My Business always purports, the veneer of military ends, ways, and means belies just how similar military and business organizations are. Miller and Jentz make a similar statement about the obligations we hold in a business setting when compared to those we hold outside of it when they say:

 

One of the reasons that ethical decision making is more complex in the business context than in our personal lives is that business firms are perceived to owe duties to a number of groups. Generally, these groups include the firm's owners (in a corporation, the shareholders), the community in which it operates, and, according to many, society at large. When these duties come into conflict, difficult choices must be made. These choices may concern the welfare of shareholders versus consumers, shareholders versus employees, and so on. (193)

 

Our ethical requirements are much more stringent in a professional environment than those we have in our private lives. No doubt, there are consequences for violating ethics at this lowest social tier, such as committing adultery against a spouse or a parent abusing their child. At least in the United States, these actions can be punished through the legal system in hopes of rectifying this bad behavior. But between professionals, managers, employees, contractors, clients, and customers, since these relationships are between members of the general public and not between the close intimate relationships of family and friends, everyone needs to have a certain level of preconceived expectation of behavior of everyone else.

 

In business, ethics is highly associated with the legal aspect of commerce; at least, that is where ethics is most often discussed because punishments for violating the law often come with hefty civil fines and criminal prosecution for negligence should a business fail to serve society ethically. If society feels compelled to intervene in the conduct of a business through the mechanism of the law, it is most effective when it targets those aspects of the business where they are most vulnerable, such as its capital or its leadership. Remember, any organization that is formed does so in order to provide something to society, its purpose, and if it can't accomplish its purpose or it does so in a way that is socially unacceptable, then society will find some method to dismantle it.

 

Just like society has expectations of its military members, they have expectations of its businesses, their employees and contractors, and how they engage with each other and the public. We expect businesses, to varying degrees, to care for their people by following through on their employment contracts and ensuring the safety of the work environment. Employees are expected to fulfill their duties within their contract's scope of work, and any additional caveats that may be included. If both parties fulfill their end of the contract, then they can be said to be acting ethically, at least with respect to the employer/employee relationship. Should either party violate the terms of the contract, then either can utilize the provisions of the contract to rectify the issue or use the legal system if the provisions aren't adequate.

 

However, not all ethics are contractual or regulated. Some are merely social obligations, behavioral expectations that aren't necessarily codified but nonetheless are expected by everyone involved in the relationship. Shareholders expect the business to operate in their interest and increase their dividends while balancing the needs of the organization and their social obligations to society. Employees expect the business to work in their interest by fulfilling their obligations in the contract, ensuring their safety, and supporting the longevity of the business so that they can continue to support the business and even develop their own skills for future opportunities. Customers expect the business to work in their interest by providing value that is greater than the capital they are giving the business, and if the business can't, then the business will seek to rectify the issue in order to maintain goodwill and the continued patronage of the customer. These are all expectations; some are written in the form of laws, provisions, and contractual obligations, while others are merely socially expected of "good" and ethical businesses. Now, of course, some shareholders, employees, and customers don't have these expectations, and that is because they either don't believe the business is acting ethically or they themselves aren't ethical and, therefore, don't have these exceptions to begin with. But if all these people do, in fact, hold these expectations and believe the business is ethical, but the environment puts the business in a position where they need to prioritize their support for one over the other, then we are faced with an ethical dilemma. A conflict of duties, or "dueling duties" as Toner calls them, puts ethical people and organizations in difficult situations where they need to choose which obligations they will follow through with at the expense of others or attempt to find a balance between all obligations at the risk of failing to meet any of them. I will attempt to expound on this in the following three scenarios.

 

The first scenario comes from Emerson's Business Law 5th Edition, where he states:

 

The attorney/client privilege permits clients to keep confidential matters discussed by or with their attorneys… In extreme cases, lawyers may reveal to the court a client's spoken criminal intent. Most states have adopted the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, in which Rule 1.6 says, "a lawyer may reveal such information to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary: to prevent the client from committing a criminal act that the lawyer believes is likely to result in imminent death or substantial bodily harm…" (11-12)

 

Since the law plays an important part in American society, certain privileges are codified to ensure every member of our society has the opportunity to leverage this system for their ends. The law is but an extension of justice, one of the original cardinal virtues with Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman origins. Since American moral guidelines come from these origins, they naturally share similar moral guidelines with other Western nations that have the same origins. As a result of its importance to our way of life, ensuring that the people can leverage the law to its fullest, it ensures our society operates ethically, meaning that it would be unethical to not allow people to leverage the law, especially in their defense when their other rights, freedoms, and capital are on the line. In order to best accomplish this, clients are provided a certain level of confidentiality with their attorneys so that those attorneys can use their subject matter expertise of the law and their understanding of the client's situation to provide their clients with the best care possible. An attorney's case could be derailed if, during discovery or during hearings, incriminating information was revealed about their clients. Giving the attorney the proverbial "heads-up" about the client's history allows the attorney to develop safeguards and use risk mitigation techniques to counter them or reduce the severity they may cause.

 

There is only so much that attorney/client privilege will allow, however, as the attorney is not permitted to take part in any illegal activities with their clients. The attorney can defend their client who engaged in illegal activities, but they can't take part in future illicit actions. In fact, even if the lawyer themselves finds the client's action unethical or immoral if they don't think they can legally represent their clients to the best of their ability, then ethics requires them to withdraw their representation and suggest their clients seek representation elsewhere. Whether the client is "good" or "bad," the claimant or the defendant, they are owed the best representation that they can acquire. A lawyer passing judgment upon their client and acting upon that judgment outside of merely developing a case is unethical as the "supporting role" that lawyers provide society is through their representation; it is the judges that judge, not lawyers.

 

Remember when I discussed "The Army Ethic," which was made up of three different elements: shared identity, supporting roles, and guiding moral principles? Well, here we have the second element, "supporting roles," that determine the ethics of lawyers. They are legal representatives, not judges, and their obligation to society is to provide their clients with legal representation to the best of their ability. In America, where the rule of law and the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" are vital to ensure people's rights are protected, it would be harmful to society if we felt that our legal representatives would be passing judgment upon us while they also represent us. Of course, lawyers are humans too, and sometimes it is difficult not to be biased and pass judgment upon others, but that is why the ethics of lawyers requires them to do their utmost to not allow those feelings to interfere with their duties to the client. If they can't, ethics requires them to withdraw their representation so that the client can find someone who can.

 

Even if the client plans on continuing to engage in certain illegal or unethical activities, it isn't up to the lawyer to divulge this; simply continue to represent them. As long as the lawyer isn't directly involved in the illicit activity, then they are following the ethical guidelines put forth by the profession and lawyer associations. However, it has been determined that, as Emerson stated, lawyers are compelled by ethics to break attorney/client privilege if the client has voiced an intent to cause death and harm to others. Often, this is in relation to a client seeking to threaten, injure, or kill opposing parties, judges, lawyers, or juries in order to influence the proceeding of the court so that the outcome benefits them. Of course, this would be an affront to justice, which is a moral imperative to our society, and ethics allows lawyers to violate one ethic in support of another ethic of greater priority.

 

The second scenario comes from Beatty and Samuelson's Essentials of Business Law 3rd Edition, where they state: 

 

Often, the most difficult decisions arise not in cases of right versus wrong but in situations of right versus right. President Harry Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on two Japanese cities is a classic example of right versus right. He argued that if he had not ended the war by using nuclear weapons, more Americans and Japanese would have died during a land invasion…

 

Nuclear weapons make a dramatic example, but what about a more typical business decision? AT&T adopted a policy of cutting costs to maximize its stock price. To implement this policy, the company laid off 40,000 people, despite record profits. Even as workers suffered, shareholders benefited because the company's stock price rose in response to the massive layoff announcement. But is stock price the only issue? Does the company have an obligation to protect employee jobs? Is one right more important than another? (32)

 

In order to frame the following scenario involving AT&T, the authors first reference Truman's use of atomic bombs against the Japanese. Beatty and Samuelson establish the rather stark framing scenario before going into a more traditional ethical dilemma that most business persons would be familiar with. That the authors would first reference an important military example shows that they understand that conflicting duties are not the sole domain of any one profession or organization and instead can be found in others. In their case, senior civilian leadership's employment of the military arm of national power against an adversary's cities. They then enter into the actual business example by acknowledging their previous example was "dramatic," which ties neatly with War Is My Business's emphasis that the conflict of duties (ethical dilemmas) of professionals in the military and in the business sector are ever-present, just with the military-side of ethics suffering from far more extreme consequences.

 

Looking at the business example itself, we are met with two separate obligations that AT&T's leadership has to make: providing greater dividends to their shareholders and the well-being of their employees. Both are tied to the successful operation of the business, and the C-suite must make conscious decisions when it comes to engaging them. For the shareholders, especially the board of directors, who can change out the C-suite in order to control the management of the business, the C-suite is incentivized to keep those shareholders happy with how they run the business. This is best accomplished by being able to secure market share, reduce costs, and improve the longevity of the business through its ability to adapt to marketplace conditions. Employees represent the ongoing operations of the business, and their requirements, training, and retention are critical for future operations. This is best accomplished by creating an environment that is welcoming and valuable in terms of pay and benefits, as well as provides job security and avenues of advancement in their careers.

 

However, employees are an expense, and these expenses reduce dividends, which is the fiduciary responsibility of the C-suite to increase on behalf of the shareholders. But shareholders, of course, understand that expenses are necessary for the running of the business, so we must wonder what was the motivation for laying off 40,000 employees when profits were already at a record high. One potential reason was that the board of directors was compelled to maximize dividends and stock prices for shareholders in the short term by any means possible. If the shareholders desire it, it is their duty as fiduciaries to execute. Failure to do this would result in the board of directors relieving the C-suite and hiring new managers who will execute that course of action. Another potential reason could be more practical in that these 40,000 employees were indeed superfluous to operations and that business managers were able to develop a more efficient system that didn't require their contribution.

 

However, employees are indeed necessary to the functioning of a business organization as large as AT&T, and even if they were unnecessary overhead, the firing of these personnel could put the remaining employees under a sense of unease as their future job security comes into question. Happy and content employees who feel at ease at their jobs are more apt to be productive than others. To counter the negative effects of the firing on remaining employee morale, the C-suite could emphasize the reasons why, clearing up any rumors that were bound to have occurred, and even increase the pay and benefits of those that remained, showcasing the leadership's appreciation of their employees and validating the value they provide to AT&T's operations. If the firing, however, was just as a means to reduce costs in order to increase shareholder dividends and stock prices in the short-term, potentially letting go of many important employees needed to keep the business functioning, then long-term viability has been threatened.

 

There can be different reasons why AT&T went through with their decisions, but we can't really determine if what they did was unethical or not. The purpose of AT&T is to provide telecom to the market and to do this effectively; they must keep the business operating effectively in the long term while meeting their short-term obligations, such as increasing shareholder dividends. If those 40,000 employees were indeed unnecessary, being treated as any other superfluous employee who doesn't provide value to the organization, then laying them off is ethical because society's expectation of management is that they do what is best for the organization's long-term viability which benefits all, including the remaining employees who are still providing value. If the firing was merely at the behest of the board of directors and the shareholders, and these 40,000 employees were still valuable assets, then it is still an ethical decision because society expects management to follow the direction of those who own the business and employ management to execute their will. We may say, legally, that the only thing that the decision makers of AT&T are ethically compelled to do is to follow through with the intent of their superiors and that these layoffs are only unethical if they were not in line with that intent.

 

So, pending the C-suite executed their duties with the tacit acceptance of the owners, didn't violate any contracts, or broke any verbal or written agreements with these employees, then their firing wasn't unethical. If it impacts the long-term viability of the business, it could be considered foolish, short-sighted, or parasitic to the organization, but not unethical. This is the decision of those who own the business, after all. However, we must wonder if those in positions of power, such as the C-suite, have an ethical responsibility to figuratively "smack some sense" into those they feel are making bad decisions. Just like a subordinate officer may protest an order they feel is incorrect or foolish and can disobey an order that is immoral or illegal, even to the point of resigning their commissions, if the board of directors and shareholders ordered a destructive course of action, society could expect the C-suite to resist or resign from their positions in much the same way. Yes, they could be simply replaced by the board of directors for someone who will execute that destructive path, but then the moniker of unethical shame will be cast upon these new managers instead. Or, possibly, they felt they could reduce the level of destructive behavior by maintaining their positions and mitigating the director's and shareholders' greater destructive potential, and had they resigned, then we may have been looking at 60,000 layoffs instead. This is all pure speculation, of course, as we don't necessarily know what transpired at AT&T, but it is food for thought and shares similarities with how our own Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't resign during President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration that increased United States involvement in Vietnam.

 

The third scenario comes from Flight's book Law, Liability, and Ethics for Medical Office Professionals Fourth Edition, where she references an editorial made in the June 6, 1987 edition of The Baltimore Sun. It is a story about doctor/patient confidentiality and the protection of the general public. Here, we will quote the editorial she provides, followed by the ethical dilemma related to it. She starts with the quote:

 

We are appalled that Baltimore City firefighters who tried to save the life of a wounded, pregnant woman they rushed to the John Hopkins Emergency Room were exposed to the AIDS virus - and no one let them know. Only through the compassion of one nurse at Hopkins, where the woman [patient] was also receiving obstetrical care, did the message finally get to the firefighters. The men returned home that night - back to their wives and their children - and might never have known. Might never have been tested. Might have exposed the virus to someone else. Hopkins authorities explained that doctor-patient confidentiality laws tied the hospital's hands. Dandy! What kind of ludicrous system have we created where confidentiality protections for a dead person carry greater weight than society's concern for the living? (202)

 

Here was a story where a nurse, feeling compassion and concern for the firefighters, felt compelled to violate doctor-patient confidentiality laws in order to inform others who may have been exposed to AIDS. We have dueling duties here, a conflict between privacy protection principles with their reinforcing legal consequences and actual healthcare concerns. It is a conflict of ethics for a professional healthcare worker, and the author brings up the concept of "the golden rule" as a possible mechanism to determine what one ought to do, but even then there is conflict:

 

The story also illustrates an ethical dilemma, the conflict between a nurse's concern for the public's health and her professional code of ethics. Conflict surfaces, for example, if the nurse applies the personal ethic of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others what you would have them do to you." It may be argued that under the Golden Rule, the nurse has an ethical obligation to inform the firefighters of their exposure to the infectious disease AIDS. It may also be argued that the nurse had an obligation to her patient to keep her secret. (202)

 

Remember when we discussed that Western ethics finds its origins in not only Judeo-Christian beliefs but also in Greco-Roman philosophy? While "the Golden Rule" has its origins in religious belief, such as in the Christian bible Matthew 7:12 where it states: "In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you," an important moral guideline held by doctors and nurses comes from Greek physician Hippocrates. When they take the "Hippocratic Oath," informing others of potential viral infection would also count since the modern version of the oath states that "prevention is preferable to cure." However, the oath also states that the practitioner will "respect the privacy of [their] patients, for their problems are not disclosed to [them] that the world may know." So even within the oath itself, we have a conflict under this scenario, just as it does within the golden rule: preventing infection versus privacy.

 

In this scenario, preventing further viral infection is easy for these firefighters by simply testing them to ensure they are clean before they leave, but doing so would require informing them that they were exposed, and, even if not stated directly, it could be inferred that the patient was infected with said disease. However, delaying testing invariably increases the chances that a known viral pathogen spreads throughout the community. So, the nurse is left with a professionally created ethical conundrum: take proactive measures to prevent infection by violating privacy or protect privacy at the expense of preventing spread. It appears that at the time, the hospital took the latter while the nurse took the prior. If the news article was the consensus of the society, then it appears that the community preferred the nurse's course of action. Also, as a macabre observation, it appears that if the firefighters were indeed infected with the virus, the hospital would take greater care in safeguarding the fact that they had the virus from the public than they did in preventing them from contracting and spreading that same virus to the public.

 

There is also another social concern involved, which is not just patient privacy but also the prevention of communicable diseases. One involves the faith that society has in its medical profession, emphasized in that quoted editorial, and the other involves the profession of firefighters. Of course, the purpose of medical care is to care for the sick and to prevent illness from spreading, and this has been the case since ancient times. However, in the pursuit of their ethical guidelines in maintaining the privacy of their patients, they have shown the world that there are environmental conditions that prevent them from achieving their purpose when other ethical obligations conflict. Firefighters accept that they put their lives on the line to protect their communities from the spreading of fires, preventing fires from starting through mitigation, and providing medical assistance to those injured. They accept that they will render assistance when necessary, even if they don't have the medical history of everyone they render assistance to, and that could include involuntarily being exposed to diseases. What they don't accept is that the negative consequences of their service as firefighters will also be levied upon their families. The firefighter could accept the idea of a noble sacrifice that they must don a lifelong disease as a result of their duties, but they would see it as a social betrayal if they unknowingly passed it on to their children when they bandage a cut arm or onto their wives after a night of love-making.

 

For all of these examples, including those of the military, we must remember that ethics is about social expectations of behavior. The ultimate judge of ethics will be the society that patrons the organization, the industry, and the individual professional. For the person or the group to extract value from society, it must provide value to that society; however, if, through their conduct, what they provide is no longer valuable enough, then society will not accept the transaction. In a sense, how a person or group engages in their purpose, how they serve society, and how they provide it value becomes an element of the value proposition. It may not be directly tied to the transaction, but instead, it is tangentially linked to it.

 

For example, a fast-food restaurant's value proposition is that it provides food cheaply and quickly when compared to traditional restaurants with chefs and wait staff. It is able to do this through assembly line style food preparation, a simple and fixed menu, and a relatively efficient order-taking and processing system that emphasizes quick throughput of customers. When a customer goes to a fast-food restaurant, they expect the food to be cheap, to be made quickly, that it tastes reasonably good for its price, that the order is correctly made, that the facilities are clean, and that the staff is professional. Most customers don't expect the same level of quality and service as they would find in a regular restaurant where dishes can be more diverse and altered, and the staff serves the customers at their tables.

 

In either type of restaurant, however, the managers have to ensure the business achieves its purpose of providing food to their communities, and if they can do that effectively and efficiently, then they can extract value from that community through profit. Profit, of course, requires income to be greater than expenses, so managers have to juggle employee wages and benefits to be just high enough so that people want to work there, but not so high that the price of food must increase to ensure a profit can still be made. Owners expect a profit for their investment, employees expect acceptable wages and benefits for their time, customers expect acceptable meals that are worth the price, and it is the managers who have to balance all of these expectations. These become the obligation of the manager to figure out, and if they are unable to achieve these expectations, then it could be seen as a failure on their part, requiring their replacement.

 

However, if the manager purposely decides to engage in an action that goes against what they are expected to do, then we could call it unethical. The manager has a fiduciary responsibility to the owner to make a profit by managing the business for them, and if they increase employee benefits at the expense of the owner, it can be seen as a violation of that responsibility. If the manager has a duty to the customer, through their value proposition, to provide a meal that is of greater value than money the customer exchanges for it, but they raise the prices to provide the owner higher profits and the employees higher wages, then the customer gets less value in exchange. The manager has a duty to their employees, which includes ensuring their pay and benefits fit the value they provide, but if they reduce those pay and benefits to ensure the owner gets greater profits while the customer gets cost-effective food, then that isn't good for the employees. If any one of these stakeholders feels the value they provided isn't commensurate with the value they received, then they might feel they are being "robbed" or taken advantage of.

 

The truth of the matter is that any of these stakeholders can simply choose not to engage in the exchange. The owner doesn't have to open this business or service this community. The employee doesn't have to work at this business. The customer doesn't have to be a patron of this establishment. However, look at this situation in which none of these things occur at the community level. No businesses mean no economy for the community, no jobs for its citizens, and no restaurant for them to eat at. No employees mean no one to take the orders, make the food, and care for the business that feeds the community and helps circulate capital in the local economy. No customers means no income, and therefore, owners and employees will have to look elsewhere to make a living. While ethically speaking, the consequences of not doing what one ought to do in this business example may not seem as ethically questionable; I would say that has mainly to do with the consensual and volunteer nature of these relationships. If owners, employees, and customers had no other choice in the matter, then the actions of the manager determining who gets priority in their decision would be much more consequential. I might argue that ethics isn't necessarily about "good" or "bad," but about the severity of the consequence of failing to behave as socially expected.

 

The strength of humanity has been our ability to organize and solve problems through collective effort. Our tribal ancestors understood how best they could contribute their strengths to the group and how the group could benefit them as individuals. How individuals need to behave within these small, close-knit groups was paramount to the group's survival. Being loyal, dutiful, respectful, fair, and honest were important values and these created expectations of others that allowed others to focus on how they contributed. The hunter that helps other hunters take down the big game to feed the group is expected to be fairly compensated when they return to the feast because if they didn't, it would create suspicion and hostility that their effort was for not. There would be no reason for them to contribute to the group if they didn't get value from being with the group; therefore, people sticking to social expectations of behavior is important to keep everyone else contributing to the group. If one hunter ran off with the collective kill to consume it, the other hunters would no longer cooperate with them, and they would be ostracized from the group. The benefit of working in a group is that it increases the likelihood of success, and it is better to get some meat than risk it alone with the intent to get all the meat but probably get none.

 

In simple terms, expectation of others allows the individual to focus on their actions and make the most of them, and if we can't expect others to behave in a proper way that is for the good of us and the group, then we have to take precautions that hinder our ability to contribute fully. In business terms, being in a group that has a shared identity, common purpose, and similar guidelines for how to behave is a low-risk/low-reward strategy for survival when compared to cutthroats and loners. And not to mention that groups provide for collective security, especially when families are involved. Having trust that one's mate and offspring are safely secure at their camp, warm by the fire, and safe with the other women and children allows the hunters to focus on the hunt itself. Everyone contributes in some manner to the group's overall success, and when these groups are small, it is easier to identify how each and every member contributes in their own way. Social expectations of behavior are more strongly enforced because of the intimate relationships of these small groups and the consequences of any one member not doing what is socially expected, meaning acting unethically.

 

As groups become larger, society expands in complexity, and members become less intimate in their relationships with one another, then it becomes more difficult to understand how everyone contributes to the group. We see everyone as a stranger without really understanding the relative value that they provide. You can inquire about their jobs to get an understanding of how they contribute value to the town, for example, you could ask a group of people what they do for a living and discover you are talking to a farmer, a truck driver, a food processor, and a fast-food worker. You may not even realize, however, that the fries you ate yesterday were prepared by that fast-food worker from a bag of frozen fries; packaged by the food processor at the plant; from potatoes delivered by the truck driver; from the farmer who grew those very potatoes. The larger the society grows, the more complex its relationships can be, and the more difficult it can be for one to truly understand how everyone relates to one another. However, because the responsibilities are spread amongst a large community, the less consequential it is for an individual to engage in an unethical action because the burden can be spread out. The hunter that steals the kill from the group has put the group in danger of starvation to a greater degree than that truck driver did if they were to steal some of the potatoes; there are more potatoes where those came from.

 

However, everyone must still align with social expectations of behavior so that society can leverage the contributions of the group. Yes, the value of individual contribution in such a large society is lessened alongside the consequences of unethical behavior, but ethics has as much to do with the collective expectations of behavior as it does with the individual's expectation of behavior in others. That is why the three elements of ethics the US Army identified- shared identity, supporting roles, and guiding moral principles- are related to the group and not the individual. Society dictates ethics because ethics is how individuals in society are enabled to work with one another with a certain expected outcome. If society has undergone an ethical decline, where people can't trust other people to behave in a certain way, suspicions and hostility will increase in a large society just as they would in the small tribal group. Ethics is a multiplier of sorts for a group, unlocking everyone's greatest potential by allowing them to "trust in their fellow man," that as long as they provide value then value will be provided back to a greater degree.


This is the benefit that ethics provides humanity: expectations. Every human is an individual who can engage in their own actions for their own interests without anyone else truly knowing what they are going to do. Naturally, this would create an environment where people would be looking out for their own interests, not trusting others, and engaging in a "tragedy of the commons" type of arrangement. Ethics, and having a society that supports and reinforces ethical behavior, is a society that has taken an unknown variable, the intentions of other humans, and turned it into a relatively known variable. This has been a strength of our species as we have expanded in size and complexity, but we are still left with an underlying question: How does a society determine whether or not an action is "right" or "wrong?"

Assessing “Right” and “Wrong”

The most common answer to the question of determining right and wrong is to use an ethical theory and then argue from that position. This could include utilitarian positions that believe that a decision should be based on providing for the greatest good, that the needs of the many may outweigh the needs of the few, and that the ends justify the means. You also have deontological positions that argue from the morality of the act itself and that even if the outcome is good, it is still wrong to engage in the act. You have legalist positions that focus on the letter of the law and permit anything that isn't explicitly forbidden. You have positions that argue that you reflect upon your actions and judge what you should do based on whether you would accept the consequences of such action being done against you, i.e., the "golden rule." There are other schools of ethical thought and even religious compulsion to act in certain ethical ways.

 

While we will cover the different theories in greater detail shortly, I need to make a quick observation that these theories generally operate under the premise that people already understand what things are "good" or "bad" and simply use these theories to justify whether or not people should actually carry through with the act. For example, if the "ends justify the means," the framing already implies that the "means" themselves were "bad" or "wrong"; otherwise, we wouldn't need to use the ends to justify it. If the act is "wrong" and "bad," then those deontological moralists have already identified the act as such, just as the utilitarians did, except with the intent to argue against action through a moral lens. The legalist avoids the "good" or "bad" debate by focusing on what is written in the law, but doesn't really focus on how ethics shaped the law, and doesn't discuss the reasons why some laws change throughout time. Those who follow the "golden rule" judge their actions based on self-reflection followed by outward action, but it can't be universally ethical as individuals may conflict with what they determine is "good" or "bad" for themselves.

 

These ethical theories are not the only ones in existence; they are the most commonly used to justify ethical behavior and attempt to determine what actions are "right" and which are "wrong." They don't necessarily help us determine whether the "right" action is actually "good" or that the "wrong" action is actually "bad," and this is a critical distinction that serves as the source of much of the debate between the various philosophies at play here. Utilitarians and deontologists can both agree that an action is "bad," but the utilitarian will call it the "right" thing to do if it produces the best outcome, whereas the deontologist will say it is "wrong" simply because it is "bad." Neither explain why the thing is actually "bad" and treat it as a known reality that both can accept. But before we discuss what we might do to determine how acts can be "good" or "bad," we'll describe these ethical theories in greater detail since they are used a lot in the topic of ethics.

Utilitarianism (Terminal Order)

An approach to ethical reasoning that evaluates behavior not on the basis of any absolute ethical or moral value but on the consequences of that behavior for those who will be affected by it. (G-19) Business Law Today 6th Edition

 

The utilitarian perspective, also called teleology or consequentialism, as we mentioned, focuses on the ends instead of the means. The means are no doubt important, but only in how they shape conditions that drive us towards a desired end. Utilitarian philosophers look to the positive value provided to society through the conduct of an action in comparison to the negative value that is lost. They frequently use the terms "Utility" or "Happiness" to describe the exchange of value but also use terms such as happiness and pain for consequences that go beyond the purely subjective sensations those terms are generally reserved for. Pleasure can be more than sexual or sensual gratification, as it can also refer to the relief provided to the starving or homeless, those afflicted by disease or conflict, or even positive improvements to one's social standing. Pain, conversely, can be more than physical or mental suffering but also includes a loss of influence or opportunities, failure in goals or objectives, or societal conflict. In simpler terms, things that could be considered pleasures were "good" things, and "bad" things were pains.

 

The utilitarian seeks to create outcomes in which there is more pleasure than pain. But naturally, the implication of more pleasure and less pain implies we have a method of quantifying these subjective concepts. Obviously, one pain unit of torture is not equivalent to one pleasure unit of a hearty meal, so determining levels of pain and pleasure would be a subjective matter. Additionally, trying to judge the priority of pains and pleasures would also have to be somewhat subjective. Giving water to those who need it could be considered a pleasure, but obviously, a person dying of thirst would enjoy it to a greater degree than one who is simply parched. Punching someone could be considered a pain, but obviously, punching a weak person will hurt to a greater degree than punching someone who is a trained fighter. Also, how does one take into account the relationship between the one doing the act and others who may or may not be affected by the actions? People may misconstrue a utilitarian as one who is only focused on generating the greatest amount of happiness for themselves, but instead, the utilitarian focuses on the general state of happiness for all involved.

 

John Stuart Mill, an English utilitarian philosopher, wrote in his book titled Utilitarianism, said:

 

I have dwelt on this point, as being a necessary part of a perfectly just conception of Utility or Happiness, considered as the directive rule of human conduct. But it is by no means an indispensable condition to the acceptance of the utilitarian standard; for that standard is not the agent's own greatest happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness altogether; and if it may possibly be doubted whether a noble character is always the happier for its nobleness, there can be no doubt that it makes other people happier, and that the world in general is immensely a gainer by it. Utilitarianism, therefore, could only attain its end by the general cultivation of nobleness of character, even if each individual were only benefited by the nobleness of others, and his own, so far as happiness is concerned, were a sheer deduction from the benefit. (16-17)

 

Utilitarians work under the precept that the best thing for society is that its people act for the greater good of all involved and that this generally creates a greater environment for all of society. There are times, however, that to achieve this greater good, some "bad" things need to occur to make it so. While these "bad" things may be morally questionable, something that a deontologist would say a person absolutely should never do on moral grounds alone, the utilitarian may feel it is morally acceptable if the pleasure created outweighs the pain caused. But, of course, we are back to trying to judge pains and pleasures in an objective way.

 

The military itself often operates under a utilitarian perspective; after all, most would consider killing and destruction to be "bad" things. The utilitarian-military mind would concur with this sentiment, and most students of war and those who experienced conflict firsthand would agree, but to justify their actions, they look toward the outcome they are trying to achieve. Everyone has a reason for why they engage in violence which would be related to the five factors of human violence put forth by Steven Pinker, whom we discussed back in Chapter 2.0: On Violence, even if the reason was something as inconsequential as pure sadistic amusement. But the military mind is more pragmatic.

 

While different cultures will put forth their own concepts of why they engage in violence, often, the military leaders and the warfighters of those cultures share a lot in common with their counterparts on the other side of the battlefield. To win and survive requires an understanding of the principles of war, the intersection of human organizations and cultures, technological development, and the natural environment. Much of the focus on military planning and execution revolves around Clausewitzian ends, ways, and means, and as a result, they need to have a logical and reasonable justification for their actions. Since ultimate victory is tied to the achievement of the political ends, naturally, the ways and means need to focus on achieving that end. Therefore, the military mind is a utilitarian mind, because the only effective way to judge one's actions as ethical, as expected behaviors that benefit their society, is to work towards achieving that end. In other words, an immoral act that helps achieve military objectives can be seen as an ethical action.

 

For an example of an immoral act being ethical, we need only look to the doctrine of double effect. In Helen Frowe's book, The Ethics of War and Peace 2nd Edition, she defines it as:

 

Doctrine of double effect: the claim that it can be permissible to cause harm as a side-effect of pursuing a (proportionate) good. (262)

 

Double effect is the justification used by the military when they engage a legitimate military target where there is a potential that some collateral concern may be negatively impacted. These collateral concerns could include the injuring or killing of non-combatants and the damage or destruction of economic, cultural, or religious infrastructure. There could be a weapons stockpile in the basement of a hospital, an enemy leadership meeting near a cemetery, or an enemy vehicle parked outside a church. Basically, there are things in the battlespace that we don't want to negatively impact, but military necessity demands that we put them at risk in order to create a destructive effect upon a military target. If we take into account all the "good" that will come from engaging the target and subtract all the "bad" that will also come as a result of negatively impacting nearby collateral concerns, if the outcome is still positive, then through the doctrine of double effect it is an ethical action. In fact, because the outcome is positive, not engaging the target could be viewed as an unethical act in certain situations. Just as choosing to pull the lever in the proverbial "Trolley Problem," to doom one innocent person to save five innocent people, is ethical, and choosing not to pull the lever is unethical from the perspective of the utilitarian.

Deontology (Moral Order)

The moral intuitions (and some would add religious revelation) of our forebears have created [a] deposit of moral knowledge, this corpus of rules… From the body of rules has developed a school of ethics known as deontology, which in essence holds that we have a duty to perform certain tasks measured by these rules or principles, regardless of the consequences. (80-81) Morals Under the Gun

The other end of the "trolley problem" spectrum is the person who chooses not to pull the lever, allowing five to die, because they view it as an immoral act to participate in an action that kills an innocent person. They understand that through inaction, more will die, but choose not to participate in the act solely on the justification that doing so is immoral. The ends are a net negative, but they believe that good or better outcomes can't come at the cost of a "wrong" and immoral method. The utilitarian would argue that the deontologist is acting unethically because, from their viewpoint, the ends are what matter most and that by choosing not to pull the lever, they have allowed more harm to occur. The deontologist, however, cares only for the intention of the act, and killing an innocent to save other innocents is still wrong, regardless of the math involved in the decision.

 

A common counter-hypothetical used by deontologists to argue their position takes the same innocent people in the "trolly problem" except puts them in a medical dilemma. The argument goes, if you have five innocent people suffering from some type of organ failure, would it be ethical to harvest the organs from a healthy and innocent individual to save the other five? The deontologist sees it as an immoral act, depriving the life of an individual to save the other five, and argues that this is similar to pulling the lever and dooming an innocent person to death to save the five people on the other track. The deontologists are focused on the intention of the act itself, and if the act contains some element of immorality, even if the ultimate intention is good, then the whole endeavor is immoral and should not be followed through.

 

That a whole action should not be engaged in, even with positive outcomes, can be partially attributed to the idea of universal law and types of imperative decision-making related to it. While many decisions people make in life are of little moral consequence, such as deciding what to eat for dinner or what type of profession a child seeks to pursue when they become an adult, the deontologist doesn't put forth any concern for universal law as any imperative to accomplish these intentions as these are purely conditional to the desires of the individual with no greater ethical consideration. Another imperative comes into play when morals are involved. These two imperatives (decisions for one should act given the situation) are called hypothetical and categorical imperatives, respectively.

 

Immanuel Kant, in his book Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, discusses these imperatives when he says:

 

When I think of a hypothetical imperative in general, I do not know beforehand what it will contain; I do not know this until I am given the condition. But when I think of a categorical imperative, I know at once what it contains. For, since the imperative contains, beyond the law, only the necessity that the maxim be in conformity with this law, while the law contains no condition to which it would be limited, nothing is left with which the maxim of action is to conform but the universality of a law as such; and this conformity alone is what the imperative properly represents as necessary.

 

There is, therefore, only a single categorical imperative and it is this: act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.

Now, if all imperatives of duty can be derived from this single imperative as from their principle, then, even though we leave it undecided whether what is called duty is not as such an empty concept, we shall at least be able to show what we think by it and what the concept wants to say.

 

Since the universality of law in accordance with which effects take place constitutes what is properly called nature in the most general sense (as regards its form) - that is, the existence of things insofar as it is determined in accordance with universal laws - the universal imperative of duty can also go as follows: act as if the maxim of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature. (31)

 

Kant's hypothetical imperative are those conditional situations in which morals are irrelevant to the decision-making process. The only ethical consideration for an individual under a hypothetical imperative is to do what is necessary to accomplish the desired ends; simple enough. On the other hand, Kant's categorical imperatives are those in which one of the conditions of the decision-making process is of a moral nature, and Kant suggests that one should act as if one believes everyone else should act the same way in that given situation. In other words, for an action to be morally permissible, it must be conceivable and acceptable for everyone to act according to the same principle in similar situations. It isn't that any action is identified as moral or not, but that the maxims that justify that action are universally applicable. In this case, if a deontologist believes that the illegal killing of an individual is wrong in one instance, then it is wrong in all instances. The military's utilitarian doctrine of double effect, therefore, should not be engaged in because the killing of a non-combatant is itself morally wrong, even if the ends would otherwise justify it. "You can't do bad to do good," they might say.

 

So, for the deontologists, their decision-making process revolves around appealing to the moral framework that shapes a society's perception of what is "good" and "bad" behavior. Afterward, when looking at the expected behavior of individuals within a profession or industry, their ethics, they will focus mainly on the third element of an ethic: the "guiding moral principles," whereas the utilitarian is focused on the accomplishment of their purpose, the ends, found within the second element of an ethic; their "supporting roles" to society. This isn't to say that both deontologists and utilitarians don't support the other elements of their ethic; only one takes priority over the other. The deontologist will seek to fulfill the roles that society expects of them, but not at the expense of moral principles. Conversely, the utilitarian will seek to be moral, but if morals prevent them from accomplishing their mission and there are no other options, then morals will need to take a back seat to extenuating circumstances.

Legalism (Legal Order)

The Legalists advocated government by a system of laws that rigidly prescribed punishments and rewards for specific behaviors. They stressed the direction of all human activity toward the goal of increasing the power of the ruler and the state. Britannica

 

The origins of legalism are commonly attributed to Ancient China's Warring States Era (475 - 221 BC) philosophers. Having a cynical outlook on human nature, they believed that people needed a strong governing body that could institute and enforce codified laws that would compel the people to fall in line. Without laws and the strict enforcement of them, society had the potential to break down. Therefore, to avoid the state becoming the arbiter of what was "good" and "bad," what can be perceived to benefit the state and its control of the populace is considered "good." This could be juxtaposed with Taoist and Confucian philosophy, which believed that society required people to be in balance with nature and that people had a duty to fulfill certain roles respective to one another. But I don't necessarily want to dig into the history of legalism here, only that it came into existence in response to the failure of other philosophical systems to prevent human conflict and the breaking down of society.

 

When I use the term legalist, I generally refer to the appeal to the authority of the law alone, rather than any possible moralist, consequentialist, or harmonious reasoning behind its purpose. What can be called an "authority" can apply to charismatic and influential individuals and powerful organizations just as much as it can apply to states. The law, regulations, codes of conduct, or any other codified guidelines for how one should behave in relation to their environments, especially amongst other humans, are intended to ensure positive social harmony through compelled action. Should an individual violate the law in any way, then punishments are levied against them, with the severity of punishments relative to the severity of the consequences. 

 

While legalism is mainly focused on the nature of punishments for transgressions against the law, rewards are also emphasized for proper behavior. If the individual behaves according to the rules, then they are permitted to continue to partake in the benefits that society provides its members, meaning that often, the best reward is simply not to be ostracized. For those few individuals that have gone above and beyond, they are rewarded. Productive or positive members of society are heralded in various ways, such as through monetary rewards, entitled to privileged access to systems or people, or simply given positive social standing amongst others.

In militaries, alongside a utilitarian application of ethics, we also operate under a legalistic perspective of relationships and conduct. We see systems of rewards and punishments going back into antiquity, and these Chinese legalist philosophers would have seen legalism in action within Warring States era militaries and strategists like Sun-Tzu. The US military has its own laws within the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and certain negative behaviors have codified punishment, such as reduction of rank, forfeiture of pay, hard labor, discharge from service, imprisonment, and even execution for the most heinous violations of the law. UCMJ also allows commanders to leverage their authority and determine how to punish certain minor offenses in order to rehabilitate the violator in order to turn them around into positive servicemembers. In regard to positive and exemplary behavior, rewards are given in the form of privileges, excellent evaluations, and awards based on good conduct, valor, and heroism.

 

From the legalist's perspective, in order to be ethical, one must engage in behavior that is in accordance with the law, including regulations and codified guidelines, as we mentioned. It doesn't necessarily seek to explain why a particular law or regulation is "good" or "bad," only that the state or the authoritative body of an organization will claim that certain behaviors are required, and the legalist believes that adhering to these behaviors is necessary for good order and discipline within society. Sometimes the law may make sense, and rewards and punishments are just. Other times, the laws may seem obtuse or absurd, and rewards and punishments may be unjust. What matters is that adherence to the law is the priority. Individuals and subordinates making decisions on how to act based on personal judgments of merits and relationships will create an environment that is chaotic due to uncertainty on how people will behave in any given situation. Whether a law is "good" or "bad" is irrelevant to the legalist, as what matters is that it helps improve the control of the state, and it will be up to lawmakers to judge how best to write the laws.

 

But the legalists still need some source of moralistic foundation to justify the power they give their rule-makers. Yes, adherence to the law is what matters to traditional legalists since unity in behavior is what they truly believe is necessary for a harmonious society; however, you couldn't necessarily just empower any one individual into a position. The ruler needed to be sagely. They needed to be prudent when they wrote laws that were clearly defined, enforced, and uniform with all members of society. The rulers didn't need to be kind, but they needed to be just. Regardless of the criminal's station in life or their relationship to the authority, they would receive the same punishment as it is written in the law. So, be it in ancient China or a modern-day corporation, the legalist believes that no one is above the law and that all will be treated according to it.

 

Han Feizi, a Chinese Warring States era legalist philosopher, stated:

 

The intelligent ruler, in bestowing rewards, is as benign as the seasonable rain that the masses profit by his graces; in inflicting punishments, he is so terrific like the loud thunder that even divines and sages cannot atone for their crimes. Thus the intelligent ruler neglects no reward and remits no punishment. For, if reward is neglected, ministers of merit will relax their duties; if punishment is remitted, villainous ministers will become liable to misconduct. Therefore, men of real merit, however distant and humble, must be rewarded; those of real demerit, however near and dear, must be censured. If both the reward of the distant and humble and the censure of the near and dear are infallible, the distant and humble will not go idle while the near and dear will not turn arrogant. (35) The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu Volume 1 trans by W.K. Liao

 

The legalists focus on the equal distribution of rewards and punishments when enforcing the law, and while appearing very egalitarian, it is purely a means to instill a sense of expectation of behavior between the people and the state. Han Feizi believes that trying to institute a system where rewards and punishments change based on the personal and social relationships of ministers, generals, soldiers, constables, and the peasantry can create an environment of uncertainty. While local farmers may have humble origins, they are aroused to further action when virtuous leaders acknowledge and reward their efforts just as it would for nobles. While having one's hands chopped off for throwing ashes in the street may seem severe, even the nobility would not dare to do it. In a modern environment, a legalist would punish C-suite executives for regulatory violations to the same degree as they would low-level employees and reward both to the same extent for similar accomplishments.

 

The ancient legalist philosophers of China, however, still leveraged the philosophy of existing schools of thought, such as Confucianism and Taoism. Legalists are not necessarily contrarian to traditional thoughts of morality; only that a strong adherence to the law is necessary to keep people in line. As a result, legalists will leverage a contemporary understanding of the world, its nature, morals, and religious inclinations to reinforce and express their views to society. Indeed, in the writings of Han Feizi, he alludes to the ruler's relationship with the Tao.


If in accordance with Tao, the law is successfully enforced, the superior man will rejoice and the great culprit will give way. Placid, serene, and leisurely, the enlightened ruler should in accordance with the decree of heaven maintain the principal features of legalism. Therefore, he makes the people commit no crime of going astray from law and the fish suffer no disaster by losing water. Consequently, nothing in All-under-Heaven will be unattainable. (280)

Taoism (Natural Order)

The heart of Taoism is the Tao, which is usually translated as "the Way" and is the fundamental concept that all things in the universe are united by a fundamental principle: the Tao. All things have their place, and all things are connected to one another through the Tao. From the astral bodies, the weather, the seasons, and the flora and fauna, the Tao is simply how each thing relates with every other thing, and this includes humanity and our various endeavors and complex social structures. Anything a person can do can be attributed to the Tao in some fashion because the Tao permeates all things. If things are harmonious and you are successful in an endeavor, then it could be said that your actions were in accordance with the Tao. Conversely, if there is disharmony in the world and failure in your endeavors, then actions were not in accordance with the Tao.

 

In a sense, Taoist beliefs share something in common with contemporary scientific thought. As we discussed in Chapter 1.1: Fundamentals, the scientific community has purported the concept of the Grand Unified Theory, in that all matter and energy within the universe are bound and connected through a single set of rules. As of right now, we have the fundamental forces of the universe: electromagnetism, gravity, strong and weak nuclear forces, the Higgs Field, and each force's respective gauge bosons. To the best of our ability, these forces explain how everything works, from the formation of atoms and elements, the working of thermodynamics, the creation of the stars, planets, and systems, the formation and evolution of life, and even how the human body and mind function. Like a puzzle, the scientific community is working to fit all of these various forces into a completed picture they call the Grand Unified Theory, and as they discover more and understand the universe to a greater degree than they did before, the picture becomes a little clearer. It is in that sense that the Grand Unified Theory shares much with the Tao in that it is people's attempt to conceptualize the idea of something that connects everything.

 

Naturally, ancient Chinese Taoists didn't have the scientific understanding to comprehend the fundamental forces, the same as many ancient Greek philosophers. They made their attempts to better express and understand things through various concepts that they felt helped explain how things worked. Taoist key concepts include Wu Wei (effortless action), Yin-Yang (complementary forces), and a focus on inner cultivation for achieving balance and harmony. Hen Feizi, though a legalist, used Taoism to reinforce his points throughout his writings. For example, he stated:

 

Tao is the beginning of the myriad things, the standard of right and wrong. That being so, the intelligent ruler, by holding to the beginning, knows the source of everything, and, by keeping to the standard, knows the origin of good and evil. Therefore, by virtue of resting empty and reposed, he waits for the course of nature to enforce itself so that all names will be defined of themselves and all affairs will be settled of themselves. Empty, he knows the essence of fullness: reposed, he becomes the corrector of motion. Who utters a word creates himself a name; who has an affair creates himself a form. Compare forms and names and see if they are identical. Then the ruler will find nothing to worry about as everything is reduced to its reality. (30-10)

The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu Volume 1 trans by W.K. Liao

 

However, whereas the legalists seek to use the Tao to ensure people don't resist the legal order of the state or authority, the Taoist focuses on reducing resistance to the natural order of things. The Tao in traditional discussions is very ephemeral. It merely exists as a consequence of the existence of the universe itself. Though we may not truly understand a thing, we can postulate that a thing is bound by certain rules, and if we desire to be harmonious with that thing, then we need to follow those rules. However, the universe is vast and unknowing, so its rules must be complex and ambiguous, far too complicated for humans to fully understand. So, those two key concepts of Wu Wei, commonly translated as effortless action, and the Yin-Yang, which can have multiple meanings: feminine-masculine, negative-positive, attractive-repulsive, represent complementary forces within the universe. To better understand the natural order of the universe, Taoism requires the individual to reflect upon themselves and their environment to understand how things relate and how best to engage with them.

 

Once an individual understands how things operate in relation to one another, successful engagement in this system requires the individual to understand how their actions support the flow of this system or work against it. The natural order of a river is to flow downhill, and Wu Wei informs us that moving downhill with the water will be much easier than moving uphill against it. Trying to trek upriver through the current of the water will be slow and tiring, but floating downriver can be easy and effortless. In the realm of creative endeavors, a painting forcing creativity through willpower alone will not create great works of art that are expressive or fulfilling. Instead of forcing the brush or overthinking each stroke, the artist allows the creativity to flow naturally, expressing themselves without unnecessary effort. In this state of Wu Wei, the action becomes spontaneous, guided by intuition and a harmonious connection with the process, reflecting the Taoist principle of going with the flow rather than against it.

 

None of this is to imply that working against nature is inherently "bad" to a Taoist, just ineffective. Wu Wei exists to inform us of the reality that there are easy ways and hard ways to do things and that the easy way is to complement the natural order of things through our actions. They suggest going with the flow rather than working against it. Some things in the world, however, are not satisfactory to us, and we will seek to change them. Change itself can be uncomfortable to many due to the friction of working against well-established procedures, habits, and the surety they bring, especially in large organizations that are set in their ways. The Taoist, understanding that the way of doing things may appear natural and easy but may not produce the desired results, will acknowledge that it will require additional effort to institute a change. They will, however, after instituting a change, seek to understand how they have altered the environment, whether the complementary forces of Yin-Yang have changed to such an extent that the natural order itself has been altered, and will look to the Wu Wei where they will seek the most efficient way to reinforce and maintain that change.

 

The Taoist isn't necessarily concerned with morals. They simply acknowledge the nature of the universe as it is, just as a scientist wouldn't attribute morality to the movements of animals, the weather, or the cosmos. Therefore, what is unethical to a Taoist, meaning what Taoists expect of the behavior of other Taoists, is to accomplish their goals in accordance with the Tao. To seek harmony in the environment by the most efficient means possible. Now, they do have certain behaviors that they purport to be in accordance with the Tao, such as compassion, humility, and simplicity, but rather than treating them as morals as one should do they are merely suggestions of what one ought to do, and brings us into the realm of ethics. Reflecting upon oneself and the environment will inform the Taoist of what one ought to do at any given time, and if they act in accordance with the Tao, then they will see greater success, but if they go against the Tao, then it will require greater effort.

 

The Tao Te Ching, the preeminent Taoist work written by Laotzu in the 4th Century BC, reflects this perspective in regard to the use of military power by leaders, where he states:

 

If you use the way to help a ruler of people, you never use weapons to coerce all beneath heaven. Such things always turn against you:

 

Fields where soldiers camp turn to thorn and bramble, and vast armies on the march leave years of misery behind.

 

The noble prevail if they must, then stop: they never press on to coerce the world.

 

Prevail, but never presume. Prevail, but never boast. Prevail, but never exult. Prevail, but never when there's another way. This is to prevail without coercing.

 

Things grown strong soon grow old. This is called 'losing the Way': Lose the Way and you die young. (65)

 

Laotzu notes that a mobilized army can be destructive to the natural environment by merely existing, as its physical presence and the foraging it conducts to supplement food stores can easily strip the land, and when they maneuver to fight, their destructive consequences can last long after the battle is over. He doesn't state that war is bad; he only states that engaging in it has consequences that may not be desirable. The noble ruler should engage in war under the condition that it is both required and there are no other alternatives to resolve the problem that war seeks to solve.

 

The conduct of war is against the Tao because it seeks to alter the ways of society through the literal use of force, which produces a natural resistance. Taoism is about going with the flow, and if the state or group needs force to create change, then by design, it must work against the existing flow of human affairs to create that change. War has its own Tao, as there are effective methods of waging war and leading armies to accomplish ends, but as a whole, the concept of war is almost an antithesis to the Tao. But as we mentioned earlier, there may be times in which the individual identifies that the way things are is not acceptable. Going with the flow of a tyrannical government and supporting disingenuous and unvirtuous ministers may be easier but undesirable. The virtuous, under extenuating circumstances, may choose to work against the Tao through the use of conflict to change the environment to something more desirable. Again, working against the Tao isn't considered immoral or unethical; it is an acknowledgment that it will be difficult.

 

When dealing with Taoists, you will not necessarily find their decisions based on morals, as their morals would originate from some other school of thought, like religion, Confucianism, reciprocity, or utilitarianism. The Taoist may, however, hold an ethical viewpoint based on seeking desired ends through efficient and frictionless means. They may avoid conflict and instead focus on relationships and workarounds to solve problems. They may not necessarily scrap processes and systems that don't achieve desired ends if they can jury-rig a solution that is field-expedient at the time. They may, however, still engage in a conflict or deconstruct existing systems if they see no other options available to them to achieve their goals.

Confucianism (Filial Order)

Confucius (551-479 BC) was a philosopher during the time of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (771-256 BC) at the end of the Spring and Autumn Period (722-481 BC). During the time of the Eastern Zhou, the Zhou Dynasty saw its control over the various regional lords wane and would ultimately lead to the Warring States Period (403-221 BC) and the establishment of the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC). Much of our historical knowledge of this time period comes from Confucius's work, the Spring and Autumn Annals, where he accounts for the events that occurred from within the state of Lu, a subordinate feudal domain of the Zhou Dynasty. From Confucius's perspective, he saw the weakening of the Zhou and the rising power of various lords and influential families upsetting the social order.

 

To correct the social disorder that was occurring, Confucius set forth to create an ethical system that was more secular, grounded in the human domain, than the systems encouraged by the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. In commentaries provided by David Hinton, in his translations of Confucius's Analects in his book The Four Chinese Classics, he succinctly states:

 

Confucius developed a social philosophy from the empirical observation that human society is a structure, a weave of relationships: parent and child, ruler and subject, friend and friend, merchant and customer, and so forth. Confucius invested this anthropological insight with a philosophical dimension by recognizing that a healthy community depends upon an attitude of human caring among its members - most especially its government, which should nurture first, teach second, and only then govern. Always looking to the past as his source of wisdom, Confucius saw that societies flourished when their citizens (their rulers above all) honored this moral principle, and inevitably crumbled when they ignored it. (223)

 

During Confucius's time, society already had concepts of how society should function, the role that religion and spirituality played in one's life, and how everything was interconnected. He could not simply upend every facet of life, destroying the very fabric of society, to institute his beliefs. He had to work within the existing social structure and leverage people's understanding of the world to create a new perspective. What I mean to say is that instead of saying that Taoism's understanding of the universe, the veneration of the spirits, and animist rituals were no longer applicable, he would incorporate them into his own teachings. He would use the words and terms that people already understood and redefine them to align with his own views of how individuals should function within society. Treating your subordinates as if they were your own children; respecting and venerating your superiors as if they were your parents; enforcing laws that support social harmony; meeting one’s obligations to others; caring for the weak; and respecting rituals that kept communities and the greater society functioning, were not against the teachings (the way) of the Tao. In fact, following Confucius's teachings was the Tao, as this was the proper way for society to function, bring about harmony amongst all men, and ensure that communities flourished.

 

Wu Wei's effortless actions could be made even more effortless when people simply align themselves with their social roles. If people simply do as society expects of them, then society will function efficiently. Parents and children, rulers and commoners, superior and subordinate military leaders, merchants and customers, all of these relationships could already be covered in the Taoist concept of Yin-Yang, and these complementary forces were the foundation of society itself. As a result, Confucian belief was easily adopted alongside Taoism because they didn't inherently conflict with one another. Where the Taoist would say that one needs to reflect on the nature of the universe and how it flows and to avoid working against it when possible, the Confucianist would say that the lion's share of that reflection should be focused on social relationships.

 

They would note that nature exists as a force that humans not only exist within but is also an element of humanity itself. We, as humans, in an effort to control nature for our benefit, seek to understand it so that we may improve our lot as a species. The Taoist concurs that understanding nature will teach one the best way to act that produces minimal struggle, while the Confucian focuses on controlling the nature that is within each person and group of people. The Confucian focuses on the development of human culture as a means to control the more basic natural instincts of humans, which can lead to conflict, hardships, and struggle for society. This culture includes not only the focus on enforcing morals and ethics but also on an understanding of why it is important. When culture weakens, humans become more animalistic, more brutal, and less caring of their fellow man. Confucius, therefore, worked to educate the people on how to improve humanity through the reaffirmation of traditional cultural norms that he saw as essential to good order and discipline within society. He looked at the historical periods of the Shang and early Zhou Dynasties to see what worked well at the peak of their power and stability. He saw that humanity worked best when people stuck to their social roles and had a strong moral character, and he would begin the process of teaching his views to disciples into a school of thought that we now call Confucianism.

 

He did not want to supplant Taoism, only provide it with some actionable principles. Confucian thought still supports the concept of the Tao (the way) but adds that the Tao of humanity is through a series of complementary relationships within society. Confucian thought still supports the concept of Yin-Yang but focuses on the complementary forces that play within the relationships of humans, such as leaders and led, husband and wife, parent and child. Confucian thought still supports Wu Wei but adds that for humans, the best way to encourage a society that aligns with the Tao in the most effective manner is through people doing as is expected of them based on their station in life and being wise and noble in character. Two passages from the Analects of Confucius help convey this message when it states:

 

People are too wild when nature dominates culture in them, and too tame when culture dominates nature. But when nature and culture are blended and balanced in them, they're noble-minded. (267) VI-17

 

If you use government to show them the way and punishment to keep them true, the people will grow evasive and lose all remorse. But if you use Integrity to show them the Way and Ritual to keep them true, they'll cultivate remorse and always see deeply into things. (239) II-3

 

The first passage conveys an understanding that humans without culture are no more different than any other animal within nature. It shows that through the cultivation of culture, humans control their baser instincts and are able to work cooperatively and care for one another. With care and control, humans can be tamed in a sense. But there are times in which humans can leverage the beast within them to fight against nature when necessary. Tame people can be easily conquered by those outside of the group who are more violent and aggressive, and it is neither wise nor moral to cultivate a society that permits itself to be in a docile and pacifist position at all times. There are times when the barbarians are at the gates, and the calculated and strategic employment of humanity's nature of violence will be necessary to safeguard society. In other words, a culture of responsibilities and shared expectations is important for tranquility within the group, but the culture can't get in the way of doing what is necessary to protect the group from those outside the group who don't align themselves with the same culture. It is "noble-minded' to affirm a society that can balance both when the situation requires it.

 

In the second passage, we first see Confucius denounce the heavy-handed approach of using the law to correct human behavior, a basis of what would eventually become the legalist school of thought. He believed that people needed to be bought into the idea of being morally strong individuals who did what was expected of them based on their social status. Being wise requires understanding the nature of human relationships and following strict protocols of human behavior. If one leverages the law to excess, then people no longer care for others and only look to protect themselves. To get the buy-in of society, rulers must seek to teach the people the ways and rituals that make humans good and allow societies to flourish. Once people understand and cultivate virtue within themselves, they can reflect upon society and their role within it, which, in turn, creates harmony among the people.

 

While we look upon the morals that make a person virtuous, Confucius never really listed them out for simplicity of reference. From the readings attributed to him, like the Analects, we can get an idea of the morals at play that create the basis for Confucian ethics, of what Confucian beliefs make a person a good member of society. Confucian ethics advocates several moral values as being critical; these include:

 

  • Ren (Benevolence): Cultivating compassion, kindness, and empathy towards others.

  • Li (Ritual Propriety): Observing proper social rituals, manners, and etiquette.

  • Yi (Righteousness): Upholding moral integrity, justice, and doing what is right.

  • Zhi (Wisdom): Striving for wisdom, understanding, and making sound judgments.

  • Xin (Honesty and Trustworthiness): Emphasizing sincerity, honesty, and maintaining trust.

  • Xiao (Filial Piety): Respecting and honoring one's parents and ancestors.

  • Xian (Integrity): Maintaining personal integrity and moral character.

 

The crux of a Confucianist's perspective of one's actions in the world revolves around the first two morals, Ren and Li, which are commonly translated as benevolence and ritual propriety, respectively. All other morals held by an individual end up acting as components to these two overarching morals of caring for others and engaging in expected social behaviors. Even filial piety, Xiao, one of the most notable forms of Confucian ethics, is merely a component of the first two. Li emphasizes the proper relationships of all humans, including parents and children, and through Ren, the child shows care for their parents and ancestors just as it compels the parents to care for their children. However, filial piety is still a critical element of Confucianism as the parent-child relationship is one of the most commonly referenced and analogous relationships that bind all other relationships. This parent-child relationship is so strong in the culture that even a contemporary of Confucius, famed strategist to the state of Wu, Sun-Tzu, in his Art of War, would reference this inclination to parents and children when he said:

 

When the general regards his troops as young children, they will advance into the deepest valleys with him. When he regards the troops as his beloved children, they will be willing to die with him.

If they are well treated but cannot be employed, if they are loved but cannot be commanded, or when in chaos they cannot be governed, they may be compared to arrogant children and cannot be used. (177)

 

These values are central to Confucian ethics and guide individuals in their personal conduct and interactions within society. They would be taught to his disciples, and they would teach them to others. One such disciple was Xunzi, who, in his own writings, would provide greater clarity on the application of Confucian ethics in the management of the state, especially in its responsibilities to the people. In those writing, he said:

 

Promote the worthy and the capable without waiting for them to rise through the ranks. Dismiss the unfit and the incapable without waiting for even a single moment. Execute those who incite others to bad deeds without waiting to teach them. Transform the ordinary people without waiting for government controls. If social divisions are not yet set, then take control of illuminating the proper bonds. Even the sons and grandsons of kings, dukes, gentry, and grand ministers, if they cannot submit to ritual and [righteousness], should be assigned the status of commoners. Even the sons and grandsons of commoners, if they accumulate culture and learning, correct their person and conduct, and can submit to ritual and [righteousness], should be assigned the status of prime minister, gentry, or grand minister. (68) Xunzi


For a Confucian like Xunzi, we can see the priority of ethics at play. Beyond all things, they hold their moral values as the preeminent metric for determining one's worth. Unlike utilitarians who focus on achieving the desired end through any means necessary, the Confucian will see the only effective way to achieve the end as coming through the promotion and affirmation of people of moral worth. A ruler who achieves peace through brutality and dishonesty will not be able to maintain a stable society, and the people will suffer under such a person. A child who dishonors their parents, a merchant who cheats their customers, a military leader who disobeys their superior's orders, or any other individual who seeks to accomplish an end by circumventing proper social norms and does so without concern for the wellbeing of others, can only set a poor foundation that will inevitably create future suffering and hardships for all involved.

Stoicism (Personal Order)

In Ancient Greece, they had a concept called eudaimonia, which refers to the acknowledgment of a life well-spent. It is often translated as "happiness," but it is much more than that. Eudaimonia is not a fleeting emotion or pleasure but a state of living in accordance with one's true nature and realizing one's full potential. It is achieved through the cultivation of virtue, rationality, and the pursuit of excellence, and the achievement of this state of mind is the ultimate goal of the school of Stoicism. Stoics seek to understand the natural order of things, much like in Taoism, but unlike Taoist's desire to understand it so that they can go with the flow of nature through Wu Wei (effortless action), the Stoic seeks to understand it so that they can focus on what they can actually control within their life's to achieve a state of Eudaimonia.

 

The Stoic understanding of the universe, what they call Logos, is grounded as much in the study of physics as it is through mere philosophical reasoning that one achieves through meditation. Contrary to traditional Taoism in Ancient China, Ancient Greco-Roman Stoics sought to understand nature through scientific endeavor as well. Since all things are interconnected in some manner, this connection should be testable in some fashion. An important aspect of the study of physics for a Stoic is the ability to understand one's place in the universe. When the individual understands their limited and rather insignificant importance in the grand scheme of things, then they can let go of the aspects of their life they can't control and live a more fulfilled life according to nature. One famous practitioner of Stoicism was the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180 AD), and he reflected on this sentiment at various points in his own personal writings. These writings, which we now refer to as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, state:

 

Make they own a scientific system of inquiry into the mutual change of all things, and pay diligent heed to this branch of study and exercise thyself in it. For nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind. Let a man do this and he divests himself of his body and, realizing that he must almost at once relinquish all these things and depart among men, he gives himself up wholly to just dealing in all his actions, and to the Universal Nature in all that befalls him. What others may say or think about him or do against him he does not even let enter his mind, being well satisfied with these two things - justice in all present acts and contentment with his present lot. And he gives up all engrossing cares and ambitions, and has no other wish than to achieve the straight course through the law and, by achieving it, to be a follower of God. (273)

 

Marcus Aurelius doesn't state a particular method for studying how the universe functions, only that the individual seeks out their own method of doing so. We do know, based on his writings and those of other Stoics, that they engaged in simple experiments and observations of the natural world. Their understanding of the natural world, of course, was simplistic. Classifying the basic elements of matter, such as earth, water, air, and fire, was common in the ancient world, but the Stoics could still experiment with the relationship of these elements to understand Logos. For example, one could use fire to bring water to a boil and turn it into air, which in turn could be cooled back down into water. Matter had these components within them to varying degrees, and either through nature or through human intention, these elements could be brought out, such as using heat and friction to bring out the fire of straw that could then be used to bring out the fire of wood; straw and wood being classified as matter made predominantly of the earth element.

 

The accuracy and incorrect interpretations and presumptions of nature are not as important as their effort to try to understand it was. These early scientists were able to come pretty close to correctly assessing how the universe functioned in some aspects. For example, our modern term "atom" comes from the Greek word atomos, which means indivisible or uncuttable. They made the reasoned observation that matter could only be divided so many times and that, at some point, you could no longer cut something in half. These atomos were the foundation of all matter, and things were either atoms or the void, which was the empty space between atoms. And this understanding of the natural world helps frame the Stoic mindset into one of acceptance. Because as Marcus Aurelius would put it:

 

Either there is one intelligent source, from which as in one body all after things proceed - and the part ought not to grumble at what is done in the interests of the whole - or there are atoms, and nothing but a medley and a dispersion. (253)

 

Modern references to Stoicism often reflect the steadfast and emotionally controlled behavior of the individual. A person who accepts the world for what it is without becoming too pessimistic or agitated. A person who focuses on developing themselves rather than complaining about things which they can't control, such as the affections of others, the conflict and hatred of enemies, and the conditions of the marketplace, all of which play a part in the quality of one’s life. In fact, whether one’s life is of quality or not is much more of a subjective assessment for a Stoic than it is an objective one. What happens to us humans, as Marcus Aurelius alludes to, is either the result of us simply playing our "part" in the grand scheme of some higher power's intelligent design, or we are simply a product of natural forces that have no intention other than to follow a set of physical rules. In either case, he suggests, we can pray or work to become stronger and wiser, and/or we can accept things for how they are.

 

However, Marcus Aurelius was as much a student of Stoicism as a philosopher and practitioner of it. In reality, we may only refer to him as a philosopher because we were able to read his journal (his Meditations), and be philosophized through his personal ruminations on the topic. He had his own sources from which he was able to develop his understanding of the world, and this would include two other earlier Stoics that we should discuss, but by no means are the only ones the emperor studied.

 

Epictetus, a 1st Century AD Greek Stoic philosopher, was born into slavery and possibly made lame with a leg impairment during that time. No doubt his station in life gave him a particular perspective on the world that would manifest in his Stoic beliefs. Indeed, a focus on controlling the things in life that one can, being emotionally reserved when things don't go as planned, and learning to accept things as they are when one can't change things would have served him well. The focus on cultivating inner thoughts and intentions while accepting that they are those external elements that can't be controlled is important to what he sees as true freedom and happiness. This Stoic perspective of honing the inner self and dismissing external concerns is reflected in his writings in the Enchiridion when he states:

 

There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.

 

Now the things within our power are by nature free, unrestricted, unhindered; but those beyond our power are weak, dependent, restricted, alien. Remember then, that, if you attribute freedom to things by nature dependent, and take what belongs to others for your own; you will be hindered, you will lament, you will be disturbed, you will find fault both with Gods and men. But if you take for your own only that which is your own, and view what belongs to others just as it really is, then no one will ever compel you, no one will restrict you, you will find fault with no one, you will accuse no one, you will do nothing against your will; no one will hurt you, you will not have an enemy, nor will you suffer any harm.

 

Aiming therefore at such great things, remember that you must not allow yourself any inclination, however slight, towards the attainment of the others; but that you must entirely quit some of them, and for the present postpone the rest. But if you would have these, and possess power and wealth likewise, you may miss the later in seeking the former; and you will certainly fail of that, by which alone happiness and freedom are procured. (377-378)

 

Epictetus identifies that there are things in this world that are in our power to directly control and manage our lives, and that is our thoughts. He classifies these opinions, aims, desires, and aversions as elements of our "own affairs." Each of these is directly tied to one's perspective of the world and how one reacts to that perspective. Opinions on topics and people shape how an individual treats them. Aims and desires will compel an individual to focus their efforts towards a desired objective and end. And aversion will dissuade them from engaging in a particular course of action or repel them from working with people or using certain ways and means. All of these elements are part of the inner critical thought of the human mind. He doesn't necessarily consider the health of the body to be of one's "own affairs," probably as a result of being made disabled via his servitude as a slave. Yes, to a certain extent, people have control over their bodies as they can improve their physical strength and flexibility as well as boost their immune system through proper diet and exercise, but there are elements of the world that can impact our health that we don't have the power to control; such as disease and injury. In these cases, we can only control how we choose to respond to them through risk mitigation and contingency planning.

 

He identifies things that are outside of our power, such as the body, like we just mentioned, the property that we own, our reputation with others, and our station in life. Just like improving the body, we can work to shape and control all of these things, but the issue is that other people and the natural world also have the ability to attempt to control them. To the stoic, you have the power to control your thoughts, and no one can take that control away from you. But people can harm your body, they can take your property, they can think differently of you, and you can be made destitute. Epictetus notes that these are external to one's own affairs and can cause hardships and stress when one tries to control them because one will have to struggle against other forces, people, and nature that may try to deny that control. Just imagine the amount of stress that comes with worrying about income, getting older and weaker, losing attractiveness, being disrespected, losing your job, becoming homeless, and the death of loved ones. These things we don't have the power to control. We do have the power to influence them, and we struggle every day of our lives with trying to do so in one fashion or another, and this causes us great stress.

 

Epictetus isn't here to necessarily state that our desire to attempt to control external affairs is a bad thing, only that doing so can cause us hardships. He focuses on the value that should be placed on personal assessments of the situation, the focus on being right and just, and accepting things for as they are. He merely states that when one pursues these other things that are external to us, one should be prepared to "quit some of them" and, if needed, "postpone the rest" if they get in the way of honing one's inner self. Your inner self, what and how you think about yourself and the world, to the Stoic, is one of the most important things you can do to improve yourself and act justly to others in accordance with the nature of things. If you have to abandon "such great things" in order to gain capital, property, and the admiration of others, then you will be a slave to your desires instead of being in control of them. He isn't implying that you shouldn't pursue a good-paying job, work to improve your strength, or seek to purchase a new home, only that you shouldn't suffer anguish if you don't get what you set out to do or if you lose what you already had. It is a "better luck next time," a "plenty of fish in the sea," or a "treasure the time you have," type of mentality we are talking about. By focusing on your inner self and learning how to let go of things that you can't control when it would benefit you to do so, he suggests, this is what you need to do to find happiness and true freedom.

 

Lucius Annnaeus Seneca, also known as Seneca the Younger, was a 1st-century AD Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and playwright. He served under Emperor Nero but was eventually accused of being part of a conspiracy and was compelled to take his own life rather than be executed. Other than his standalone essays on various Stoic topics, such as "On the Shortness of Life" and "On Peace of Mind," over half of our current selection of Seneca's writings come from a series of letters he wrote to his friend. This collection of letters is commonly referred to as the Letters to Lucilius, and in his first letter to Lucilius the Younger, a Roman statesman, titled "On Saving Time," we see the stoic's perspective on the ephemeral concept of time itself and life's fleeting nature. He states:

 

Make yourself believe the truth of my words - that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years lie behind us are in death's hands. (1)

 

In much the same way that Epictetus purports that there are things that are outside of our power to control, Seneca tacitly acknowledges that time itself, the flow of time, progresses regardless of our efforts. Time will progress, and we will die, eventually. For Seneca, however, the message is relatively clear: we should be focused on making the most of the time that we have engaged in activities that are aligned with our purpose. The purpose of the Stoic could generally be considered the principles of Stoicism, such as living according to reason, virtue, self-improvement, and in accordance with the natural order of things. However, it could also include simply living your life according to your own aims and desires that fulfill you and help you achieve that state of eudaimonia, where, on your deathbed, you can reflect and be proud of having lived a productive and worthwhile life.

 

He writes this to Lucilius mainly as a teaching method to help him avoid the frivolous things in life that may take up our time. Life itself is fleeting, and we can't get our time back, so we shouldn't waste it on things that don't provide value in some capacity. Improving one's mind and body, engaging with friends, developing strong relationships, and working hard to achieve some difficult and worthwhile goal all must be done during the fleeting time we have to do it. He doesn't necessarily discourage recreation, only that one be mindful that one shouldn't waste time for the sake of wasting time or being engaged in activities that are counter to a virtuous and fulfilling life, such as being engaged in vice.

 

The social expectation of behavior for a Stoic, therefore, is one founded primarily on internal reflection and self-improvement. A focus on working with the natural world requires an understanding of how that world functions, so the Stoic encourages reflecting upon one's life and the lives of those around them. They encourage the use of reason, logic, and practical experimentation to develop the wisdom they need to understand, complement, and utilize the natural world in an efficient manner so that they can fulfill their purpose in life. A purpose that is aligned with virtue and nature, and working alongside others in a way that provides value to our limited and fleeting lives before our eventual deaths.

 

For a Stoic, ethics is about developing an understanding of the nature of things as they are and using that understanding to live a fulfilled life. It would be unethical to engage in activities and behaviors that are counter to this. For them, failing to align one's actions with traditional virtues such as prudence, courage, justice, and wisdom would be considered unethical. Additionally, not displaying care for others and consideration for how one's actions may or may not negatively impact others would also be considered unethical behavior. In short, Stoics expect actions that are well-thought-out, tempered in emotion, and considerate of others and nature, and discourage frivolous acts that waste time and don't help accomplish one's purpose.

Nihilism (Nothing Order)

While not necessarily a school of thought, we should note that there are people out there with the viewpoint that there is no greater purpose in the universe and, therefore, no inherent moralistic foundation that is correct. These people may still subscribe to the morals of others and to the ethical frameworks demanded of society, but they do so out of a pragmatic and self-centered rationale. They understand the consequences of killing others may result in others killing them, so they avoid killing to protect themselves rather than adhering to some moral concept that killing is bad or evil. Killing is only bad because they themselves may be killed, and that is objectively and subjectively bad for them personally. This can apply to stealing, cheating, lying, or any other moral or ethical behavior. If they are willing to accept the consequences, then they may engage in any type of behavior, even if others view it as wrong.

 

In Latin, the word for "nothing" is called nihil, and one of its first uses as a philosophical perspective can be found in the novel Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev, who popularized the term "nihilist" when it was used to describe the character Bazarov. The character Arkady, an acquaintance of Bazarov, attempts to describe the nihilist perspective to his uncle Nikolai. Nikolai is at first confused as to what such a perspective could lead to, to which his nephew clarifies that it depends on the individual. To paraphrase the conversation, Arkady says this about a nihilist:

 

A man who treats things solely from the critical point of view. A Nihilist is a man who declines to bow to authority, or to accept any principle on trust, however sanctified it may be… [about what it may lead to, it] depends upon the individual. In one man's case, it may lead to good; in that of another, to evil. (26)

 

The nihilist doesn't engage in ethics on moralistic grounds, because, to them, morals are socially-conceived. Any behavior that is judged as either good or bad should be based on an empirical assessment by the individual and not simply taken as truth by the dictate of others. Outside of nihilism, rules, and codes of conduct promoted by people in positions of authority can be viewed through a moral lens because, for many people, there was a link between the roles of governance and cardinal virtues. If they were in power, it would be argued that they must be men of virtue or divinely appointed, and their judgment was morally sound. Those in authority have great sway in the behavior of others, as well as the leaders of religious institutions and close friends and family. Because we respect them, we trust their judgment and alter our actions based on that judgment. The nihilist, however, bases their actions upon their own critical analysis, not trust, even if that trust comes from respected or "sanctified" sources, such as beloved leaders, religious texts, or even a parent.

 

This isn't to say that a nihilist will automatically deny that the rules and behaviors required by others are acceptable. They will determine whether or not those guidelines are good or bad for themselves through critical thought. A nihilist would probably still accept that murder is bad, not because religion said it was bad or that it is written in law that it shouldn't be done, but that it makes logical and rational sense for the nihilist not to kill others without a socially acceptable purpose. Religious morals and laws are intended to maintain harmony among the somewhat disparate members of society. People within society identify that certain behaviors are either beneficial or detrimental to the group, and guidelines and laws are produced to control people's behaviors accordingly. Instead of simply taking those guidelines and laws as truth, they seek to come to their own conclusion during the decision-making process.

 

Because a nihilist decides what is good or bad for themselves, the character Arkady implies that it could lead to what others would consider as either good or evil based solely on the nature of the individual doing the decision making. That is an objectively correct assessment because within that social setting, we have certain expectations of how others will act, and it can be disconcerting if you have a member who can deviate from expectations based on their own assessment. However, if a group's existing morals and laws are practical and are themselves based on an assessment of what is best for the group members, like trying to control murder, theft, or other undesired activities, the nihilist may still inadvertently follow those morals and laws because they themselves have come to the same conclusion that these activities are also bad.

 

The nihilist desires to question the orthodoxy of currently held beliefs in morality and just action. They acknowledge that principles for good behavior, laws to punish bad behavior, and institutions that promote this dichotomy have been useful for a society to function. However, it requires a populace to be somewhat submissive and placated by what is essentially a belief system. Yes, we can argue about the consequences of stealing, cheating, killing, and other generally nefarious activities, but eventually, we all resort to referring to the guidelines, principles, laws, and aphorisms that make it easier to get compliance from others. This perspective can be found in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900 AD), a German philosopher who, in his book Beyond Good and Evil, wrote:

 

In every 'Science of Morals' hitherto, strange as it may sound, the problem of morality itself has been omitted: there has been no suspicion that there was anything problematic there! That which philosophers called 'giving a basis to morality', and endeavored to realize, has, when seen in a right light, proved merely a learned form of good faith in prevailing morality, a new means of its expression, consequently just a matter-of-fact within the sphere of a definite morality, yea, in its ultimate motive, a sort of denial that it is lawful for this morality to be called into question - and in any case the reverse of the testing, analyzing, doubting and vivisecting of this very faith. (78)

 

Nietzsche notes that society, those communities with a strong sense of moral discipline, often don't question the very morals that guide their decisions. They simply take their morals as truth and act accordingly. Those in power, both in terms of governance and in spirituality, require simple compliance through what he sees as merely faith-based adherence to rules. They are accepted, not questioned, and for him, at least, he believes that this stifles individual creativity and exceptionalism. Nietzsche believed that in nature, all creatures desire to achieve power in whatever form it manifests. For humans, in what he calls "will to power," the individual seeks out their own course in life through strength, arts, and whatever endeavor they desire, free from the shackles of conventional moral systems. These moral systems, what is called "slave morality" and "herd morality," stifled the independence needed for the greatness of individuals. The individuals who could take advantage of the freedom from conventions that held them back all became what he called the ubermensch, or supermen. Great people are held back by arbitrary rules meant to safeguard the people and the state from themselves.

 

For Nietzsche, we could argue that this applies to nihilists altogether; they view the origin of moral systems as a means to tame a human's more animalistic tendencies. They are, in part, naturalists who view modern humans as animals like any other, just with loftier aspirations for power. Morals, he argued, were a social tool to compel others to behave in more controllable ways for each other's benefit. Nietzsche described humans as a type of "super-animal" in his book Human, All Too Human when he said:

 

The beast in us wishes to be deceived; morality is a lie of necessity in order that we may not be torn in pieces by it. Without the errors which lie in the assumption of morality, man would have remained an animal. Thus, however, he has considered himself as something higher and has laid strict laws upon himself. (47)

 

This concept that morality is a self-imposed lie that is meant to be for the benefit of our species is an important concept at the heart of nihilist thought. Morals are both concepts that raise us above other animals while simultaneously holding us back from each of us raising ourselves above our fellow humans. We, as humans, in an effort to control our base impulses for opportunism through violence or other anti-social behavior, have imposed morals upon ourselves so that we don't become our own victims and are able to work collectively with some reliable expectation of others. But again, each creature holds within themselves the desire for greater power, be it through animistic violence or creative expression. For Nietzsche, the dogmatic adherence to morals meant to suppress the violent side of humans also suppresses the creative side of humans. Therefore, to truly unleash the potential of a human, then the morals of humans should be shaped by each person's critical assessment of the situation, and not because some pre-established rule said so.

 

For a nihilist, there are no standing morals or ethics that they refer to in their decision-making, only natural law and critical assessment. They don't operate on moral absolutes and will argue or debate a moral hypothetical because their perspective requires it. Because they don't align with any moral or ethical system, they are often falsely accused of being bad or evil, but in reality, they could very well come to the same course of action as even the most faithful worshiper. In dealing with a nihilist, discussions are usually shaped by natural facts, logic, and deductive reasoning, but others' desire to appeal to moral or ethical guidelines could devolve the conversation into a heated argument.

God’s Ordinance (Religious Order)

The various religions of the world come with their own ethical guidelines that they want their practitioners to follow. As opposed to the other schools of thought discussed in this section, when it comes to religious ordinances, there are two major differences that shape their views on ethics. The first and most important consideration relates to the practitioner's perspective on the metaphysical and the ultimate purpose of their existence as it relates to their understating of an afterlife or cycle of reincarnation, all of which are tied directly to their behavior during their lifetime. The second consideration is the authority of the clergy, gurus, or other leadership of the community that has the ability to influence, excommunicate, or even punish its members. These two aspects play an important role in the ethical behavior of religious members, but we will focus primarily on the first for this section.

 

In the first aspect, you have the individual's belief that there is something greater than our current physical existence. They believe that there is a God or gods, that there is something beyond the physical plane of existence that we are moving towards, and that our final destination is in one way or another tied to how we conduct our affairs on this Earth. In the texts of these religions, or in the oral traditions that they pass down, they put forth various rules that must be followed so that they may accomplish their life's purpose and move on to something greater after their death. This could involve moving onto a heavenly type of afterlife, an eternal damnation, a state of everlasting enlightenment, or reincarnation as a new being. Whatever their destination ultimately ends up becoming, their religion provides explicit or implied guidelines of behavior for them to follow in order to freely choose which variation of an afterlife they are working towards. Generally speaking, I would say that religion implies that following the guidelines they put forth will bring the practitioner into a more desirable afterlife than going against it. Of the texts of some major religions, here we can see some of their guidelines for a proper life, and while these quotes aren't inclusive of every moral behavior that is required of each respective religion, the list of religions used is not inclusive of all religions, and the point is merely to identify that they have required behaviors that should be followed.

 

For the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, their religious texts provide explicit guidelines for proper behavior as prescribed by God to their respective prophets. In the Book of Exodus, found within the Jewish Torah and the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, you find the Ten Commandments. To quote the Torah as well as the Christian Bible, where the Ten Commandments are stated in Exodus 20, where Moses was told by God on the top of Mount Sinai, it says:

 

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the Earth beneath, or that is in the water under the Earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work:

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

For in six days the Lord made heaven and Earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Thou shalt not [murder].

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's. (97 Bible)(84-85 Torah)

 

One important note of the difference between the commandments, as they are mentioned in the Torah and the Bible, is that the Christian Bible uses the term "kill," however, the original Hebrew text uses the word ratzach (רָצַח), which more precisely translates to "murder" rather than a general prohibition against all forms of killing. Both in history and in contemporary practice, Christians aren't against the act of killing when it is justified. The unjust killing of other humans, either by law or by moral principle, is seen as murder by Christians and against their ethical guidelines, just as it is for Jews, and even though the translation used the term "kill" instead of "murder," it is understood that the killing implied is unjust.

 

For Muslims, while they only tangentially reference the physical exodus of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt and don't reference the Ten Commandments given to Moses, within the Sixth Chapter of the Quran, title Al-An'am, which translates as "The Cattle" or "The Livestock," provides many of the same ethical guidelines for behavior that are shared by Jews and Christians. For example, the 151st verse of Surah Al-An'am shares themes similar to those of the commandments in that it requires one not to believe in other gods, to honor mothers and fathers, and not to murder. The verse states:

 

Say: Come, I will recite unto you that which your Lord hath made a sacred duty for you: that ye ascribe no thing as partner unto Him and that ye do good to parents, and that ye slay not your children because of penury. We provide for you and for them and that ye draw not nigh to lewd things whether open or concealed. And that ye slay not the life which Allah hath made sacred, save in the course of justice. This He hath commanded, in order that ye may discern. (50)

 

Compared to the "thou shalt not murder" passage of the commandments found in the Exodus, this passage of the Quran includes the commandments by Allah against "slaying," which serves much of the same purpose. It explicitly acknowledges that killing can be acceptable when justified because there are times when killing humans is necessary when moral or legal principles require it. They note the killing of one's children to help alleviate penury, i.e., poverty, would include such an unjust killing for Muslims. Additionally, while the statement that "ye draw not nigh to lewd things" appears to be more of a catch-all to other immoral behaviors discussed elsewhere in the chapter, and that just because one's immoral behavior is hidden, or "concealed," the act will still be known to Allah and should not be engaged in.

 

For Theravada Buddhists, within their teachings of the Buddha written in the Tripitaka, which is translated as the "three baskets" and represents the three separate divisions of the Buddha's teachings, we can find a discussion of actions that make an individual pure and impure. In Tripitaka's second "basket" of writings, the Sutta Pitaka which is the "basket of discourses" of oral teachings given by the Buddha to his companions, if we look toward the fourth collection called the Anguttara Nikaya, we have a story of the Buddha discussing purification rites with Cunda the son of a silversmith.

 

In the 176th chapter, where this story is told, Cunda is asked about purification rites that he approves of and how such rites are undertaken. Cunda discusses a series of actions a disciple can take, as purported by the Brahmans of the western lands. Showing veneration through either touching Earth, touching cow dung, touching grass, worshiping fire, praying to the sun, or submerging themselves in water; in that order of priority, was provided by Cunda. To this, the Buddha implies that just because the Brahmans said it is so, it isn't necessarily true that these actions make people pure. Cunda then asks how the "noble ones" conduct their purification rites, noble ones referring to those that have made progress or attained a state of Nirvana according to the Eightfold Path. The Buddha responds that there are a total of ten actions that make a person pure or impure when he states:

 

“Impurity by body, Cunda, is threefold. Impurity by speech is fourfold. Impurity by mind is threefold…” (1519)

 

“Purity by body, Cunda, is threefold. Purity by speech is fourfold. Purity by mind is threefold…” (1521) AN 10:176

 

After each passage, the Buddha provides an explanation of the nature of these actions. A summation of what is stated of impure actions is:

 

Impure Bodily Action

  1. Merciless Killing

  2. Stealing or Excessive Consumption

  3. Sexual Misconduct

Impure Verbal Action

  1. Lying

  2. Divisive Speech

  3. Rude or Offensive Speech

  4. Careless Idle Chatter

Impure Mental Action

  1. Coveting

  2. Harboring Ill-will

  3. Incorrect Viewpoints

 

The Buddha emphasizes that these are obviously impure and unethical behavior. Just because a thief woke up and touched grass or prayed to the sun doesn't purify him of the act of having stolen from someone. Just because a murderer engaged in a ritualistic cleansing at the river doesn't absolve them of their murders. By not engaging in these impure actions, this is the only way one attains purity. The act itself makes one impure. It should be noted that the ten actions that make a person pure are simply the aversion or abandonment of these ten impure actions. At least in the way they are stated, the antithesis to the impure act of lying is to not lie instead of telling the truth, implying that one can still retain purity by simply not divulging any truth. The antithesis of merciless killing is to not kill, instead of saving a life, meaning that one can still retain purity even if they don't attempt to render assistance to a dying man.

 

Now, Buddhism is a transformative religion in that one can abandon what was once impure and begin to live a life of pure action. They can acknowledge that they were a thief once, but they will steal no more. They can acknowledge that they were a murderer or an adulterer, or believed in incorrect things, but through the Buddha's teachings, they can now engage in pure action, becoming pure themselves, and continue along their path to Nirvana. Elsewhere, in the Tripitaka, they discuss the virtuous actions that should be engaged in, such as truthfulness, charity, and proper worship, but the purpose of this discourse between the Buddha and Cunda is to explicitly lay out that these ten impure actions will prevent you from continuing along the Eightfold Path. In other words, once a Buddhist learns the truth as it is taught, they can no longer engage in impure actions as it will be counterproductive to their journey to enlightenment. Karma will hold them back.

 

For Hindus, within the Bhagavad Gita, the warrior prince Arjuna has a conversation with Krishna, who is one of the avatars, a human manifestation, of Vishnu. Vishnu, the Hindu God of preservation, provides his teachings to Arjuna through the avatar of Krishna. One of the most important aspects of the Bhagavad Gita is that it not only serves as a catalog of discussions between primarily Lord Krishna and Arjuna but also provides Hindu practitioners guidelines on how to conduct themselves. For example, Krishna informs Arjuna that there are qualities that make up a person, either make them divine or demonic, and that if one seeks to live a good life, then they need to manifest these qualities in themselves.

 

In Chapter 16, titled Daivasura–Sampad–Vibhaga Yoga, which can be translated at "The Separateness of the Divine and Undivine," Krishna blatantly lays out the actions that make an individual good or bad, just or unjust, or as it can also be translated as, "divine or demonic natures." It can serve, just as the other religious passages provided, as guidelines for Hindu ethics and what one should expect of a Hindu practitioner. Here is an abridged discussion of what Lord Krishna says to Arjuna about those who engage in the practice of Yoga should and shouldn't engage:

 

Fearlessness, purity of heart, knowledge, steadfastness in Yoga, charity, and control over the senses, performance of religious sacrifice, study of the holy scriptures, austerity straightforwardness, non-injury (to the innocent), truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, peacefulness, aversion to slander, kindness to beings, absence of greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of restlessness, vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, absence of hatred, absence of conceit - these attributes being to one who is born to attain divine nature, O descendant of Bharata.

 

Pride, arrogance, conceit, anger, and also harshness and ignorance - these attributes belong to one who is born to attain demonic nature, O Partha. The divine attributes are for liberation, the demonic attributes are considered to be for bondage. Do not grieve, O Pandava, for you are born with divine attributes…

 

People of demonic nature know not what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither purity, nor good conduct, nor truthfulness exist in them. They say, "the universe is a lie, has no basis (of morality), has no God; it is brought about not by a systemic causal sequence, but by passionate desire (for union with the opposite sex); what else could be the cause?" Holding this view, the ruined souls of little intelligence engage in fierce and destructive activities harmful for the world. Taking refuge in insatiable lust, being absorbed in vanity, pride, and conceit, holding evil ideas due to delusion, they act in impure motivation… This gate of hell, destructive of the self (degrading the soul of the lowest species), is of three kinds - lust, anger, and greed. Therefore, one should abandon these three. (191-195)

 

Earlier in the chapter, we quickly referenced the Hindu belief in moksha, the liberation from samsara: the cycle of death and rebirth. To attain moksha, one must follow the moral principles mentioned by Krishna within the Bhagavad Gita, alongside the other activities and rites found within Yoga, as it is through proper behavior that they are aligned with the divine. There are multiple paths to achieving moksha, but none can be followed if the individual practitioner is unable to behave in a moral way. These paths, called Yoga, include Karma, Bhakti, Raja, and Jnana; can be translated as "action, devotion, meditation, and knowledge," respectively.

 

While ethical behavior is important, regardless of which form of Yoga is at play, it is increasingly important for Karma Yoga, as the belief in Karma, which is the causal connection of actions to consequences, shapes an individual's perspective on the value of their actions, beyond just the immediate results. They believe that positive action, such as a selfless act of charity, will produce positive results at some point in the future. Karma, both positive and negative, can accrue, even extending into the next life, and the universe, at some point, will always balance the books, so to speak, until the individual attains moksha and is relieved from samsara.

 

Now, take into account all of these major religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, and the nature of their ethics as they were written. As mentioned, they don't include all ethical and moral imperatives that their practitioners are compelled to follow by the tenets of their religion, but regardless, we see commonality in all of them. Of course, there is the social and behavioral aspect, as ethics is about the expected behaviors of an individual in relation to society, but here we have the first aspect of this particular school of ethical thought, which I call "God's Ordinance" in that each of these religions require their respective practitioners to behave under certain ethical frameworks to achieve their ultimate metaphysical goal.

 

The Jews can't find peace and prosperity on this Earth unless they follow the word of God and behave accordingly. If ethical guidelines are followed, then the seasons will be favorable, economies will flourish, agriculture will be bountiful, and their enemies will be defeated; otherwise, the reverse will happen.

 

It shall happen, if you shall listen diligently to the Lord your God's voice, to observe to do all his commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the Earth. All these blessings will come upon you, and overtake you, if you listen to the Lord your God's voice. (235) Torah Deuteronomy 28:1-2

 

But it shall come to pass, if you will not listen to the Lord your God's voice, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come on you and overtake you. (236) Torah Deuteronomy 28:15

 

Christians, too, must follow similar ethical imperatives given to Jews through the commandments, but Christians must also accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Failing to do so, they may not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven, be cut off from the presence of God, and be sent to hell.

 

For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: It is better for thee to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. (1194) Bible Mark 9:43

 

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day. (1410) Bible 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10

 

For Muslims, following the guidance put forth in the Quran is foundational for seeking entry into heaven (Jannah). Positive adherence to Quranic ethics involves righteous behavior, compassion, and devotion to Allah, leading to the promise of eternal bliss in paradise; conversely, failing to follow these ethical guidelines may result in consequences on the Day of Judgment, with the possibility of hell (Jahannam) for those who deviate from the righteous path.

 

Say: (It is) the truth from the Lord of you (all). Then whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve. Lo! We have prepared for disbelievers Fire. Its tent encloseth them. If they ask for showers, they will be showered with water like to molten lead which burneth the faces. Calamitous the drink and ill the resting place! (97) Surah Al-Kahf 18:29

 

And for those who disbelieve in their Lord there is the doom of hell, a hapless journey's end! When they are flung therein they hear its roaring as it boileth up. (191) Surah Al-Mulk 67:6-7

 

The Buddhists will not be able to work towards enlightenment and break the cycle of death and rebirth if they can't align themselves with proper bodily, verbal, and mental actions promoted in the discourses of the Tripitaka. They often emphasize the law of Karma, as Hindus do, which involves the consequences of one's actions, only this time in regards to the Buddhist Eightfold Path towards enlightenment. Since the concept of Karma is central to understanding how one's conduct influences present and future consequences, it shapes their view and application of ethics in their everyday life.


All beings that come and go, that pass away and undergo rebirth, are owners of their Karma, heirs of their Karma; all have Karma as their origin, Karma as their relative, Karma as their resort; all will be heirs of whatever Karma, good or bad, that they do. (688-689)

AN 5:57

The Hindus, like the Bhuddist, seek to be liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth and achieve enlightenment, however, failing to adhere to the paths, Yoga, prescribed by Hindu teachings will result in the continued suffering inherent to life. Again, within the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna informs Arjuna that the ultimate goal of moksha is only possible through adherence to the morals and ethics that he discussed. If liberation from samsara is the intent, then Hindu ethics will reflect it.

 

One who truly understands the divine nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take birth again; he comes to Me, O Arjuna. (82)

 

Holding his body, neck and head erect and still, being steady, gazing at the tip of his nose, without looking around, being serene in mind, devoid of fear, firm in the vow of celibacy, subduing the mind, the Yogi should sit, meditating on Me as the Supreme Goal. Ever concentrating the mind thus, the self-balanced Yogi attains peace, abiding in Me, which culminates into moksha. (102-103)

 

If we look at all of these religious perspectives on the divine and how we as humans should behave during our time on this Earth, we should see some commonalities between them: desired behaviors purported by each religious text and their clergy. The characteristics, natures, commandments, rules, or laws stated by religious scriptures and enforced by the community are themselves a form of culturally imposed ethics, but they are also not that different from each other. Yes, of course, there is the inherent compelled requirement to believe in the unique aspects of any one religion, like the divinity of Jesus or the causal implication of Karma, but they also compel what most societies would deem basic socially expected behaviors, like not stealing or murdering. Characteristics of what makes a person good or bad from the viewpoint of religion are predominately characteristics that make an individual an effective member of society.

 

Hari Chetan, the author of the English translation of the Bhagavad Gita that we have been quoting from, promoted this sentiment when we stated:

 

It is not difficult to notice that most, if not all, the divine and demonic characteristics stated by the Lord are already well-known to us as good and bad, respectively. Our God-given heart already understands which one is a desirable quality and which one is not. It's only that our deluded minds don't always allow us to prioritize the positive qualities above the negative ones. And the kind Lord is well aware of this. So, in order to make our lives easier, He enumerates all of those qualities for us, so that we are never perplexed, and our thoughts are never deceived. (195-196)

 

The concept that humans already know good from bad, but need divine reinforcement is shared amongst all these religions in some manner. Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the commandments found in the Torah; Jesus and his disciples spreading the word are found in the Bible; Prophet Muhammad delivering the final revelations and guidance are found in the Quran; Buddha's discourses with his followers are found in Tripitaka, and the conversations between Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. People have an idea of what is good or bad but struggle with priorities. People know that stealing is a bad social behavior but still engage in it out of a sense of necessity, temptation, or envy. People know that the wanton killing of others is bad social behavior, but they still do it out of a sense of anger, hatred, jealousy, opportunity, or revenge.

 

These negative behaviors, however, can be curtailed through the metaphysical. A belief in something beyond their own immediate existence can compel an individual to engage in positive social behaviors and resist negative social behaviors out of concern for some greater power or purpose. This can shape the ethics of an individual or a group to prioritize certain behaviors over others, even if those other behaviors would provide a better benefit for them. Even if the individual may get away with an immoral or unethical act in the eyes of other humans who aren't present to witness the act, they may still avoid it out of concern for the watchful eyes of God or the negative causal implications of Karma.

 

As a result of "God's Ordinance," people adopt or shape their own ethical framework around metaphysical implications. This doesn't necessarily mean that other ethical frameworks aren't also at play for the individual, such as Utilitarianism, Deontology, Taoism, Confucianism, or Stoicism, only that they may either complement or counter certain ethics. For example, people who are devout religious practitioners who adopt the moral framework of their religion are often deontologists as well because deontology requires the individual to engage in only those acts that are inherently moral. It doesn't matter if the ends are good; if the act is immoral, then it mustn't be engaged in. Conversely, a person who simply ascribes to the religion's morals may also be a utilitarian who looks at the good and bad and reluctantly accepts an immoral act for what they see as a morally justified outcome.

 

What matters here, when I speak of "God's Ordinance," is that a person's personal prioritization of ethics can be in conflict with others. They are compelled to act in a certain way based on their religious beliefs, beliefs that others may not share, and as a result, two separate individuals who see themselves as moral and justified in their actions may see the other as immoral and unjustified. As we mentioned back in Chapter 2.3: On Leadership, when discussing the core attribute of "character" for an effective leader, we posited that corrupt people may simply have differing ethical priorities and that it is important to understand this reality. Be it in a business or military environment, we must understand that people's religious inclinations can shape their ethical priorities to varying degrees, and it will require us to find workarounds if we want to cooperate with them in our endeavors.

 

The International Religious Foundation wrote in their book World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts the idea that their beliefs transcend our mortal world when they said:

 

Regardless of these differences, these religious viewpoints share a respect for the Law which human beings violate at their peril. The universe is fundamentally moral, an expression of the workings of a divine Principle or natural law in both the realms of nature and of human affairs. Hence human morality is not relative, not explicable as a result of social and cultural conditioning alone. Morality and ethics are rooted in the ways things are (ontology); they are as enduring as the laws of physics. (98)

 

Remember, the religious school of thought in regards to ethics is a belief system that transcends the physical domain. In some sense, they believe that their beliefs are in some way absolute and arguing with them to change their perspective may be futile. If they are agreeable people, you may be able to find common ground and work along those lines.

"Golden Rule" (Reciprocal Order)

There is one last ethical concept that we should discuss, as it is somewhat prevalent in most cultures and understood by most people. It has its own logic and reason, which is relatively universal. This concept, the "golden rule," professes that to determine whether an action is good or bad, whether it is right or wrong, they simply need to reflect on whether the consequences of such an action, if it directly affected them instead, would be desirable and acceptable. Or, to reference the more commonly attributed definition from the Christian Bible's Matthew 7:12, which says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," you get the gist of the golden rule. Rather than a directed form of guidance for action, it serves more as a categorical catch-all for ethics. If a person's ethical decision-making can't come to a conclusion, or if they have no existing framework by which to judge an action, they can run it by the golden rule.

The adjacent image of the "The Golden Rule Poster" was created by Paul McKenna from Scarborough Missions and was put up for display at the United Nations back in 2002 AD. The purpose of the poster was to showcase the foundational concept of the rule throughout multiple religions, implying a shared understanding and humanity amongst all faiths. Again, as we discussed in the previous section on "God's Ordinance," the value of ethics purported by religions is that it serves as a form of socially enforced ethics that provides a collective benefit to the community. That religion creates a catch-all statement for socially accepted behavior, similar to the golden rule, makes sense for an organization that seeks to foster harmony within the society, with the ultimate end goal being some metaphysical objective. Similarly, the secular side of humanity benefits from the harmony produced in our physical lives by people treating each other according to this shared tenet.

Golden Rule Poster.jpg

"The Golden Rule Poster" produced by Paul McKenna of the Scarborough Missions.

While it may make sense at the surface, the consequences of relying on the golden rule alone as a guide for ethics come with the inherent problem of using self-reflection, personal preferences, and assuming that is what others also desire. While I would argue that humans are more similar than they are different, each human will come with their own history that shapes their perspective of the world and their preferences for how they conduct their lives. To quote Francis and Murfey:

 

There is, of course, an extensive theoretical background to speculation about ethical rules, the best-known principle being that of the 'golden rule' (do to others as you would have them do unto you). In order for such a principle to be acceptable it should be of universal application across every conceivable situation. This is more difficult than it sounds. For example, if a masochist were to act according to this principle, that person would consider it a duty to inflict harm on others in the expectation that everyone would receive pleasure from it. (108)

 

Another interpretation or rebranding of the golden rule that compensates for the problem of applying one's own preferences to others is instead to attempt to understand the preferences of others and provide them with that. Dr Tony Alessandra and Dr. Michael J. O'Connor, in their book The Platinum Rule: Discover the Four Basic Business Personalities - and How They Can Lead You to Success, we can see this perspective from the business angle and the problems of using the Golden Rule. They state:

 

If applied verbatim, it can backfire and actually cause personality conflicts. Why? Because following The Golden Rule literally - treating people the way you'd like to be treated - means dealing with others from your own perspective. It implies that we're all alike, that what I want and need is exactly what you want and need. But of course we're not all alike. And treating others that way can mean turning off those who have different needs, desires, and hopes.

Instead, we suggest honoring the real intent of The Golden Rule by modifying that ancient axiom just a bit. We think the key to lasting success in business, and the secret to better relationships, is to apply what we call The Platinum Rule:

 

" Do unto others as they'd like done unto them." (Pg 3)

 

This more accurately achieves desired responses that we seek from various behavioral economics concepts, like alleviating the pain points of customers. What is being achieved here, and what was at the heart of the golden rule as a foundation and is expounded upon in the concept of the platinum rule, is what is called the "principle of reciprocity." We understand that reciprocity is a critical function of a social species, as each individual member will seek to contribute to the community so that they can also extract value from it and its members. We tacitly understand through the golden rule that if we harm the system in any way, that that very system can also harm us, which is undesirable. So, to avoid the negative consequences of harming the community and potentially ostracizing ourselves by doing so, as a species, we have created a common principle that seeks to compel each individual to reflect upon the consequences of their action before engaging in that action. It appears to be a concept that has been adopted by our species as its breadth throughout practically all human cultures and religions could imply that those who didn't ascribe to the golden rule were harmed, killed, or otherwise expelled from the benefits of collective human activity; eventually petering out and dying alone.

 

While the idea of something like the platinum rule, where one treats another as they wish to be treated, is usually focused on trying to produce a positive relationship, the golden rule is often focused on avoiding the negative. Yes, the implication of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you can imply both positive and negative outcomes, usually, the golden rule is only brought up in regard to avoiding harm. Based on the verbiage, if one ascribed to the golden rule in all decision-making, that would include purposefully engaging in actions for others that we ourselves would also like done to us. But in reality, this is less likely the case, as an individual would become destitute, giving everything they have, physical, emotional, and financial, to everyone else, and get nothing in return. So, the golden rule is primarily a measure of action to avoid the negative, as it is easier for us to not engage in an action that harms than it does to engage in an action that helps, as there is a lot of help that can go around in various forms.

 

The principle of reciprocity, in that people do things for others so that they may get something from them in turn, is useful for all human activities and endeavors that require human cooperation, including war and business. A soldier engages in an act for the benefit of their unit, and they can rightly expect that this increases the likelihood of being acknowledged for their act and valued within the unit. A salesman provides concessions and benefits to a potential customer, and they can rightly expect that this improves the likelihood that the customer appreciates the act and engages in a transaction. The principle of reciprocity is about gaining favors and avoiding disfavor, and a person who employs the golden rule as an ethical benchmark will have this as their foundational factor, whether they are cognizant of it or not.

Complementary and Conflicting Ethical Theories

The primary purpose of discussing these various sources of ethical thought was to see how people from different cultures, organizations, and religions might have produced a perspective of the world that requires distinctly different codes of ethics. No doubt, if ethics is about socially expected behavior, the culture that shapes those institutions will have a great impact on its nature. In regards to ethics, these institutions vary in size and scope, but they all have some aspect of social expectation of behavior both within the group and as perceived by outsiders. This can include being a citizen of a country, the type of profession one is in, and their social status.

 

Take, for example, an American Army reservist who happens to be a Christian conservative and married with kids. This hypothetical person can have many competing ethical guidelines at play in their life. These competing ethics are either complementary or conflicting, and it will be up to the individual to balance them according to what they feel takes precedence and what aligns with their perspectives. As a citizen of America, the nation's history and culture shape what is expected of Americans within the country and abroad. As a Soldier in the US Army, they follow the US Army's ethics, which are shaped by its history and purpose as a martial tool for the country. Being a reservist, they may have private sector employment, which will have its own regulations and standard operating procedures that create a unique ethic for their workforce. Being a Christian, naturally, they will have the ethics that are promoted by that religion's tenets, i.e., the "God's Ordinance" we just recently discussed. An American conservative has their own viewpoint on the relationship between the nation, states, local administrations, the citizenry, and the rest of the world that shape policy and compel certain behaviors according to their politics. Being married, they are expected to fulfill the role expected of a spouse as well as the expected roles of husbands and wives. Having kids, they too, have the expected behaviors for a parent and possibly further defined by whether they are the mother or father. And, of course, being a male or female, the person can have socially expected behaviors associated with being a man or woman.

 

Looking at this example, we can see an individual who, at any given moment, has to make ethical decisions while balancing all of these expectations of them. To alleviate these potential ethical dilemmas and act quickly, people may adopt ethical frameworks that they feel help them make a decision quickly, such as being a utilitarian, a stoic, or following their religious beliefs. They also can focus on which roles (Soldier, father, Christian, etc.) they want to prioritize and make those ethics the overarching ethics in their life, while the others take secondary or tertiary importance. As we discussed in Chapter 1.4: The Human Domain, humans often develop mental shortcuts to decision-making so that they can quickly respond to issues in the world rather than deliberate for long periods of time and potentially put themselves at risk while in critical thought. The prioritization of ethics within an individual, the selection of ethical guidelines, and the creation of an ethical framework for decision-making is quite possibly an extension of this evolved process of pigeonholing and stereotyping how we think we should act and have extended it to include how we and other people should also act. Judging how others should act based on our own expectations shouldn't be a surprise to most people, as most people do it at every moment of their day.

 

This issue of ethical expectations can create disagreement even amongst people of the same social group and those fulfilling the same roles. Americans can argue with other Americans about what it means to act American. Soldiers can discuss with other Soldiers the difficulties of following the Army Ethic. Conservatives can debate with other conservatives about how best to employ the same policies. Fathers can also argue with other fathers about the best way to raise sons and daughters. Understanding that people can be at conflict within the same group, now imagine trying to debate within similar groups except along cultural lines; for example, Americans, Chinese, and Iraqi citizens, soldiers, conservatives, and fathers. If there is debate within a culture about ethics, then naturally, there can be even greater debate when discussing ethics across cultures, as each culture's history, modes of communication, and perceptions of the world can differ greatly.

 

To quote Professor David Livermore's guidebook from his course entitled Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are, he showcases a scenario that emphasizes this issue when he writes:

 

This cultural difference can help us better understand why attempts at international law and rule are so difficult and strongly resisted by many cultures of the world. First, it operates on a premise that you can come up with rules that apply equally. Furthermore, it presumes that there isn't some kind of bias in terms of how those rules are constructed and applied.

 

Lively debates ensue among Europeans and Africans about bribery and corruption. Often times, the Europeans are very incensed by what they perceive to be leaders, governments, and businesses throughout Africa that are corrupt through and through, and yet African leaders will often respond that they believe many Europeans and other developed nations have been just as guilty in this corruption—by funding mining or arms or being engaged in more sophisticated, white-collar corruption. (64-65)

 

Culture involves the shared understanding of how the universe should function, which births values, beliefs, and attitudes, as we discussed in Chapter 1.4: The Human Domain, and this unique perception would naturally affect how members of that culture think people should behave. The culture would foster social norms that are beneficial, or at least not counterproductive, to the overall survival of the group, and these norms are themselves socially expected forms of behavior. If ethics, another form of socially expected behavior, is created by that culture in much the same way, then it would make sense that ethics are simply a form of a social norm that is tied to morals instead of purely focused on the positive and negative outcomes of a survival strategy. But then we must also look at the intent of social norms altogether and the idea that at their root, the intent is to be positive for the group, so failing to follow a social norm in some way could produce a negative effect that harms the group, no matter how insignificant the harm may be. It may be that ethics are simply social norms at the extreme end of the severity scale where failing to adhere to them creates the greatest harm, and that is why we place them in a special category.

 

Ethics, just like norms, are an extension of culture, but just like culture, they can be shared and adopted by others who find their tenets and trappings useful. However, the unique aspects of culture may not be successfully adopted as they could conflict with the existing culture's values, beliefs, and attitudes. As a result, a group of people may adopt an ethic without also adopting the foundational building blocks that produced that ethic. Instead, ethics may be adapted to fit the existing culture and function differently from the origin of those ethics. In this way, we can see where conflict is arising in Livermore's example between Europeans and Africans in their discussion on corruption. Yes, both Europeans and Africans use and understand terms like corruption, bribery, and crime, but it appears that they are still at odds and will not desist from doing what the other party accuses them of; why is that?

 

It may be possible that people we think are immoral, corrupt, or evil are simply individuals who have different priorities of ethics and morals. Bribery to a European may simply be the upkeep of relationships to an African, as African culture may compel the individual to continue to provide resources from the state to influential people they need to leverage to institute policies. What is seen as unethical business to the Africans may simply be free-trade principles, as European culture emphasizes the promotion of varied industries to strengthen and reinforce economies. Both parties in a transaction may be able to see the negative attributes of their actions but see the positive of those same actions and feel justified as the outcome will be a net positive in their eyes, a utilitarian approach to ethics. The other party may not see the positives as a net benefit (utilitarian), may only focus on the immoral act itself (deontological), and could, based on their own perspective (culture), view the other as immoral, corrupt, and evil while simultaneously giving themselves a pass. We can have similar morals and ethics, and we can view them similarly as positive and negative, but through our culture, we pick and choose those that are most important to us to follow.

 

What I mean to say is that often, our own morals and ethics may conflict with each other, and we have to prioritize what takes precedence in decision-making. May our decision to prioritize one ethic or moral over another make us look evil or corrupt in the eyes of another who made a different prioritization? May our choice to not even have a particular ethic or moral because our culture has not deemed it of value make us look immoral, evil, and corrupt in the eyes of other cultures? Might this perception of ourselves being perceived negatively by other cultures be one of the reasons we may feel compelled to adopt the ethics of those cultures beyond the perceived value it provides vis-à-vis virtue signaling?

 

I would argue "yes" to all these questions, at least to some degree, but you can come to your own conclusion as well based on your own perception of how the world works. I would just say that this is how I see the issue of ethics and why it is so difficult to create and apply a universal ethic to all of humanity. The reason is that there is no possibility of a universal ethic as ethics are relative to one's own culture and its institutions, as well as one's personal history and experiences. My own ethic is shaped by my perception of the world and my morals, the institutions I have joined and whose ethics I have adopted, and the various roles I have assumed in society as an American, a Soldier, a father, and a man.

 

Each of these social roles, however, doesn't share an actual universal ethic because even within the same American culture, each individual determines for themselves what it means to be an American, a soldier, a father, and a man. This is one reason why it is difficult to assess good or bad behavior in others; without a universal metric to judge ethics, it is all simply relative to our own perspective of proper behavior. To function as a people, however relative it may be, we need to have a series of shared ethics that we can adopt. Otherwise, we wouldn't function effectively. Without having an established set of expected behaviors that people are compelled to follow, our organizations (military, business, and others) could not accomplish their purpose for society. We wouldn't be able to function unless we can expect others to behave in certain ways. So, we will carry on with a discussion on various martial ethics and how they can apply to business ethics, but remember, we are operating under a unique perspective of the world that can be altered and amended as the user sees fit. Just like our courses of action, we aren't looking for perfection or one-hundred accuracy; that is impossible; we are simply looking for good enough and workable.

Examples of Military Ethics

If ethics are about socially expected and desirable behaviors of people within a group and those fulfilling an identifiable role, then it would make sense that ethics is a tool to shape an organization's people. By shaping the behaviors of people, we can shape the nature of their work, and for organizations, this can mean the accomplishment of their purpose. The organization exists to serve the community in some capacity, but it can also become detrimental to that community. Recall military units and service members throughout the world who, through their actions, have harmed their service, their comrades, their government's political objectives, and their own people through various actions. Similarly, think about businesses that, through their actions, have harmed their employees, their customers, their local communities, and the environment. Now, if any military or business organizations came to mind after reading those sentences, recall if they had to violate their own industry or professional ethics to do so. If they did not violate existing ethics, recall if one of the consequences was a shake-up of the profession and the establishment of new ethical guidelines to help prevent similar negative consequences in the future.

 

Recall in the previous chapter that the purpose of war was to compel an adversary to change policy through the use or threatened use of violent forms of influence, while the purpose of business was to compel another to provide net value through cooperative forms of influence in a socially acceptable manner. What I will argue in this section is that the purpose of ethics themselves is twofold, and they are tied directly to the purpose of the organization. The first and most prescient purpose of ethics is that ethics seeks to prevent future harm that hinders the organization from accomplishing its purpose. In this first case, it seeks to counter the potential temptations of individuals to enrich themselves, shirk their duties, or engage in antisocial behavior at the expense of the organization, its people, and its ultimate purpose. The second is the reinforcement of positive behaviors that improve the organization's performance toward accomplishing its purpose. In this second case, ethics seeks to ensure its people work towards accomplishing objectives in the face of difficulties that would turn weaker people.

 

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal we discussed earlier in this chapter is an example of the negative effects of the violation of ethics. While the second and third-order effects of the political ramifications of the incident can't be determined for certain, we can assess that their actions provided no benefit and only harmed our goals. Because of the violation of the rights of those prisoners through the sadistic acts of their guards, it harmed the accomplishment of our purpose. If anything, it could have been seen to embolden the adversary to further resist the change we sought to promote, as the influence created through the scandal was counterproductive to our efforts. Murder, torture, massacres, fraud, rape, and negligence can lead to horrendously disgusting actions that are morally reprehensible, yet they still occur for one reason or another.

 

Predation, domination, revenge, sadism, and ideology were the five factors of human violence that Steven Pinker discussed and which we covered heavily in Chapter 2.0: On Violence; they are the sources of some of the most heinous actions we see as immoral or unethical; at least in the realm of violence. We see predation when tribes and states destroy others in order to gain access to resources and expand territory. We see domination when people conquer others in order to impose terms, capture slaves, and demand tribute. We see revenge take place in the form of reprisals and tit-for-tat responses to the transgressions of others. We see sadism in the brutal treatment of prisoners of war and indiscriminate yet purposeful killing of non-combatants outside of military necessity. And we see ideology in the disregard for people, infrastructure, and culturally sensitive sites for those not aligned with certain religious or political views. However, even in the prosecution of these actions for legitimate reasons, there can be some actions that others may deem unethical. Those who engage in what others deem unethical may not see them as such, and instead, they focus on other ethical priorities, such as loyalty, honor, and selflessness, while engaging in what they see as purely justifiable actions according to their own morals and ethical framework. In other words, to themselves, they are ethical in all things except when extenuating circumstances compel them to justify why they must go against their ethics. For example:

 

  • "I need to feed my family; that is why we stole."

  • "They planned to attack us, so we attacked first."

  • "You killed my family, so you deserve the same."

  • "These people are vermin; they must be destroyed."

  • "They are infidels/terrorists/Nazis/commies/imperials/etc., and they don't deserve mercy."

They hold an initial understanding that an action may be immoral, yet find an excuse to still carry it out because the ends justify the means. It is a utilitarian or nihilistic perspective as opposed to a deontological one. It may be against or in support of religious guidance. Regardless of the ethical framework, they find ways around it when they must, and the reason why they must is when it benefits them to do so. Except for those who take part in unethical behavior as a result of sociopathic tendencies, even for the bulk of society who consider themselves "normal,' ethics are still treated as a method of behavioral control that ends up being entirely situational. It has to be; otherwise, such uncompromising ethics would lead to your downfall. For example, if your ethics demanded that under absolutely no circumstances will innocent non-combatants be killed during any form of military action, you will be defeated when the enemy realizes they can simply place children on top of their vehicles and strap infants to the chest, and you will submit to their hegemony. Instead, it may be beneficial to look at ethics not through the traditional moral lens but through an objective one.

PLA Soldier with Baby.png

Behold, the greatest threat to a deontologist. In reality, the moral absolutism of the deontologist would disappear in the face of destruction from a threat that would use their own morals against them. Between the choice of destruction and death versus engaging in the unfortunate act of harming the child to defeat the military target (doctrine of double effect) they would be compel to become a utilitarian; at least temporarily. (Temporary AI artwork)

Hearkening back to Charles J. Dunlap Jr., he stated:

 

This 'weaponization' of ethics is strategic in nature, and it bears Clausewitzian features. We can recognize this relationship… between the military and the public as one element of Clausewitz's 'remarkable trinity .'In the trinity, the Government, the Military and the People make up an interactive set of forces that collectively drive the events of war. Public opinion shapes the government's policy-making, and the government must justify its actions to the public. Public opinion also influences military doctrine, and the military's doctrine may influence public opinion. Finally, military strategies influence policy objectives, and the government influences military resources. (23-24)

 

What matters is that ethics is useful for the accomplishment of purpose and not simply as something as subjective or as ephemeral as "doing good" and "being nice." We have discussed that, while people may have common moral frameworks, often they will violate certain ethical imperatives when they conflict with other more important ethical imperatives. We have ethics to ensure our actions do not hinder our ultimate objectives from negative consequences, but in any situation, we may be faced with multiple ethical dilemmas that require us to pick and choose which ethics take priority and which are of secondary and tertiary concern. If we look back to our initial James H. Toner quote about "dueling duties" he stated:

 

But any prima facie duty is a requirement only if there is no stronger prima facie duty. When duties conflict - and the conflict of duties is the very basis of military ethics - we must do what best satisfies all our obligations. (79)

 

This is why we must view ethics not as something that is "good," "nice," or "decent" but as one that is objective and with purpose. We don't adopt laws that seek to protect prisoners, combatants, non-combatants, and culturally sensitive sites because we don't want to create unnecessary harm, even if we feel like we must by some moral imperative, but because causing unnecessary harm can become a net negative to achieving our objectives. We are already in the business of causing harm to achieve political ends. We kill, destroy, cause physical and psychological traumas, or threaten to do so, only to the extent that we have calculated it helps accomplish our purpose: the ways and means to our ends from the Clausewitzian perspective. If the entire reason people pursue war is to achieve some form of benefit, then actions that prevent it must necessarily be controlled to avoid them from occurring. While we may have systems and processes that help guide courses of action taught through doctrine and best practices achieved through experience, we still need to effectively control the human elements that are more emotional and prone to deviate from desired behaviors necessary to carry out these courses of action. So, we create ethics that socially compel proper behavior so that even when they aren't under the watchful eye of a superior, they may still be compelled to "do the right thing" when no one is watching.

 

It isn't that "doing good" or "being nice" is the objective of ethics, but it can often align with our objectives of influencing others to "do the right thing" for our desired ends, and this applies to business ethics as well. Just look toward product recalls or enjoyable customer service experiences; it isn't that the business necessarily cares for the customer, but caring aligns with the business purpose of providing a product and service, and failing to care in the right way impacts them in doing so. In a way, it may be viewed as a form of reciprocal altruism, where the business does right by their customers so that they can maintain a positive relationship that is financially beneficial to the business. This is in opposition to the concept of true altruism, where people do good things with no expectation of anything in return, which, for commerce, warfare, or even personal relationships, I would argue, doesn't exist. There is always something that is sought for in doing good, even if it is just earning favors and building rapport.

 

In the same way that ethics seeks to control people's behavior to avoid doing certain things that we deem are "bad" because they harm our ability to achieve our objectives, we also use ethics that seek to encourage "good" actions that improve our abilities to achieve objectives. The same ethical frameworks that discourage certain behaviors also encourage their polar opposites. When we look at a values system, such as the US Army Values, we see a set of seven ethics-based values that the Army promotes and compels its Soldiers and Civilian employees to follow. To quote the 2022 edition of Field Manual 6-22: Leadership Development, states in regards to the Army Values:

 

Soldiers and [Department of the Army] Civilians enter the Army with personal values developed in childhood and nurtured over years of personal experience. By taking an oath to serve the Nation and the Army, one agrees to live and act by the Army Values. Adherence and dedication to the Army Values reflect character. The Army Values consist of the principles, standards, and qualities considered essential for successful Army leaders. To develop character in others, leaders must embody the Army Values. The Army Values are fundamental to Soldiers and [Department of the Army] Civilians making the right decision in any situation. Teaching values is an important leader responsibility that creates a common understanding of the Army Values and expected standards. Leaders must communicate expectations that others embody the Army Values as well. Reinforcing ethical standards increases the likelihood of ethical decisions and actions and promotes an ethical climate. (4-6)

 

The Army seeks to control the behavior of its personnel (Soldiers and DA Civilians) because they are representatives of the organization itself and carry out its will and its purpose. When we look at concepts like values, we see a spectrum that tilts from violation to adherence to various degrees. While regulations and codes may be written to be complied with, such as limiting the dollar amount of gifts that can be given to fellow service members or treating others fairly regardless of their protected class, these values can be nebulous and conflicting at times. Take, for example, the Army Values of "duty," which implies that you fulfill your obligations. On one side of the spectrum, we have the negative we seek to mitigate, failure to fulfill duties, and our ethics compels the individual to avoid failure as, obviously, failing to fulfill one's duties will negatively impact the accomplishment of our objectives: our purpose. On the other side of the spectrum, you have the positive we want to promote, the going above and beyond one's duties, to accomplish objectives in the face of hardships, rather than the easy route to only do what one is told.

 

Imagine a private sector civilian workforce trying to encourage the concept of a value such as "duty" in the workplace. The business ethic would, of course, compel employees not to shirk their duties and to accomplish the tasks they are assigned, as these are for the benefit of the organization. Similarly, the business would benefit from an employee who goes above and beyond their duty to provide a stellar experience for the customer or critically analyzes a safety issue and seeks to correct it. On one side of the values spectrum, we have the negative we seek to avoid, but on the other side, we have the positive we hope to foster in our people so that they are empowered to improve the organization beyond just what its leadership can directly control. The employee not only doesn't become a detriment to the organization but actively seeks to improve it. This is the same as ethics in the community at large, such as when it seeks to discourage theft but encourages charity.

 

From those two aspects of ethics, mitigating negative behaviors while promoting positive ones, we see the establishment and promotion of various ethical guidelines. Codes of conduct, laws of war and armed conflict, values systems, regulations, and supervisory responsibilities within the chain of command help ensure that a military organization can satisfy these two requirements and accomplish ends more effectively. Similarly, businesses have their own laws and regulations, government regulatory bodies, professional associations, and internal systems of checks and balances to ensure the companies do the same. We will now look at some ethical concepts found in the military sphere and how this dynamic is shared with the private sector.

Army Values

Within the Army Ethic, the U.S. Army Values play an important role in all three pillars of the ethic: servants, experts, and stewards. The ethic finds its unique origins in American culture shared between Soldiers and the American people, as well as the laws the government compels it to adhere to. Culture and Law, however, were not enough to restore the people's trust in their Army after the Vietnam War. The establishment and purporting of ethical standards within the Army, alongside the All-Volunteer force structure, sought to turn Soldiers into not just competent warriors but also ethical warfighters who understood, at least tangentially, that each member was a representative of the force and whose actions reflect the Army as a whole.

 

The current Army Values are inculcated into every new Soldier going through basic training and are reinforced in their training and evaluations as they progress through their careers. Soldiers, except for the newest recruits, are able to recite the seven Army Values in their proper order and without pause. The seven values, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage, create an apronym (an acronym that spells a word), and together, these values spell "LDRSHIP." Like any other character values, these are concepts that don't adhere to strict objective assessments and are sometimes open to interpretation when ethical conundrums appear. In this way, they are as subjective as they are objective, but the way they are taught in classes, referenced in hypotheticals, or showcased in historical anecdotes, we develop a shared understanding of what they mean. Each of the following seven values will have their conceptual definition as it is written in the Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 1-0: The Army Profession from June 2015. We will then discuss the purpose of the value for the Army and how such a conceptual value can benefit organizations in the business world.

 

Loyalty: Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers. Bearing true faith and allegiance is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone. A loyal Soldier is one who supports the leadership and stands up for fellow Soldiers. By wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army you are expressing your loyalty. And by doing your share, you show your loyalty to your unit. (B-5)

 

Loyalty can also be viewed as adopting the interests of those you are loyal to. In the case of the Army, one shows loyalty to others by aligning their actions so that they accomplish ends that are in the organization's best interests instead of their own. For the Constitution, keeping its intent and codification of rights at the forefront of decisioning-making is critical. For the Army, being a good steward of the profession is important. For the unit, it is through understanding the organization's mission, commander's intent, and the concept of operation that they can tailor their own actions to support them. For one's fellow Soldiers, it is through encouraging their success, holding them accountable when they falter, and supporting them when they need assistance.

 

Loyalty shouldn’t be misconstrued as synonymous with obedience. In the past, obedience was the hallmark of a good soldier in all professional armies throughout the world, as it was seen as the best practice for armies to be successful on the battlefield simply to follow the orders of their superior officers exactly. Officers were seen as both intelligent and having a greater sense of situational awareness and understanding of battlefield conditions, and it was through their orders that the mass of humanity that was a military unit could be coordinated to defeat a threat. Soldiers were from the lowest classes of society and were often poor, uneducated, and criminal, and the only reason they were professional was through blind obedience to the orders of their officers. As battlefields became more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous through the advent of new technologies, and the education of the general populous of industrialized nations improved, the rank-in-file soldiers of these nations became more respected and less detested as the dregs of society.

 

The requirement of obedience was the same for U.S. Army Soldiers up through the First World War, where obedience could still be found mentioned in their training manuals. Around the time of the Second World War, we saw the shift from obedience to loyalty, which started to be promoted as the hallmark of a good soldier, alongside other skills that were pertinent to what we would now refer to as professionalism. Nowadays, obedience is only referenced in terms of compliance to lawful orders when time doesn't allow for the development of a greater course of action, and it must be done immediately, a non-ideal situation to begin with. Other than that, obedience can now be seen as a potential detriment.

 

What I mean by obedience being detrimental is that as battlefields become more complex, officers no longer could be looked towards having the best situational awareness and understanding of the battlefield. Sometimes, the lowest-ranking soldiers on the frontline had the most up-to-date information on a situation, and time wouldn't allow for superior officers to be informed and probed for guidance. As a result, the warfighter on the front needed to act in the best interests of the organization's mission and its people, even if they had to deviate from plans or disobey orders. Standing orders may no longer achieve the desired ends or the commander's intent, given the new information being perceived while still being obedient to those orders would see failure and be detrimental to the organization. This is the primary reason for the abandonment of obedience and the adoption of loyalty, as loyalty allows the individual to have some level of autonomy so that they can adjust as necessary to achieve mission success, whereas obedient Soldiers will "do as they are told" right into mission failure; even if they are critically aware being obedient will cause the failure.

 

In the next Chapter 3.0: Business Operations with Military Concepts, I will discuss the concept of "Mission Command" in greater detail, but the basics of it is that mission command allows superiors to provide orders or tasks to subordinates, and those subordinates are given some leeway to accomplish them. The superior requires trust in their subordinate that they will work towards accomplishing the superior's intent and will voice their concerns or issues if they arise as well. The superior believes the subordinate is competent in their job and will use critical judgment when going about their work. The subordinate, likewise, has trust in their superior that they will support their decision, even if it fails if it was made in good faith, and that the subordinate understands what the superior's intent is. Basically, mission command requires a shared understanding of the situation and trust to be successful in these volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous battlefields of our contemporary era, but trust requires loyalty, which is where this value comes in.

 

Business examples, as we just alluded to, will be discussed in greater detail in the following chapter, but fostering a sense of loyalty is important when the marketplace is also complex. In internet forums, you may have heard of the concept of "malicious compliance," where an employee or contractor, after having voiced their concerns about the boss's desired course of action, is simply told, "Just do as I say." The person who engages in malicious compliance, understanding the reality of the situation, will simply give in to the directive and do as they are told, even though they know it will fail and potentially cost the business capital, delays, or even damage equipment. The boss, in these cases, fosters an environment of obedience which is counter to the interests of the business itself. Better to foster loyalty by encouraging employees and contractors to voice their concerns when they are involved in actions that impact the business, take their thoughts into consideration, and show that their contributions and competency are valued and that if they fail, they will not be "thrown under the bus" if they thought what they were doing was for the benefit of the business. By fostering loyalty in the workforce, you develop people who can feel free to think critically, adjust courses of action that are within their scope to correct perceived problems and be flexible when a rush is on.

 

Duty: Fulfill your obligations. Doing your duty means more than carrying out your assigned tasks. Duty means being able to accomplish tasks as part of a team. The work of the U.S. Army is a complex combination of missions, tasks, and responsibilities — all in constant motion. Our work entails building one assignment onto another. You fulfill your obligations as a part of your unit every time you resist the temptation to take "shortcuts" that might undermine the integrity of the final product. (B-5)

 

For the Army, and indeed for any military service, we don't necessarily have the "not in my job description" type of mentality. Of course, our occupational specialties provide us the training and expertise to fulfill the tasks of our assigned duty positions, but the reality of military service and the dangerous environments we operate in means that often we have to accomplish tasks outside our traditional duties and at the behest of the commander, staff, and the organization. We cross-train with other Soldiers to learn how to accomplish their duties, not only to familiarize ourselves with what they provide the team but also to cover down on their duties should they go on leave, be incapacitated, or be killed. Unlike in the business world, we anticipate and prepare for the possibility of our people being wounded or killed. While injury or death in the business workplace would be grounds for grinding business operations to a halt in order to access safety protocols and render aid, in combat, this is when the enemy is going to pressure you the most. Doing only what is in your job description could get people killed and endanger the mission, and would be considered failing to do your duty.

 

Because of the severity of the consequences associated with military operations, even in training, when we maneuver multi-ton war machines in simulated combat, we take standard operating procedures, step-action drills, and processes very seriously. As mentioned in Chapter 2.2: On Training, we "train as we fight," and we need to replicate our training as close to real combat as possible since we all have a tacit understanding that what we do purposefully in training will become instinctual in the chaos of combat. We focus on developing our procedures, drills, and processes as we train so that when we are thrust into chaos, we "fall back on our training" as a matter of habit. This means that during training or daily operations, when we may be tempted to cut corners or do things half-assed, it is our duty to avoid that temptation because such bad habits will surface in the chaos of war and endanger our people and the mission.

 

Additionally, we understand that no action occurs in a vacuum and that all actions conducted are only a part of a greater action or operation. We fulfill our duty when we support a task to its fullest, covering down when a comrade falls and accomplishing the task to the best of our ability because we know that a single task is but an element of something greater. If you know something needs to be done for the success of the organization, and you are the only one capable of accomplishing it, then it is your duty to do so. If you are incapable, it is your duty to find someone else who can or inform your superiors so they can make the appropriate decisions. Every task assigned to the organization has its purpose, and this is in some way tied to the purpose of the organization and how it supports its higher echelon. It is one's duty to support a task and fulfill one's obligations, as failing to do so hinders the success of the organization to varying degrees.

 

In the business sphere, as we have mentioned throughout War Is My Business, the consequences of success or failure in business endeavors are not as severe as that of warfare. Nonetheless, it does have consequences on the business organization itself, its employees and contractors, and the communities they serve. Just like in the military, every task assigned to departments, teams, or individual employees serves a greater purpose for the business organization, and tasks are rarely an end in themselves. When the finance department is told to develop a financial forecast for the next fiscal year, that task in some way becomes an input to some other activity or department, such as marketing or research and development, when they conduct their planning for the future. When a team is assigned the loading of products into the trucks, they must load it according to their standard operating procedures and processes for how to properly load shipments; otherwise, failing to do so may result in improper weight distribution and instability in the stacks could cause later injury and death, or damage to products when the load collapses during transit or unloading procedures. The individual who is driving the shipment of products must follow their own training on procedures and drills for the proper maintenance of their vehicle and how to quickly and safely change out flat tires. Otherwise, the shipment may not arrive on time to the distributor or client.

 

This is why the mentality of the "not in my job description" type of person is dangerous for an organization. Now, I fully understand that the civilian sector may operate under a very strict scope of work or contractual description of duties, and they may not be permitted to deviate from what is explicitly stated. However, even if they are not permitted the necessary autonomy to cover tasks outside their scope, they may still be permitted to inform teammates and supervisors of any potential problems outside their scope. Remember, every task has its purpose, and failing to support a task to the best of one's ability may endanger the business to some degree, and even Mr. "Not In My Job Description" may soon be out of the job if the business ultimately fails. Generally speaking, it is in everyone's best interest that the business succeeds, and to support this, it is everyone's duty to support those tasks.

 

The best way to foster a sense of duty in the workplace is twofold. First, by giving departments, teams, and individuals the commensurate freedom to tackle tasks within their realm of expertise and to promote familiarization with other personnel's duties so that they can support one another when they need additional assistance, go on vacation, or call in sick. This will also provide people the ability to view the bigger picture of how the organization functions and will give them the knowledge necessary to see when problems may be surfacing that need to be corrected. Second, by promoting the first value (loyalty) you create a body of people who have placed the interests of the organization alongside their own. They have a vested interest in the success of the whole team and seek to improve the organization as a matter of principle. Loyal employees and contractors will want to do their duty because doing so supports the business.

 

Respect: Treat people as they should be treated. In the Soldier's Code, we pledge to "treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same." Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty. And self-respect is a vital ingredient with the Army value of respect, which results from knowing you have put forth your best effort. The Army is one team and each of us has something to contribute. (B-5)

 

The Army, as it is for the other Services, requires effective teamwork to function. Everyone has a role to play in the success of their unit in the tasks that they are assigned by that unit, and, ultimately, the nation. The contribution of each member varies to a degree, but all members are important, otherwise, there would be little reason to equip, train, and put in harm's way a person who serves little purpose for the unit.

 

Since the Army operates as a series of teams working in a coordinated effort to accomplish difficult tasks, a certain level of trust must be placed in fellow Soldiers. If we weren't able to trust other Soldiers to do their duty, then each member would constantly have to stop doing their tasks to check with others to make sure they are doing theirs, which would reduce the efficiency of the organization. A Soldier would feel insulted to be constantly questioned about whether they did their job, and their loyalty would wane in the face of leadership or team members who questioned their competency and dedication to duty. As a result, one aspect of respect involves having trust in the competency of others. This doesn't preclude checking progress and offering assistance with difficult tasks, but in those cases, the focus is on providing support instead of questioning ability.

 

The self-respect aspect of this value is about understanding one's own capacities, strengths, and limitations within our team-centric organizations. We acknowledge that we are not perfect, and at times, we may need assistance in tasks, additional training to build competency, as well as the personal courage necessary to admit when something is beyond our capacity to accomplish. There are, however, individuals who have it in their nature to question themselves on everything they do and to beat themselves down at every perceived failure or inadequacy. The reason why self-respect is important is that people who don't respect themselves don't improve themselves. They may give up on tasks, never put themselves out there for opportunities, feel bad when requesting necessary support, and constantly put themselves in a state of worry and hesitancy when action is required. Self-respect is important because, without it, this type of person is a burden on the team.

 

A nation's army is a collectivist and team-oriented organization, as that is what is necessary to win battles according to the principles of warfare: mass, maneuver, unity of effort, unity of command, etc. However, the U.S. Army and its Army Ethic are also a product of American culture, which created one of the most individualistic societies in human history. American individualism is not necessarily a problem for the U.S. Army if the Army Values have been properly adopted by each Soldier. The American Soldier is still very much individually focused, but instead of focusing on what is best for themselves, they think about how best to harness their own potential for the benefit of the team. Or, to paraphrase the famous quote from President John F. Kennedy, ask not what your Army can do for you but what you can do for your Army.

 

The American Soldier, being an individualist, having loyalty to the Army, doing their duty, and showing respect for themselves, will believe that the Army is better with them serving it. They believe that when they improve themselves, they improve the Army ever so slightly. The biggest thing that kills this mentality, however, is disrespect. Just as in any other community in the United States, if the community doesn't have respect for one another, then they can't operate effectively when collective effort is required; the nature of the Army's structure and mission simply make this reality apparent.

 

For businesses, respect is important to build the same team dynamic that we have in the Army. Obviously, the departments, teams, and employees of a business have to rely only on others to accomplish their assigned tasks, but nothing builds the team spirit more than feeling like you are a trusted and valued member of the team. Conversely, nothing kills the team spirit more than having your motives, competency, and sense of worth questioned by supervisors or team members. Business leadership should focus on the best ways to harness their people without stifling their individualism. Naturally, inculcating a sense of loyalty and duty to the business and fellow employees will help, but it also offers the ability for the individual to improve themselves in various ways, which also builds a sense of loyalty.

 

Any displays of disrespect must be corrected as soon as they are witnessed without being disrespectful yourself. The individual who disrespects others may not necessarily be aware of the damage it can cause to the morale of the team and its overall goals, but we must educate and reform the individual in such a way that they still sense they are part of the team as well. It requires tact to leverage just the right amount of influence to show someone has erred without making them feel ashamed or devalued within the organization.

 

For example, amongst men, we often crack jokes at each other's expense as a form of bonding, which does build a sense of camaraderie by making fun of each other's potential inadequacies; however, in an attempt to bring women into the fold, the female recipient may feel disrespected. Amongst women, on the other hand, they engage in more self-deprecating humor in order to bond with each other by showcasing some of their own inadequacies in a safe and supporting environment; however, when attempting to bond with men, they may appear self-flagellating and weak. Amongst men and women, strangely enough, problems can be compounded as a gentle ribbing by a man may be seen as purposefully insulting to the female psyche, and a self-deprecating joke by a woman may be seen as an inferiority complex to the male psyche. As a leader in either a military or business environment, dealing with personnel engaged in these various activities, they need to be able to determine when activity is either purposefully or unintentionally disrespectful to prevent the fallout without damaging their efforts to build their closeness. Keeping conversation "professional" in the workplace is often the best course of action to maintain respect.

 

Selfless Service: Put the welfare of the nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own. Selfless service is larger than just one person. In serving your country, you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain. The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of each team member to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort. (B-5)

 

Just as loyalty requires the individual to align their interests with that of the Constitution, the Army, the unit, and one's comrades, the other side of the coin is the suppression of one's own interests and gain for that of others. To be loyal and do one's duty as a servicemember requires a certain sense of selflessness in order to support the purpose of the organization. The interest of any one human is to be safe and sound in their home, surrounded by a loving family, but war requires struggle and sacrifice. For any nation's military to succeed in war, it will require leveraging personnel, equipment, munitions, and capital in battle, where the interests of the state and its political objectives take precedence. Selfless service is about understanding this danger and still giving it your all.

 

While the dual application of loyalty and duty will produce a person who prioritizes the organization over themselves and does more than their share to ensure success, selfless service adds the acknowledgment that excellence and dedication in service are not meant for personal gain. Indeed, there are many benefits to service for a Soldier and their family: steady pay, retirement and life insurance benefits, health and dental coverage, tuition assistance for higher education, and a handful of others, as well as for some Americans in poorer communities without economic opportunities, military service is the best option available. Whatever extrinsic value may be earned through service, after coming to understand and adopting the Army Values as a Soldier, those become tangential to service. What I mean to say is that the most important value gained from service becomes the intrinsic value of being the best Soldier one can be. The pay exists because Soldiers need to feed and house their families, and if they didn't get paid, they would have to leave the service to find employment in the private sector. Soldiers get retirement and good life insurance so that they can focus on developing themselves instead of worrying about the uncertainty of the future after military service or if they should die or sustain debilitating injuries. Health and dental coverage for the Soldier helps maintain the strength of the Soldier and their family so they can focus on their unit. Money for college may be used, even if the Soldier doesn't plan on making the military a career, but having an educated body of servicemembers is a benefit for an ever-technologically advancing military force, and, when they separate, they can better support the nation through other avenues.

 

All of these extrinsic benefits in some way free a Soldier to focus on improving themselves and their organizations by removing some of the worry and preoccupation with their personal lives that detract for many in the civilian world, but I would foolish not admit that there is always a little bit of selfishness there. The Army, and the military force as a whole, doesn't necessarily want its personnel to burn themselves out, sacrificing everything for their units; we want them to have a good work/life balance. Rest and relaxation, spending time with family and friends, developing hobbies, and planning for their future in and outside the military. Indeed, while we don't want people to base every decision upon the internal motivator of how their actions can best improve their future prospects, we still require them to take an active role in their own career progression. We want them to push for those necessary schools that are required for their professional military education and will look desirable for their promotion boards and evaluations because we want our personnel entering into the higher ranks with greater responsibility to be a higher caliber of Soldier. We want them to care about themselves and look out for their own interests to the extent that it benefits the Army; if that makes sense.

 

In business, predominantly speaking, everyone is in their position for self-interest: selfishness vs selflessness. It may be appropriate to say that within the business, the entrepreneurs of small businesses, family-run stores, and those engaged with non-profits may be selfless in their service to their organizations since they have a direct vested interest in the success of the enterprise or cause. Employees and contractors, however, may predominantly view the organization as a source of a paycheck or commission, and while they may be loyal, it is because the business continues to pay them or they have some relationship with the people who work there. The value of selflessness in business is that it compels people's actions toward what is best for the business, but most people in business are in it for justifiably selfish reasons; there is no harm in that fact. Non-profit charities, however, may have a better possibility of encouraging selflessness in their workers by having some noble cause to support, but the people that they contract out to help accomplish the purpose of their charity may themselves only do so for their own selfish reasons.

 

In this case, we are mainly concerned about the consequences of selfish behavior negatively impacting business operations. To compensate for the inherent selfishness in the private sector, we can leverage that selfishness in such a way where their self-interest is best served while serving the interests of the organization. For example, while employees may have joined for a paycheck, they may be further motivated to benefit the company if there are bonuses tied to success metrics or they are awarded stock options. Either way, by serving the interests of the business, improving profits, and creating value, they serve their own interests as well. Additionally, by promoting a sense of intrinsic value in the quality of one's work, as well as supporting employees with managed career development plans, you create a person whose future as a skilled professional and member of the team compels them to work in a more selfless way for the betterment of the organization.

 

Honor: Live up to Army values. The nation's highest military award is The Medal of Honor. This award goes to Soldiers who make honor a matter of daily living — Soldiers who develop the habit of being honorable, and solidify that habit with every value choice they make. Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything you do. (B-5)

 

The Army Values are the foundational principles that guide ethical military behavior, or at least as it is adopted and professed by the U.S. Army. The other elements that make up the Army Ethic are the adherence to external sources, such as principles professed in the nation's founding documents, the regulations and laws of war that ethics compels the Army to comply with, as well as the expected and desired behaviors shared within American culture. The value of honor, as it is described in the Army Values, is somewhat self-referential. The only way to be honorable is to "live up to the Army Values," but that is only done through adhering to the other six values. Therefore, one is labeled as dishonorable if they violate any of those other six values, which means a Soldier can never only ever violate one Army Value; as they would also violate honor in the process.

 

The description of honor shows reverence to the Medal of Honor, the highest award any military servicemember can earn; however, it only mentions that it is given to those who make it a habit in their daily lives and through their choices in every situation. It must be noted, however, that this is not a U.S. Army award but an award given by the U.S. Congress and presented through the U.S. President as the Commander-in-Chief to any Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, Coast Guardsmen, or Guardian that met the criteria; hence the official title of the "Congressional Medal of Honor." As a result, the Medal of Honor has its own criteria that go beyond simply living honorably in the way it is defined in the Army Values, which generally includes 1) being engaged in combat with an adversary of the United States, 2) going above and beyond one's duties, and 3) displaying bravery and risking one's life to support others and/or the mission.

 

In the case above, the Army makes reference to the Medal of Honor merely as a display of honor in the most extreme situations. The showcase of loyalty to the unit and brothers and sisters; the fulfillment of duties above and beyond what is expected of the average Soldier; the display of selflessness to such an extent as to risk or sacrifice one's own life; and the courage necessary to push past the fear and accomplish the task under fire, these are Army Values displayed to the highest order in the most extreme situations. Therefore, the reason why the Medal of Honor is referred to in the Army's description of honor is to place the recipients of those awards as exemplars, people to look up to for inspiration and who can serve as role models. From the prestigious Medal of Honor to the most humble Certificate of Appreciation, their purpose is to display ethics in their various forms and degrees. Indeed, part of the awards process for any level of award given out to people in the military and in the civilian world, other than recognition to the individual for doing a good job, is to showcase to the rest of the organization what they did was desirable and that their example should be followed.

 

If honor for U.S. Army Soldiers is about living up to their own values, which are a foundational aspect of their own ethics, we can extrapolate that honor, in the general sense, is about living ethically at all times. A person who adheres to their own ethical framework, even when the situation may benefit them to deviate, could be seen as an honorable person if we judge them by their own ethics. Yes, people's ethics may differ between professions and cultures, but honor requires individuals to view themselves as part of a greater community that they, as individuals, must abide by. It requires a mixture of pride and shame. Pride in that they view themselves as an ethical person who shouldn't deviate from their socially expected behavior and personal moral guidelines and will be viewed accordingly, and shame in that they have a painful cognitive response to the thought of the humiliation or distress that can be brought about by breaking their own morals and ethics.

 

In business, we don't use the term honor as much since it is often associated with military achievements or traditional social views on family and religion. However, we do still see the trappings of honor carried out if you know where to look. Again, honor is about adhering to one's ethics in all cases, so any employee, agent, contractor, or whatnot that adheres to ethics when it would have benefited them to deviate could be considered honorable. A salesman who could easily convince a customer to buy a product or service but decided not to because they understand that it would not benefit the customer's overall interest could be considered honorable if they had a fiduciary responsibility to the customer. However, it could also be considered honorable to make that sale if their fiduciary responsibility was to the company. Depending on whom their ethics consider a fiduciary will determine where one's loyalties lie, but a key component of honor is tied to sticking to ethics in spite of personal gain. In this case, salesmen are often paid on commission of a sale, so by displaying loyalty to the customer's interests by reducing the price, though they are losing out on additional bump in their commission, they are, however, still supporting the business through that sale. Meaning, getting the sale at all, as long as it produces a profit for the business, is serving the interests of the business.

 

For a better example, real estate agents usually get paid a commission that is based on a percentage of the final sales price of the home. Real estate agents have a fiduciary responsibility to their client's interests, so they must display their loyalty by getting them the best deal on a transaction. For the listing agent that helps the seller sell their home, they already have aligned interests as the seller wants the most they can get from the sale, and the agent gets a higher commission the more they can get that final sales price raised. The buyer's agent, however, also benefits from a high sales price, but the buyer's interest is to get the home at the lowest possible price, which means that to display loyalty to the client, they need to serve them selflessly by negotiating the price down and thereby actively fighting to reduce their own commission at the same time. This could be considered an honorable act by the buyer's agent because they are engaged in support of other values, like loyalty and selfless service, while they otherwise could have decided to deviate and benefit themselves directly.

 

The most important aspect of honor in the eyes of other people is that the honorable individual will adhere to their adopted ethical and moral frameworks, even while under duress. An organization that cultivates honor amongst its people can be viewed, by the community that it serves, as an honorable organization that follows its own beliefs and adheres to its own ethics at all times. This builds trust in the eyes of those both internal and external to the organization, which is critical to fostering immediate professional relationships and will help promote future relationships with other organizations. To cultivate honor, we hold people accountable for their actions and recognize those who adhere to ethics.

 

The positive reinforcement provided by recognition and awards is one such way that we can promote honor because we establish people as ethical exemplars that others should look towards as models for their own behavior. This fills people with a sense of pride that they are valued for their actions when they sacrifice for others and the organization. While these actions build pride, the application of shame requires a more gentle touch, as public shaming can be detrimental not only to the individual but also to the trust and camaraderie built within the organization. Instead, privately acknowledging how the individual has failed in their ethics and causing them to reflect on the situation, such as saying, "Not everyone is suited for this line of work," may be sufficient to cause enough mental anguish that they reorient themselves back towards the proper ethical framework. If they can't be made to adhere to ethics, they must be removed from the organization so that the perceived honor of the whole is not tainted by the dishonor of the one.

 

Integrity: Do what's right, legally and morally. Integrity is a quality you develop by adhering to moral principles. It requires that you do and say nothing that deceives others. As your integrity grows, so does the trust others place in you. The more choices you make based on integrity, the more this highly prized value will affect your relationships with family and friends, and, finally, the fundamental acceptance of yourself. (B-5)

 

The key element to integrity is staying true to oneself, especially to the moral beliefs that one holds, and being honest with others. The consequence of integrity is the building of trust that others have, and this is its greatest value. When a person is perceived to have high integrity, people place their trust and faith that they will do what they say to the best of their ability, and even if a person fails, if their integrity is without question, then they are often given the benefit of the doubt. With a high level of trust, they are afforded more responsibilities and opportunities within organizations by leadership and clientele who delegate to them the authority to make the organization run more efficiently and help solve their problems.

 

In the military, when one's very life and well-being are on the line in dangerous and terrifying environments, we often take for granted just how much our lives are placed in the hands of others. Of course, there will be the most apparent situations in combat where this occurs when we place our trust in our buddies to provide covering fire when we cross a street, where we trust a medic to come to our aid when we are injured, or when we trust that our comrades will come to our rescue should we be pinned or captured by the adversary. However, just as critically, we trust that the logisticians properly loaded the proper munitions on the trucks that we need for the upcoming fight, that the riggers properly packed the parachutes before our paratroopers jump out of their planes, and that the cooks have been properly storing and cooking food before feeding hundreds of personnel.

 

A US Army Soldier who holds a high level of integrity will be honest about their capabilities when they genuinely believe that they may need assistance in order to accomplish a task. They won't lie and say they can do a task if, indeed, they think they may not be qualified. If they make a mistake, they own up to it. If they succeed, they acknowledge the contributions that others make. They understand they are only one part of a team effort, that is their unit, and they are as integral to the collective effort as any other Soldier. Therefore, integrity is not simply a moral principle that they follow but a practical ethical behavior they have based on this understanding that individuals who only do what is in their best interest will harm the ability of the organization to accomplish its purpose. They are honest, not just because they think it is good, but because lying is detrimental to problem-solving. They are realistic about their abilities, not just because they are humble, but because the organization needs to find the right people for the right positions to accomplish its essential tasks. They adhere to legal and ethical requirements, not just because they are exemplars of honor, but because great deeds are accomplished by the collective effort of every Soldier in their team, not by them alone, working towards desired ends.

 

For military and business organizations, having personnel in their ranks that display high levels of integrity helps shape the view of the organization as one that can be trusted as a whole. Personnel who lie to the chain of command, investigators, families, government bodies, compatriots, and the public create an aura of suspicion in everything they do. Even when such a dishonest organization does good deeds, the suspicion of previously unethical or immoral behavior that has eroded that trust will dilute the positive messaging that otherwise could have been created. Conversely, an organization that has a track record of honesty with others can be forgiven for bad deeds, easily attributed to one-off mistakes, slip-ups, and unforeseen extenuating circumstances that they will mitigate in the future.

 

To promote integrity within an organization, they must encourage honesty amongst their people. We know that without honesty, we are not given the complete picture of a problem, and this results in compounding problems that could have been mitigated and corrected early on. Humans naturally fear the consequences of blame; one of the reasons why humans learn lying from an early age is that the practice is ingrained in our genes as a social species, but dishonesty harms the collective effort of everyone, which includes the individual being dishonest. For the individual to have strong integrity when lying may become tempting, Honesty, early on, needs to feel good; delayed honesty needs to feel relieving yet with a tinge of regret that they weren't honest sooner; and dishonesty needs to feel shameful and mentally anguishing. To produce this effect on people, we need to give people the benefit of the doubt, avoid punishments for mistakes, and recognize the courage to admit when one is at fault. With this, we create an environment that permits people to come forward when mistakes are made, or when bad news needs to be delivered, without killing the messenger.

 

Personal Courage: Face fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). Personal courage has long been associated with our Army. With physical courage, it is a matter of enduring physical duress and at times risking personal safety. Facing moral fear or adversity may be a long, slow process of continuing forward on the right path, especially if taking those actions is not popular with others. You can build your personal courage by daily standing up for and acting upon the things that you know are honorable. (B-5)

 

If adhering to ethics were as easy as simply following written laws and regulations, and there were no inherent negative consequences for doing so, then it would be much easier for humans to follow these expected social behaviors we demand of them. The other Army Values are difficult to adhere to at times, because they may require the individual Soldier to forego opportunities for self-enrichment to do what is right for the Army, the unit, and their comrades. Personal courage, however, encourages the individual to engage in actions that have a perceived negative consequence in order to do the right and honorable thing.

 

For the Army, we have identified two forms of courage that we desire in our people. The first and most traditional form of courage involves the physical dangers that occur in our line of work. This can include running out of protective cover while being shot at by the adversary, jumping into rough seas to save a comrade who has fallen overboard, pulling out an injured buddy and/or sensitive equipment from a disabled vehicle to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy; and even jumping on a live grenade to save others at the expense of one's own live. Every act of physical courage involves some form of physical danger. This danger stokes fear, and it takes strong resolve to push past that fear to do something that benefits others. But physical courage has been around since time immemorial, and we can see forms of this courage in other social species.

 

The other form of courage, however, is less talked about because it doesn't involve the same level of heroics and glorious sacrifice that we attribute to the former. Moral courage involves doing the right thing except the potential negative consequences are of a social nature. This could include standing up to superiors who are giving illegal or immoral orders, redressing the improper behavior of a fellow Soldier, and even making the very necessary decisions that will get people killed in order to accomplish the mission. In a way, moral courage can be much more difficult because physical courage involves facing clear and immediate dangers that threaten one's physical safety, something that is part of our training. This type of courage is often celebrated and deeply ingrained in the ethics of military organizations around the world. Soldiers are trained and conditioned to react to physical threats with a combination of instinct, preparedness, and a sense of duty, which can make the enactment of physical courage more straightforward. The criteria for physical bravery are relatively clear, and external validation and support from peers and superiors can reinforce this behavior. The human brain sees a danger, assesses the risks it poses to the group and themselves, and then acts accordingly. Physical courage involves more risk, yet more certainty in outcomes and simplicity to execute.

 

Moral courage, however, involves navigating complex social and ethical landscapes where the risks and benefits are not always clear. Engaging in moral courage often requires challenging authority, going against the consensus of a group, or standing up for ethical principles in situations where the outcomes are uncertain and the social risks are high. The human brain's aversion to social exclusion and the deep-seated desire to belong can make moral courage particularly challenging. Social situations are ambiguous, and the fear of ostracization, ridicule, or damage to one's reputation can be powerful deterrents to doing what one sees as right. The human brain perceives something as socially unacceptable, but social situations are fraught with ambiguity and uncertainty; we rack ourselves with what we should do. Moral courage involves less risk yet more uncertainty in outcomes and complexity in execution.

 

Additionally, for an Army Soldier, physical courage is often supported by the other Army Values, where putting oneself in physical danger is part of doing one's duty and is a display of selflessness and loyalty to others. Moral courage, however, is often at odds with some aspects of Army Values, where cohesion and adherence to the chain of command are paramount, and the stakes for moral courage can be even higher. The potential for conflict between personal morals and loyalty to superiors and comrades adds an additional layer of complexity to acts of moral courage that need to be taken into account when deciding how to act. To be loyal to the Army, one may need to be disloyal to one's unit and one's comrades, who may be acting out of line and need to be corrected. Sometimes, being dutiful means telling friends that they need to carry their own weight instead of always passing on their own duties to others.

 

The one thing to note about courage is that what makes it noble, what makes it a value the Army wants as a core principle of its ethics, is that courage is employed for right and just reasons. The Army doesn't want its people to sacrifice their lives courageously; they want Soldiers to achieve objectives and complete tasks, and sometimes that requires courage and sacrifice; we don't want martyrs, just victors. Similarly, the Army doesn't want its people destroying unit cohesion and ruining reputations; they want Soldiers to keep each other accountable and keep their organizations ethical and effective, and sometimes that requires courage to rattle things up and correct impropriety; we don't want pariahs, just ethical organizations and people. When things are tough and people balk at the pressure, the courageous one does what they believe they must do for the mission, the organization, and others.

 

To promote courage, one must foster an environment where courageous acts are instinctual. As I mentioned about the military fostering physical courage through its training and culture, the military also attempts to do the same through its training for areas involving substance abuse, sexual harassment and assault, suicide awareness, and other social scenarios that require the individual to put themselves in social situations that make them increasingly uncomfortable. Businesses, or any organization, that expect their people to "do the right thing" when the time comes shouldn't have their people first experience it when it actually happens but should familiarize themselves ahead of time. They need to be able to assess a situation, determine the best course of action based on organizational ethics, and act accordingly. Many train employees for fires, earthquakes, and active shooters so that they can effectively respond to physical dangers with the appropriate response instinctively; sometimes, physical courage is necessary. So, too, should they train for scenarios that require moral courage. And when moral courage is displayed, just as we do for displays of physical courage with awards and recognition, we need to recognize the courage of people who do the right thing even when that thing may be unpopular or may damage friendships.

The Purpose of Army Values

Army Values: The baseline, core, and foundation of every Soldier. They define all Soldiers: who they are, what they do, and what they stand for. They drive Soldiers internally (their beliefs) and externally (their actions), at home and work, in peace and war. (27)

 

Remember, the purpose of Army Values, as is all ethics, is to compel adherents to engage in socially expected behaviors that are beneficial to the group promoting them. Laws and regulations are geared towards compelling specific actions of people when confronted with a specific scenario, such as the monetary value of gifts, the treatment of prisoners of war, and the special considerations afforded to non-combatants and cultural sites. Concepts, values, and beliefs that are more nebulous and open to interpretation based on the cultural background of the group, such as the Army Values, are not meant to be specific. They are reflective in nature, requiring a person to understand a situation to the best of their ability and then call upon these concepts to help guide their decision-making. People who share the same values may come to different conclusions based on their interpretation of those values, but may be steered towards a particular set of behaviors.

 

We referenced that Soldiers owe loyalty to multiple entities: the Constitution, the Army, their unit, and other Soldiers, but of course, some of these entities may place a Soldier in an ethical dilemma where loyalties may conflict. Soldiers also have many duties, and we have to judge some duties as being a priority over others when they, too, conflict. Giving respect has subjectivity to it, and if we are to treat others as they should be treated, then that, too, is left up to interpretation. We want our Soldiers to be selfless in their service, but we also want them to take care of themselves and their families and think about what is best for their future careers inside and outside the Army. Honor is tied to the other values, and if the other values differ between people, then so too does honor differ between people. We desire integrity amongst our Soldiers, being honest and true to themselves at all times. However, we also want them to have proper tact and sometimes withhold their honesty out of respect for others because this may not be the time nor the place for the brutal truth. We desire that our people engage in personal courage in order to do what is right, but what is right may differ based on people's interpretation of the situation, and we don't want people frivolously engaging in activities without a calculated probability of success.

 

What I mean by all of these is that each value by itself does not explicitly state what a person should or shouldn't do in a situation. Self-reflection is required in order to properly utilize it in the Army Profession, and in a sense, I believe this to be the case for any values-based ethical framework. By themselves, each value is limited and doesn't produce the desirable Soldier that the U.S. Army wants to shape out its members. A Soldier who is loyal to the Army but shirks their duties, is disrespectful to others, is dishonest about their actions, and serves only for their own gain is not a useful Soldier for accomplishing the Army's purpose. Soldiers who do their duty exactly as they are told but are disloyal to their comrades and their unit and violate laws and regulations when they suit them are a liability to their organization, which endangers the accomplishment of the Army's purpose.

 

These nebulous and flexible values have their extremes; too little and too much adherence to a value can be detrimental to the organization's ultimate goals. Taking in all the values simultaneously, however, helps us find a proper equilibrium between the extremes to create the ideal exemplar of an ethical American Soldier that accomplishes the tasks and missions that the Nation and the Army expect of them. Loyalty to the organization is great, but what if the organization, due to poor leadership, engages in unethical behavior? Integrity compels the individual Soldier not to engage in that behavior and seek to root it out the best way they can, such as through the inspector general's office. Integrity requires honesty and truth, but Respect acknowledges that there is a time, place, and method for delivering this that is best; calling someone a stupid fool in front of others may be a truthful assessment on your part, but there is a better way to address these concerns. Each value, in some way, can be checked by one or more of the other six values.

 

The purpose of the Army Values, the intent for their adoption, was the creation of principles that could help keep Soldiers ethical. In order for the Army to become a more effective organization after the Vietnam War, it needed to be able to accomplish its purpose in the face of increased scrutiny brought about by the media and public awareness from new broadcasts into people's homes. As a result, it needed to instill ethics into its people in the most practical way possible, and since we can't have ethics officers present alongside every single Soldier to ensure proper compliance, we had to shape the Soldier to be their own. However, specific laws and regulations don't work well when faced with differing scenarios in an ever-changing ethical landscape of modern conflicts, so we also needed a values-based system that allowed the individual to apply ethics unique to the situation they are facing. The Army Values, when employed in tandem with laws and regulations, help American Soldiers accomplish their tasks in such a way that it improves their efficacy in peace and at war while ensuring that they stay aligned with the expectations of their behavior that society has placed upon them. This allows the Army to accomplish its purpose through its people. When its Soldiers fail to behave ethically, the source is always found in the failure of the Soldier to adhere to the Army's own values framework, which is demanded of them.

 

The seven Army Values, as we have them now, were not directly adopted after Vietnam. Professional studies and assessments on the conduct and climate of the Army have progressed over decades of periodic improvements. To avoid going into excessive detail, in the various editions of Field Manual 100-1: The Army from 1978 through 1994, the Army had separated its principles into two categories: professional values and core qualities. The four professional values were Loyalty, Duty, Selfless Service, and Integrity. The five core qualities were commitment, competence, candor, compassion, and courage. These would persist until the publication of Field Manual 1: The Army in June 2001, when it first mentioned the seven Army Values as part of the Army's ethos. The point here is that something as historical as the U.S. Army and its heraldry is considered; its active doctrine in its various forms is constantly changing in order to meet the needs of society, and this includes its own ethics.

 

The lesson that the Army Values teaches the business world is not simply that they should be translated into business lexicon and adopted; though there may be value in doing just that, business ethics should be an evolutionary process that is shaped over time as the organization figures out how best to support its purpose for society. Business ethics can benefit from the tandem value of both written external laws and regulations that demand compliance under specific circumstances, as well as internally promoted values that provide employees and contractors the ability to judge and adjust their own behavior based on the situation. Laws and regulations change over time to fit the environment so that they achieve desired outcomes, and so too should values, to an extent. Values should not be changed based on frivolous assessments of the environment or the feelings and emotions of the time because for values to have power in the hearts of their adherents, they should have some lasting meaning associated with the profession. That meaning is tied to the purpose of the organization, the reason the institution exists, and the purpose of serving the needs of the community in the most effective way possible. The whims of the environment don't necessarily reflect long-standing conditions, and the constant shifting of values to react to those shifts can weaken the effects of ethical frameworks. The values themselves, in some way, should allow for the flexibility to adjust to an ever-changing environment, such as when the Army shifted from Obedience to Loyalty after the First World War.

 

I don't think I can stress this point enough: ethics must be tied to the accomplishment of the organization's purpose, not just the popular sentiment of the populace or whatever is trendy. When the Army adjusted its values after its engagement in Vietnam, there was popular anti-war and anti-establishment sentiment within the United States. It didn't seek to adjust its values to forgo the use of violence to achieve military aims or disband the Army altogether, but it did focus on instilling a greater emphasis on ethics and leadership training while also transitioning to an all-volunteer force. The Army still served as the premier land component of the nation's armed forces with the same capabilities it used in Vietnam, but its new framework sought to reform itself into something that could still achieve the government's desired ends in this new publicly scrutinous environment of the late 20th century.

 

As stated in the August 1981 edition of Field Manual 100-1: The Army, they have this quote that reflects the nature of this change while still facing the reality that it exists to fight wars:

 

The Army's task is a complex one. It serves the nation, but in doing so, it must serve the soldier as well. It is a value-centered institution, which constantly strives to understand and practice the qualities it must bring to that ultimate test, the battlefield. The challenge facing the Army today is that somewhere, sometime, the success or failure of critical national policies will once again rest in the hands of a few good, well-led soldiers, who trained well in the time of peace to fight well in time of war. The professional Army must stand ready to meet that challenge. (26) 

 

The purpose of war is to compel an adversary to change policy through the use or threatened use of violent forms of influence; this has been and will always be the case. Though the Army's ethics have changed slightly, they are still geared towards its ultimate purpose. As it "constantly strives to understand and practice [these] qualities" that make it an effective force, it understands that, ultimately, they are meant for the battlefield. Ethics will always be there to shape individuals in order to make them and their organizations ready and successful on the battlefield. Even something as simple as adhering to the value of integrity that compels them to follow simple and somewhat unimportant regulations, such as the regulation where you can't give gifts that are collectively worth more than $50 USD within a year, has its ultimate ends in some form of military readiness; in this case, the avoidance of undue influence on military personnel.

 

The world of business ethics shares many values with the Army: integrity, duty, and respect are commonly stated. They often also have unique values shaped by their purpose in society and the products and services they provide consumers and clients. For a technology-based company such as a social media platform, software developers, and computer component manufacturers, their products often have to be constantly improved upon and compete with other businesses that provide similar products. For these companies, innovation may be a critical value that is instilled in its people, where they encourage employees and contractors to brainstorm and develop new concepts and widgets that the company can then further develop, refine, and produce as an update or new market offering. For vehicle manufacturers: planes, trains, and automobiles, then safety is often a core value of what they provide the market, and they encourage their people to ensure that not only the factories are safe for the workers but also that the product is for consumers. If either business claims to have its respective values but doesn't promote them to its own people, then it will suffer in the accomplishment of its purpose: the tech company will not innovate and become obsolete, and the auto company will not catch faults and suffer recalls and product liability lawsuits.

 

For values to work, they need to be tied to purpose. Before you adopt a value, you must ask yourself various questions:

 

How does this help us accomplish our purpose?

Is this value consistent with our core mission?

Is this value important for improvement or merely reactive to market pressures?

 

In our contemporary business environment, many businesses have values that are ethically derived but not necessarily well-defined in how they support the purpose of the organization. Values such as diversity can be considered an important value for a business, but while some may explain the reason why diversity provides the business a net benefit, such as leveraging the diversity of thought for problem-solving or accessing different markets, other businesses merely assess that the market "demands diversity" and they institute it without regard to how such diversity will manifest certain expected behaviors and produce desirable results. If you can't explain the reasons why a value (a foundational aspect of your business ethics) actually supports the purpose of your business, then you may need to adopt different values.

 

I bring up diversity as a potential value problem for businesses because of a recent incident. As of the time of writing this paragraph, Google's Gemini artificial intelligence has recently been released to the public, and it has the ability to produce computer-generated images based on certain prompts that the user is able to input. Like other AI-based image generators, they are at times both surprisingly accurate and widely incorrect, but the technology itself is constantly changing. However, not all image generators are equally competent. Google's Gemini would produce wildly inaccurate images when trying to depict human beings, especially in historical settings and geographic localities. Here are some articles that reflect the problem being manifested in the market.

 

Google is racing to fix its new AI-powered tool for creating pictures, after claims it was over-correcting against the risk of being racist. Users said the firm's Gemini bot supplied images depicting a variety of genders and ethnicities even when doing so was historically inaccurate. For example, a prompt seeking images of America's founding fathers turned up women and people of color.

Unknown from BBC "Google to fix A.I. picture bot after 'woke' criticism" from 22FEB2024

 

The short version of the story is that people discovered that when you entered a prompt to create images based on historical context, Gemini would insert prompts to ensure that the results it gave were inclusive and more representative of a diverse population. Taken on its face, that certainly seems like a reasonable goal, especially since the internet has long reflected the biases of the people who create the information and content available online. If you feed that information into large language models (LLMs), like Gemini, you're mostly going to get the same bias in your results unless you figure out how to tune the model to do something different. I think it's fair to say that this was Google's goal--balancing its model against that bias. The problem is, at one point, it appeared that Gemini had been tuned so that even in situations where the obvious and historically accurate result would return an image of, say, a group of White men debating the articles of the Constitution, Gemini would instead attempt to fulfill that request with something else--say, an Asian woman or a Black man.

Aten, Jason from INC.COM "Google's Apology for its Gemini Image Debacle Reveals a Much Deeper Culture Problem for the Company" 25FEB2024

 

Gemini's image issues revived criticism that there are flaws in Google's approach to A.I. Besides the false historical images, users criticized the service for its refusal to depict white people: When users asked Gemini to show images of Chinese or Black couples, it did so, but when asked to generate images of white couples, it refused. According to screenshots, Gemini said it was "unable to generate images of people based on specific ethnicities and skin tones," adding, "This is to avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes and biases." Google said on Wednesday that it was "generally a good thing" that Gemini generated a diverse variety of people since it was used around the world, but that it was "missing the mark here."

Grant, Nico from The New York Times "Google Chatbot's A.I. Images Put People of Color in Nazi-Era Uniforms" 22FEB2024

 

In this Gemini situation, we have what appears to be a negative outcome out of an attempt to employ the value of diversity in its product. If you read further into some of these articles, you will notice that the developers of the model, when human figures were generated in images, sought to focus on creating a diverse array of people whenever possible. The reason given often revolved around competitors' image generation models, like OpenAI's DALL-E, producing images with too many Caucasians. In order to support diversity, they sought to create automated prompts that created an array of people of diverse backgrounds. It took the situation to the other extreme, however, and would have difficulty in creating images depicting Caucasians. This would receive criticism, as you have seen, as it would create historical and cultural instances that were absurd.

 

So, for whatever reason, we have a product that was developed by a multi-billion dollar company that can't meet the needs of the consumer (at the time at least), and the reason was tied to its own culture and values. While we can understand there was a reason behind forcing diversity in the artificially generated images, by design, it is anti-consumer in nature. The business desires to compel the consumer to adopt the business's ethics in order to use the product, which turns Google from a solely tech-based company into one that dips its toes into social advocacy. I am not saying that it was the first time (nor will it be the last time) that they engaged in social advocacy as part of their purpose; only that it is perplexing why an organization would deviate from its original purpose. They are a tech-based business that made poor tech because they decided to engage in non-tech-based ethics. If we dig further into what Google espoused, then we may attempt to see how things went wrong.

 

Google has what it calls its "Guiding Principles," a philosophy of ten concepts that it developed within a few years of the company's founding. In its ninth concept, titled "You can be serious without a suit," we see their first mention of the value of diversity.

 

Our founders built Google around the idea that work should be challenging, and the challenge should be fun. We believe that great, creative things are more likely to happen with the right company culture–and that doesn't just mean lava lamps and rubber balls. There is an emphasis on team achievements and pride in individual accomplishments that contribute to our overall success. We put great stock in our employees–energetic, passionate people from diverse backgrounds with creative approaches to work, play and life. Our atmosphere may be casual, but as new ideas emerge in a café line, at a team meeting or at the gym, they are traded, tested and put into practice with dizzying speed–and they may be the launch pad for a new project destined for worldwide use.

https://about.google/philosophy/

 

From this original concept, we see that diversity started as a concept we would generally refer to as "diversity of thought" in that they desired employees that had "diverse backgrounds with creative approaches to work, play, and life." For a tech company, concepts such as innovation require a diversity of thought to think of new ways to develop technologies and services to meet the existing, expanding, and changing marketplace. If the company is staffed with personnel who all think the same way, then they are missing out on opportunities to develop new and novel concepts that can better serve the consumer base. As a result, other businesses can come forward with better market offerings and take greater market share, and the business will either fail or be forced to focus on supporting a niche market. While the company had sought to portray itself as both a casual workplace that was low-stress and laid-back, it emphasized that it could still serve its purpose by having people who can produce "great, creative things" and that their environment encourages the development of concepts that allow for the development of "new project[s] destined for worldwide use." Their ways and means may have been more unorthodox, but the ends were still customer-focused, at least as it was espoused to the public.

 

However, as the market shifted and more consumers and employees became socially minded, the company started associating diversity with other values, namely inclusion and equity. The trio of diversity, equity, and inclusion have become their own office within Google, along with its own diversity officer. Google now has "responsibilities" as a major business, and diversity and inclusion have become one of those responsibilities. They want to bring everyone to the table in order to facilitate a sense of "belonging," and to do so, they institute policies that align with their idea of diversity, inclusion, and equity. To quote their philosophy on belonging, their second point, entitled "Belonging expands on diversity, equity, and inclusion," they stated:

 

Diversity means bringing everyone to the table. Inclusion means making sure they all have a seat. Equity means creating conditions that allow overlooked people the opportunity to succeed. These will always be priorities at Google, and belonging for everyone goes further. Beyond leveling the playing field, it means building for each person's full potential - which is where Google was built to help.

 https://about.google/intl/ALL_us/belonging/philosophy/ 

 

Because these values have become an important cornerstone of Google's business ethics, naturally, they have to manifest in the expected behavior of staff when developing technologies for the marketplace. As a result, we can see the allusions to diversity and inclusion that would render Gemini as, at least at the time of this writing, a useless image generator for human renderings. Within their publicly released 2023 Diversity Annual Report, they have a section in which they discuss their product offerings to the marketplace, and it is there they mention their intent to ensure "inclusion" is a key aspect built into those products.

 

Ensuring inclusion is built in.

Building for everyone means collaborating with everyone. Last year, we deepened our inclusion efforts alongside the communities we're building for, empowering global makers on Google Play, making gains in image inclusion, and training more leaders in ethical A.I. As a result, inclusion was centered throughout the process, and ultimately, in the products we created… (35)

 

We broadened our efforts to ensure ethical and equitable use of A.I.

As optimistic as we are about the potential of A.I., we also recognize that it must be developed, tested, and implemented responsibly. That means A.I. technologies should not leave certain groups behind or perpetuate existing biases… We've made progress not just in building out dedicated teams focused on responsible A.I., but also in embedding our A.I. Principles – our ethical charter that outlines our commitment to developing technology responsibly – across the organization. (37-38)

 

Here was the company's intent for its AI-based products to become more inclusive in nature, which would eventually manifest in Gemini's image-generation capabilities in 2024. Additionally, if we look into those "A.I. Principles" that they said they would embed into their A.I. products, we can reference their publicly released 2023 A.I. Principles Progress Update, which provides further details on what they attempted to accomplish. Do note that at the time of this report, Gemini, as we know it, was working under the name of Bard. Here are the relevant mentions from that report.

 

Risk Assessment and A.I. Principles Review outcomes

Google's A.I. Principles team conducted a risk assessment and review of Bard. Recommendations resulted in additional extensive deep-dive dogfooding and adversarial testing in the areas of safety, accountability, and inclusion to prepare for the initial experimental rollout of Bard and subsequent updates… (47)

 

Safeguards

A set of "model policies" guided the model development of Gemini Pro and evaluations. Model policy definitions act as a standardized criteria and prioritization schema for responsible development and as an indication of launch-readiness. Gemini model policies cover a number of domains including child safety, hate speech, factual accuracy, fairness and inclusion, and harassment. (48)

 

Without bearing witness to the development process of Google's Gemini firsthand, we are left to speculate on what occurred based on publicly released documents. Potentially, more information may come out from developers, leakers, and further public releases, but from the information we have been given from all they have provided, we can speculate this:

  1. At some point, they adopted diversity, inclusion, and equity as important values for the business, enough to dedicate an office with an officer to ensure those values were made manifest amongst the organization and its products.

  2. With those values in mind, they were concerned with inherent biases that were found in other competitor A.I. models, and wanted to ensure that Google's models were more inclusive of races, genders, and others, not just because they feel they have a social responsibility to be more representative of marginalized groups but they also are seeking to cater to a worldwide audience.

  3. Because they pull datasets for their language and image generation models from the internet, which they believe may over represent Caucasians and males, they need a way to coax the models to shift their outputs to be more inclusive. To do this, they automatically insert prompts within their models to make those outputs representative of people of diverse backgrounds, regardless of the prompts inputted by the users of Gemini.

  4. As a result, when prompted to create images that included humans, Gemini created images that were more inclusive of other races, even if the scenario requested by the user would make diversity appear absurd. 

 

In the wake of Gemini's public release, just before the image generation capability was disabled due to these inaccuracies, many examples were circulating on social media of the absurdity. Here are a few of those examples from that were passed around social media at the time:

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We understand Google's intent at the time was to improve diversity by having their A.I. products become more inclusive in what they generate; however, in doing so, they have engaged in anti-consumer behavior. The business desired to impart its ethics to the customer base but did it in a way that worked against the user's experience with the product. As a result of their efforts to manifest their new values into their product offerings to the market, the market responded in kind. A FOXBusiness article, published on the 28th of February 2024, gives us the extent of the damage:

 

Google parent company Alphabet has taken a beating in the stock market since pulling the plug on features of its artificial intelligence tool, Gemini, after users flagged its bias against White people. Data provided to FOX Business from Dow Jones shows that since Google hit pause on Gemini's image generation on Thursday, Alphabet shares have fallen 5.4%, while its market cap has fallen from $1.798 trillion to $1.702 trillion, a loss of $96.9 billion.

Dumas, Breck from FoxBusiness "Google loses $96B in value on Gemini fallout as CEO does damage control" 28FEB2024

 

I am not here to judge Google's choice of ethical values that they adopted; the marketplace does that, but just as the battlefield and political sphere are the final judges of the manifestation of ethics for a military's purpose, I can judge Google's manifestation of their ethics in regards to their purpose. Google is a tech-based business, and just like any other business, its purpose is to provide products and services to customers and clients that meet their needs if they hope to make a profit. The purpose of business, as we have stated multiple times, is to compel another to provide net value through cooperative forms of influence that are socially acceptable. Google could not compel the market to provide support for its product because the market found no value other than to joke at the absurdity of an image generation model that couldn't generate an approximation of what they desired. They failed in what should have been one of their primary ethical values as a business, which is quality, by prioritizing inclusion over other values directly tied to their purpose.

 

This example of Google Gemini is merely to reinforce the idea that ethics must be tied to purpose, and if you adopt or adapt your ethics to change with the times, as the U.S. Army did after Vietnam, you must constantly keep in mind the purpose of your business. Google can still employ its ethics of diversity and inclusion in its image generation, but it needs to realize that if it damages its ability to provide value to the consumer, then it will extract less value from the marketplace. As a business, they should prioritize ethics that support their ability to provide products and services that the market desires, things that solve consumer problems and satisfy consumer pain points. Google could just as easily focus on making the image generation to be as accurate as it possibly can, given its available datasets, but allow the user to use prompts to adjust image generation to be as diverse and inclusive as the user desires.

 

When the U.S. Army adopted its existing Army Values as the foundation of its ethics and its warrior ethos, each ethic had a direct tie to the purpose the Army had as 1) an American institution, 2) a force that serves as the premier land component of the United State's military might, and 3) an organization that is a steward of the profession of arms and the equipment and personnel given to it by the American people. The Army Ethic and its values are geared towards shaping each Soldier's behavior to be an effective asset to achieve the purpose of the Army, their units, and their ability to accomplish their tasks as individuals. Business ethics should similarly focus on shaping the behavior of their people to be effective assets that can support the business and allow it to succeed. All other potential ethics that the organization desires to promote should be of lesser priority or tangential to the primary ethics that allow the organization to succeed in its purpose.

Just War Theory

The moral principles, values, beliefs, and laws that make up the U.S. Army's ethics encompass all the elements that shape our expectation of proper behavior of Soldiers, or at least they are the sources of what we use to compel Soldiers to behave in an ethical manner. Remember, ethical behavior is simply a social expectation that is relative to a person based on their social station, and most cultures judge a person's behavior based on their station instead of some absolutist argument that everyone should behave the exact same way. This means that we judge the behavior of people based on who they are and the extenuating circumstances they find themselves in, rather than the deontologist who judges the act itself or the legalist who judges the act based on laws. It is very much a moral relativist position, but that is why ethics differ between professions, relationships, and cultures.

 

We have ethics because we want people to behave in such a way that their actions produce a desirable outcome, both by encouraging actions that we see as positive and discouraging actions that we see as negative. However, which actions create positive or negative outcomes is based on the environment and the action's effect on that environment. For example, the act of killing a man may be an immoral act to a moral absolutist, regardless of the situation; however, society operates more along the lines of moral relativism. A citizen who kills another citizen without cause has committed murder, but a person who kills another who attempts to kill them may be legally and morally absolved if that culture permits killing in self-defense. A soldier who kills the soldier of another nation outside of conflict is a murderer and is detrimental to their own nation's objectives, but when their nations enter into open conflict, that same action is encouraged (even rewarded) and it serves the interests of the nation.

 

It is the situation that dictates whether certain actions are good or bad because it is the situation that dictates our desired outcomes. When two nations are cooperating, then actions that facilitate that cooperation are preferred over others because the interests of that nation are tied to that cooperation. When they are at war, the interests of one's nation are tied to compelling the other to change policy, and the actions that support that intent are preferred. We create ethical frameworks that shape our people's decision-making so that they will act the way we desire, according to the situation. This applies to all ethical frameworks in much the same way in business; you may treat a client with greater consideration because you have a fiduciary responsibility to them than you would the client of the other party or the general public.

 

As a business example, in my station as a real estate agent, my ethics (socially expected behavior) changes based on the situation and who I am dealing with. When I engage with a client, I am privy to elements of their confidential information and will act according to their interests in a fiduciary relationship. When I deal with the agent or a client of the other party, I deal with them honestly and legally while still fulfilling my fiduciary responsibilities to my client. However, if a situation becomes hostile, I may not directly communicate with any other party and instead use an intermediary, such as arbiters and lawyers, for conflict resolution. In business, as it is for any other organization, it will be the situation that determines which behaviors are ethical, and this can differ between cultures in how they view proper behavior.

 

If we understand that ethical behavior differs based on a person's station and the situation, then we would need some overarching concept or theorem that connects all of these behaviors. For a military, why is killing another nation's military personnel in peacetime a murderous crime and counter to state interests, but in wartime, the exact opposite? For a business, why is it a violation of laws or regulations to work against the interests of a client, yet we can still charge them a fee, as it wouldn't be in the interests of the client if we worked pro bono? Well, for these questions to be answered, we would need a social concept to help frame our actions in relation to situations that we could collectively assess. Having a shared frame of reverence would help us develop a shared understanding to which we could agree that particular people, under certain situations, should or shouldn't behave in certain or generalized ways.

 

For business, there is no single overarching theorem that dictates business ethics, but there are a few that can be utilized, such as triple bottom reporting, stakeholder theory, corporate social responsibility, and fiduciary duty. For modern militaries in the international community, however, we do have a single overarching concept that we reference to determine what is ethical in regard to waging, conducting, and ending conflicts between nations and organizations and the relationships between combatants and non-combatants. This concept we call "Just War Theory," and while it isn't necessarily hearkened back to whenever we make decisions of an ethical nature, it is often the foundational reference of those other sources of ethical decision-making, such as a collective ethic or legal systems.

 

Michael Walzer, an American political theorist, noted that throughout human history, discussions on just use of military power have been treated, at times, both as a topic of important discussions for politicians and citizenry and conversations of irrelevance to national and political survival. At the very beginning of his book, Just and Unjust War: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, he states:

 

For as long as men and women have talked about war, they have talked about it in terms of right and wrong. And for almost as long, some among them have derided such talk, called it a charade, insisted that war lies beyond (or beneath) moral judgment. War is a world apart, where life itself is at stake, where human nature is reduced to its elemental forms, where self-interest and necessity prevail. Here men and women do what they must to save themselves and their communities, and morality and law have no place. Inter arma silent leges: in times of war the law is silent. (3)

 

Indeed, the idea that we may place limits on combatants in a time of war could appear absurd at first glance. We are in the midst of killing our adversaries, and they are attempting to do the same to us. If the consequences of failure are the loss of freedoms and sovereignty and the killing and enslavement of our loved ones and countrymen, then it would seem almost unethical for us to limit ourselves. If ethics is about social expectations of behavior, then it would make sense that a nation's ethics would permit its warfighters to engage in whatever act they deem fit to accomplish the objectives of the state. The people of a nation expect to be protected from the horrors of war and the aggression of outsiders by those members of their community who are trained, equipped, and empowered by the laws of their land to fight those threats.

 

Some believe that establishing laws that limit military activity in warfare, which places ethics over military decision-making, is an ignorant position to argue. Conversely, some would argue that allowing military decision-makers to use whatever means and ways they have available to defeat an adversary is giving too much power to them and will result in excessive pain and suffering for humanity. I would, however, argue that both positions are incorrect. We don't act nice to our adversaries and follow the laws of war unless doing so helps us achieve our ends. We don't bomb non-combatants because we care for them, even if we do, but because doing so can hurt the accomplishment of the nation's political objectives. We don't impose laws and regulations and establish ethical frameworks for warfighters because a military wants to "go soft" and "be good," but because we realize that a military is but one element of national power that should be working in tandem with the state's other elements. In other words, being ethical may be considered a good thing to do, but being the exemplar of moral virtue is only tangential to the primary reason: being ethical is a strategic decision.

 

The four elements of national power: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic (DIME), are leveraged by a nation in order to impose its will on others for its benefit. While the military may dominate the domain of the battlefield, attempting to weaken adversaries so that we may better influence their decision-making, this is to make way for the other elements of national power to make their influence known on the world stage, the battlefield, and at the negotiating table. To restate a quote we referenced in the previous Chapter 2.4: The Purpose of Warfare from Edward A. Smith's book Effects Based Operations: Applying Network Centric Warfare in Peace, Crisis, and War:

 

The lasting solutions to the unrest wrought by globalization are political, social, and economic in nature, not military. This is because the root causes of the instability are themselves political, social, and economic in nature. Thus, the United States and the West can influence global evolution only to the degree that their businessmen, teachers, diplomats, and journalists are free to play a role. But, these varied roles, like the change as a whole, demand a basic local stability in order to succeed. While forward military forces certainly may have a role in influencing local militaries, their crucial role is not as an agent of change. Their real role is to create and/or reinforce the stability that political, social, and economic change requires. The role of military forces is not to solve all of the social, political, and economic dilemmas; it is to buy time. (6-7)

 

The military arm of national power is only one tool in the tool belt of sources where it can apply its influence upon the world to better its own objectives. All nations do this to some extent, some more successfully than others, but this is how all humans influence others, even as individuals. We cajole, utilize favors, foster relationships, and leverage problem-solving to convince others to do what we want. We shape and communicate details about our environments to others and alter perceptions of reality. We can leverage violence for personal gain or defense and even use it to support another for much the same reason. We can utilize capital and effort to enrich ourselves and others or deny enrichment to change opinions. The important thing to note when one thinks of the elements of national power, even if envisioned as elements of individual power, is that they all must be employed purposefully for the benefit of the one employing them. This means ensuring they work together effectively in a unified effort to accomplish the same or at least complementary objectives.

 

The military is bound by ethical guidelines to ensure that the output it produces; destruction of the enemy, relieving allied forces, deterring threats, or whatever military task it may undertake, that these effects upon the battlespace, the area of operations, and upon the international stage are complementary and nested with the intent of the state and the other elements of national power. For every bridge, building, or road destroyed by the military arm of the state, the economic arm may need to replace them or was the one that built them to begin with. On the other hand, if military necessity demands the destruction of that bridge, building, or road in order to accomplish the assigned objectives, then you can't necessarily let the economic arm limit the military. From the utilitarian perspective, what matters most is the ends, and it will be up to the decision-makers to determine how best to weigh the perspectives of each element in its arsenal to accomplish those ends. The best course of action will be the one that successfully incorporates each element of national power in the most effective manner and in the most synergistic way so as to avoid actions that are counterproductive and cause friction. This means that each individual, in each organization, of each element of national power needs to behave in expected and calculated ways so that their contributions to the collective efforts of the state can be predicted and accounted for during the decision-making process.

 

This calculated and predictable behavior we are trying to create is the purpose of all ethics. As we are all individuals (some more individualistic than others) if we want to work cooperatively, we expect certain behaviors out of others. Just imagine a business, a restaurant perhaps, where ethics requires they maintain a safe and clean kitchen; how quickly that business would fail if it was known that their cooks were periodically being severely burned by fry oil and whose food was contaminated with salmonella; customers would not give them their patronage and the business would be shut down. They would have failed in their purpose of feeding their local community meals, and this would be a direct result of their failure to adhere to proper ethical guidelines. Remember, ethics isn't necessarily about being a "little goody two shoes" but about simply doing the right and correct thing that you ought to do, and in the case of restaurants that serve the public, they ought to provide a safe working environment for their cooks and prepare their meals in a clean environment, because injured cooks can't make meals and food poisoned customers will not return. As I said, being ethical is a strategic decision.

 

In the realm of war, however, ethics is difficult to employ. To make effective ethical decisions, you need access to accurate information about the environment, especially the intentions of the actors within that environment. However, the chaos of battle and ambiguity of information in the battlespace makes certainty impossible, so warfighters must rely on instincts, training, and processes that reduce risk. If we recall the earlier story about Kudo's Marines misidentifying innocent Afghani youths as Taliban fighters while under the specter of threats, then you know what I mean. We know well that the law of armed conflict requires us not to cause harm to non-combatants, but ethics are made useless when the imperfect and easily manipulated human brain tells you things that aren't true.

 

None of this mentions that sometimes, humans, regardless of their station in life, may not have the same moral framework as the social group requires, or they may suffer from some form of psychopathy or sociopathy. Since 21st-century technology has not yet advanced to the point where we can simply make competent and ethical super soldiers in lab-grown vats, all nations must recruit or conscript their personnel from the existing population. Whatever non-aligned morals or ethics the individual recruit may have, the military will seek to adjust or supplant its own military ethics to ensure that the recruit becomes a useful member of the team. Seeking to turn a potential liability that is counterproductive to the collective efforts of the nation and the military institution through indoctrination into the military's culture and through training.

 

James H. Toner, in his book True Faith and Allegiance: The Burden of Military Ethics, identified that a military's failures do not simply stem from its failure to be competent in its tasks but also from the moral failings of its people of which all can be corrected through proper training. As he stated:

 

Military incompetence is mental, military, or moral lack of qualification. To avoid it, training that maintains fidelity to purpose is tough, realistic, and authentic. It prepares soldiers for the responsibilities of their profession. The object of training is the inculcation of skills (competence) and appropriate values (character) into the minds and hearts of beginning soldiers. The U.S. military is an armed force, prepared to wage war, and held fast to the standard of honor by the notion of selfless service to the unit and to the nation. Ultimately, military training teaches not only the trade of soldiering but the profession of arms. (55)

 

To truly get an individual to become ethical, they have to be trained to do so. Just as we want our warfighters to function well in the chaotic uncertainty of battle, we also want them to incorporate ethical decision-making so that they can engage in an act that is not counterproductive to our efforts. Of course, we desire that our people survive and get out of a difficult situation unharmed, and we don't seek to throw the lives of our people away whenever it is politically expedient to do so (even if some politicians may feel that way), but we seek to avoid the natural instinct to use excessive force for self-preservation when the reality of the situation doesn't require it. In this way, we seek to protect both the warfighter and the objectives of the mission that put them in that situation. As a result, we don't punish people like Timothy Kudo for what he and his Marines have done because we know that the killing of non-combatants was not their intent, and they utilized methods that sought to provide them clarity about the Afghani youths' intentions through the use of signaling and smoke to deter their continued movement. However, as the consequences of their encounter show, the uncertainty of the environment and the fallibility of the human mind can't guarantee certainty in outcomes, only predictable ones, at best.

 

Regardless, we train for an ethical environment by focusing on training our servicemembers to employ ethics in their decision-making and reinforce our values to our people. Just as in battle, such efforts won't guarantee all actions will have ethical outcomes, but the idealism in our institutions seeks to shape itself so that the preponderance of its actions can be seen as ethically driven, seeking to achieve the objectives of that nation in the most effective way possible while incorporating all the other elements of national power. This means that we must also view war through both a national and military lens to ensure the political objectives of the state are defined and supported by the tools of the state, such as the military.

 

The result of this is the traditional view of war as two separate elements: the waging of war and the conduct of war. The waging of war is determined by the leaders of the nation, the state, the kingdom, the tribe, or the group. Modern militaries, like the armed forces of the United States and many of its allies, utilize civilian control of the military. This means that the civilian government, elected by its people to represent and protect its people's interests, controls the establishment, maintenance, and use of the military arm of the nation for the benefit of the state and its citizens. The military is a powerful organization with awesome destructive capabilities that is capable of using its power to influence the political body of its nation. Because of this, modern militaries like the United States Armed Forces, understanding the comprehensive needs of the people, legally and voluntarily submit their strength to the civilian government. The determination to use the military to influence other nations through violence, such as through war, rests primarily on the shoulders of the civilian government, with only partial responsibility on the senior military personnel that advises that civilian body. The military itself is primarily concerned with the conduct of the war itself and ensuring its actions align with established ethics: laws, regulations, and institutional values.

 

The moral reality of war is divided into two parts. War is always judged twice, first with reference to the reasons states have for fighting, secondly with reference to the means they adopt. The first kind of judgment is adjectival in character: we say that a particular war is just or unjust. The second is adverbial: we say that the war is being fought justly or unjustly. The two sorts of judgment are logically independent. It is perfectly possible for a just war to be fought unjustly and for an unjust war to be fought in strict accordance with the rules. (21)

 

These two areas that determine the justness of conflict are commonly referred to by their Latin terms.

 

Jus ad bellum, or the "right to war," focuses mainly on the causes and justification for the waging of armed conflict. Throughout human history, the justifications for war varied based on the perspectives of the culture engaging in conflict. Throughout history, as we covered in the previous Chapter 2.4: The Purpose of Warfare, the reasons for using war as a tool of influence, and whether those reasons were just or not, were dependent on the people's rationalizations for doing so. For the Ancient Chinese, the use of war to punish evil, restore harmony, and strengthen the state for the benefit of the people was justification enough. For Europeans from ancient times through the Renaissance, it was about strengthening the state and protecting one's people. From the Napoleonic Wars and onward to today, we hold that our justifications for war are tied to the political will of the state, and as an extension of that political will, modern nations have found it politically prudent to adopt and adhere to international norms and laws for belligerents. For example, to be found just based on the United Nations Charter:

 

  • Article 2 requires all members to settle their disputes peacefully. That its members will refrain from using force against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other states, and that members will assist in maintaining or restoring peace and security while avoiding providing assistance against those states and organizations that the United Nations has determined seek to prevent this. 

  • Article 41 requires the use of other elements of national power before the military arm is utilized to prevent potential conflict: this can include economic sanctions, the disruption of communications, and the severing of diplomatic ties.

  • Article 42 permits the use or threatened use of force should the non-military efforts of Article 41 fail to resolve potential conflict.

  • Article 51 allows its members to retain the right to self-defense, either individually, such as the United States, or collectively, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), of which the United States is a member.

 

UN Charter aside, modern nations will generally always find justifications for why they do what they do. Adhering to international norms can provide legitimacy to their decisions and provide leverage in dealing with other nations, but in the end, each nation acts according to its own interests. While international laws regarding armed conflict have hopefully aligned the interests of many nations to avoid conflict and seek out other avenues to accomplish their ends, if a nation sees a benefit to going to war, it may be naive to think they won't employ their own justifications to themselves, their people, and the international community to make it happen.

 

Jus in bello, or the "right in war," is the other area of just war, and it focuses mainly on the conduct of the combatants. The proper conduct of warfighters has not been as well regulated throughout history as the justification for war levied by states. Referencing the previous chapter, Ssu-ma Jang-chu's book, the Ssu-ma fa, or The Methods of the Minister of War, did mention that armies seeking to correct unvirtuous lords shouldn't cause unnecessary suffering by disrespecting their religion, exhausting their wildlife and forests, pillaging their goods, burning their buildings, causing harm to their population, and even suggests rendering aid to captured prisoners of war. However, official conduct during warfare is more of a modern construct, especially in regard to laws of war established through the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

 

That there should be rules for warfighters to behave in a way that reduces the suffering of all involved parties has been seen as somewhat absurd since participants are already in the process of killing each other, destroying their equipment and facilities, and forcing their people to submit to the will of the victor. Prussian General Helmuth von Moltke, in response to this sentiment, said the following in a letter to Johann Bluntschli on December 11th 1880: 

 

The greatest kindness in war is to bring it to a speedy conclusion. It should be allowable with that view, to employ all means save those that are absolutely objectionable.

 

However, the destructive nature of the world wars had encouraged the adoption of not only those UN Charters that compelled belligerents of the organization to justify their actions but the suffering that the wars brought about compelled the politicians and their constituencies to accept increasingly more strict regulations on the use of force during wartime. But just as in the waging of war, creating ethics around the conduct of war is as much about preventing the negative consequences of military action upon political objectives as it is seeking to be seen as some exemplar of moral and ethical action. To reiterate a previous statement, modern militaries don't act nice because it is good but because not acting nice can ultimately harm political objectives. For example, the law requires that we don't harm non-combatants during the conduct of military action; however, the doctrine of double effect does allow it if military necessity dictates that it will have a net positive outcome after due deliberation. In other words, the very ethics that say that non-combatants shouldn't be killed also say that they can be killed if the situation allows for it. In the end, ethics are made for the benefit of those that purport them and will be adjusted should the existing ethics harm the overall interests of the organization and its purpose.

 

Jus ad bellum and jus in bello represent the two traditional aspects of just war as proposed by Walzer: how it is waged and how it is conducted. Recently a third aspect has entered the discussion and that is jus post bellum, or "right after war" which refers to the proper actions that belligerents should engage after the conclusion of fighting. This is not only a consideration of moral and virtuous actions that are owed; such as how prisoners of war will be repatriated, what support the victor needs to provide to a defeated and destitute adversary, and the proper treatment and care for wounded combatants and non-combatants, but more pragmatically speaking the belligerents needs to have an understanding of the postwar environment and how they will continue to shape it.

 

In a contribution to the Routledge Handbook of Ethics and War, Todd A. Burkhardt wrote in his piece "Reasonable Chance of Success: Analyzing the postwar requirements of jus ad bellum" he states:

 

It is absolutely seminal that leaders and planners critically analyze not only jus ad bellum and jus in bello requirements but also jus post bellum requirements before any disembarkation of troops. The main consequence from not analyzing postwar considerations as part of the ad bellum phase is that civilians continue to die even when the war is over, and the decimated and chaotic conditions created as a result of implementing a dual purpose target strategy becomes the perfect breeding ground for an insurgency. (124)

 

We must remember that the entire reason we entered into war or engaged in armed conflict with some groups was to compel others to change their policies. With a great expenditure of effort, capital, and blood, we have forced an adversary to do the same to a much greater degree. Therefore, they have been compelled to terms. Just because the terms have been accepted and the fighting has ceased doesn't mean that influencing is or should cease as well. Often, we simply transition to the other elements of national power: the diplomatic, informational, and economic arms of a state, and the military arm facilitates the transition between the conditions of conflict to those of cooperative exchange. The military still has a role to play in the postwar environment, such as through the organizing and training of the defeated parties' new military and police organizations, but often, their support in the form of continued stability operations is critical for the other arms of national power to even work.

 

When we first discussed the elements of national power, DIME, in this chapter, we referenced a quote by Edward A. Smith about the military's value in creating stability so that teachers, businesses, and journalists can affect change in an environment. This is a critical aspect of jus post bellum in that it takes time, effort, and capital to successfully transition from a defeated and destitute people to a fully-functioning, politically-aligned, and economically-sufficient nation. If instability is allowed to persist, the people will align themselves with whatever groups offer them the food, security, and capital they need to function (people that offer them a semblance of stability) and these groups may not be aligned with our efforts. As a result, jus post bellum requirements are not about being nice; though they can be, they are about not failing to achieve the ultimate objectives and the reasons for going to war to begin with. A nation goes to war for its various justifications: its jus ad bellum requirements. It fought justly by adhering to laws and norms and taking into consideration the accomplishment of just ends: its jus in bello requirements. And now it needs to ensure that at the cessation of combat operations, it provides the support the defeated people need so that they can be reshaped according to the desired ends of the victor: its jus post bellum requirements. Failing to take into account any of these requirements may result in ultimate failure in a nation's political objectives, and the whole reason conflict commenced.

 

This Just War Theory serves as an overarching theorem for the justified use of military force for a nation. It is an ethical framework, actions a nation's military and its other elements of power ought to do. Like all ethics, it has its foundation in morals, such as avoidance of unnecessary harm and the utilization of justifications for action, and it has its foundation in values, beliefs, and laws. However, as I have stressed throughout the latter half of this chapter, ethics is primarily about pragmatically shaping the environment to achieve desired ends. Just War Theory is the utilitarian approach to warfare that attempts to bring in aspects of deontology, legalism, and other schools of ethical thought to create a method of achieving desired ends that is generally acceptable, or at least not as distasteful, to the world and to those faced with violence on the battlefield than the purely utilitarian approach. Or I should say, since the utilitarian approach is about the ways and means being justified by the ends, utilitarianism is no longer as brutally pragmatic as it has been traditionally viewed in the past because, to achieve those ends, we are now incorporating other concepts into our decision-making process. In other words, Just War Theory accepts that its utilitarian approach to war must also incorporate other approaches into its ways and means.

 

One of the biggest dilemmas produced by Just War Theory, something that is alluded to in Walzer's quote previously, is that while warfighters may fight their wars in a just manner, we must wonder if it is still just to fight in an unjust war. Or, in other words, do military personnel have an ethical or moral imperative to refuse to fight an unjust war? If you ask the general public, they may say that a servicemember has an ethical responsibility to refuse to fight a war that they perceive is unjust. This is because the general public sees a conflict as a whole scenario in which an unjust war can be avoided by its combatants simply refusing to fight. A valid perspective, however, that perspective was challenged in the court system during the case of United States v. 1LT Ehren K. Watada.

 

In a ruling of the court on the 16th of January, 2007, we see the situation of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, who had purposely missed the movement of his unit's deployment to support the conflict in Iraq. He believed that the conflict was unjust and that he had an ethical responsibility not to support the ongoing effort, and he alluded to the Nuremberg Defense. The Nuremberg Defense was a tactic used by many Germans accused of war crimes after their defeat in World War Two, where they used the excuse of "just following orders" to justify their actions. The "just following orders," otherwise referred to as the "Nuremberg Defense," was not an acceptable justification, and military personnel had a responsibility to disobey unlawful orders. Basically, Watada had alluded to the invalidity of the Nuremberg Defense, in that he believed the deployment to be illegal and was using that as justification for intentionally disobeying the orders to deploy. Therefore, "just following orders" would require him to partake in what he saw as an unjust conflict.

 

Some snippets from the court's ruling, written by the circuit judge Lieutenant Colonel John M. Head, stated:

 

A hearing on the "Neurnberg defense" would consist of witnesses who would testify that the war in Iraq was a crime against peace, a war of aggression, and a violation of the United Nations Charter, other international law, and U.S. law. The accused would testify that his refusal to go to Iraq was based upon the belief that he would be committing war crimes because the United States was involved in a war of aggression and a crime against peace.

 

The defense moves the court to allow testimony at a motion hearing and then at court that the conflict in Iraq is unlawful thus making the deployment order unlawful. The government seeks to prevent this testimony and additionally to prevent the accused from introducing evidence of his motive for missing the movement. Finally, the government requests the court to decide, as an interlocutory matter, the lawfulness of the order to deploy.

 

The question of the lawfulness of an order is an interlocutory matter for the judge to decide… The order to deploy soldiers is a nonjusticiable political question… Further, the Court of Military Appeals, now Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, wrote "an accused may not excuse his disobedience of an order to proceed to foreign duty on the ground that our presence there does not conform to his notions of legality." Applying the law to the facts of the case, the issue of whether the Iraq war is lawful is a nonjusticiable political question.

 

The court, while not stating it directly, had adhered to the Just War Theory's separation between jus ad bellum and jus in bello requirements in that Watada had incorrectly attributed political consideration of the use of military power, something in the domain of senior civilian leadership of the government, with the actual conduct of military action, the domain of the warfighter. In the eyes of the military court system, his lawful military duties as a Soldier are only applicable to their conduct and not the reasons for its waging. It is not illegal to enter a plane, travel across the globe, conduct a military patrol down the street, return fire against an enemy combatant or criminal element, and engage in self-defense. In this case, the desire to discuss the Nuremberg Defense was irrelevant because the order to deploy itself was not an unlawful order.

 

Watada's mistake was to view the dilemma as a whole (the war) instead of two separate elements: the waging of war and the conduct of war. This is what Walzer would mean when he alluded that an unjust war could be fought justly. Watada, as a Soldier, was under no requirement to commit any war crimes just because he believed the conflict itself was illegal because the crimes of Soldiers in war are not the waging, but the conduct. This was the same for the Nuremberg Trials; regular Wehrmacht soldiers were not punished by simply participating as lawful combatants of their nation in what the victors saw as an illegal war of aggression. They were punished when they themselves engaged in violations of human rights and humanitarian law, even when they were ordered to do so. The punishment of waging war fell on the shoulders of its architects, the senior civilian and military leaders who had authority in the decision to use military force for political objectives in the manner that they did. The regular officers and enlisted soldiers were only punished when they themselves violated laws, such as executing prisoners of war, participating in the killing of non-combatants, and perfidy. In a hypothetical scenario regarding Watada's ethical conundrum, if the United States Government was put on trial for a war of aggression in Iraq, the civilian leadership of our government would be held accountable for jus ad bellum requirements, and our warfighters, like Watada, would only be held accountable for jus in bello requirements. In other words, Watada would only be judged on the actions he had taken while conducting operations in Iraq and not on the fact that he simply participated in regular military operations.


However, this ethical dilemma still goes back to the ethical question that we asked: whether or not military personnel should or shouldn't participate in an unjust war as a matter of morals and ethics. Well, in the matter of military ethics, we see that it is irrelevant since military ethics operates on the dual jus ad bellum/jus in bello model of just war theory. As a matter of general ethics amongst a nation's population, I would argue this should still be the case. Yes, if military personnel and the military as a whole had assessed that their nation's civilian leadership had made a poor decision and called for it to wage an unjust war, the unjust war could have been avoided by the military and its people simply refusing to follow the dictates of the government. However, we now begin to violate another ethical norm of modern nations, and that is one of civilian control of the military, which we spoke of earlier in regard to the elements of national power. If the military itself, and its personnel as individuals, are allowed to make their own decisions based purely on its own ethics without regard to the orders of the elected and appointed officials, it would put into question the concept of civilian control. I don't want to speculate about the potential consequences of such a reality, such as an Americanized Praetorian Guard, but civilian control is predicated on military organizations and personnel following lawful orders regardless of personal qualms.

Difficulties of Employing Ethics

Then the just man will not go beyond what is moderate in his treatment of himself and others; but the unjust man will exceed what is moderate. The one will be content with what he has and will not desire what belongs to others, but the unjust man, who values money and property above all else, will be envious and greedy. (Book IV, 443d-444a) Plato's Republic

 

There are more than eight billion human beings on this planet right now, and with a shared history of more than one hundred billion humans having lived, not a single one of them is what we would call perfect. What I mean to say is that every idolized human that is portrayed as a symbol of moral virtue or righteousness has its detractors, both in the eyes of their contemporaries and of future generations. At best, we can find people of greatness who have supporters who play up what makes them great, while the detractors point out their flaws, but no human being is perfect. Indeed, the concept of a perfect specimen within a species may be evolutionarily absurd as the concept of survival of the fit is predicated on a creature's qualities relative to their environment. As a result, flexible adaptation is more desirable to a living creature than concrete characteristics that can't change when the environment does.

 

What I mean to say is that, for a social species like humanity, how we engage with other humans will determine how successful we are as individuals, whether we are valued by others, thus gaining access to mating partners and resources, or we become pariahs, and thus are ostracized. Our relationships with the groups we associate with will determine our success, and we shape our own behaviors in order to best fit in. Simultaneously, the group also exerts pressure on individuals to conform to their behaviors in such a way that the individual benefits the group so that collectively, every individual is better off. But, again, the environment will dictate which behaviors are beneficial and which are detrimental. As a result, the expected behaviors of individuals within a group will change between different groups and even amongst sub-groups within a group who may serve a specific function. This is why ethics (socially expected behaviors) differ amongst the various cultures of the world and amongst the institutions and professions within those cultures. For example, American and Chinese cultures are starkly different in terms of conflicting ethics. American and Chinese soldiers can share similar ethics, however, since the battlefield itself is a type of environment that exerts its own influence upon the profession of arms and the ethics necessary for these professionals to survive and thrive.

 

Having ethical frameworks, however, doesn't guarantee proper ethical behavior amongst all individuals. There can be many sources that cause an individual to fail to adhere to ethics, such as moments of duress that serve as extenuating circumstances, temptation for enrichment or pleasure, a differing priority of ethics, or simply a conflict in cultural norms and expectations. This last aspect we can see in an example from the very Abu Ghraib incident we have previously talked about, but this time between an American Soldier who felt collective shame for the incident and Iraqi interrogators who very much understand the utilitarian value of torture.

 

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Edmonds of the US Army had served with the Iraqi Assistance Group, where he was charged with helping train Iraqi Security Forces in Mosul. Here, he was met with the conflict in cultural norms, expectations of behaviors, and laws that differed between him and his Iraqi counterparts and students. For Edmonds, Abu Ghraib was a failure of American military ethics, but for the Iraqis he was teaching, what occurred in that one incident was a standard affair in their world. In his contribution to Meagher and Pryer's book, War and Moral Injury: A Reader, his chapter titled "God Is Not Here," a rather interesting story of conflicting ethics between cultures, is noted in his second month in the country.

 

The class is animated. My Iraqi students ask lots of questions, and as has happened in other classes, I find some way to talk about the importance of treating prisoners humanely. We discuss Abu Ghraib and how to not allow that to happen here. "It is vital for the Iraqi citizens and the world community to respect and trust the Iraqi military." I speak about how it is the Iraqi officer's responsibility to monitor the prison guards and to avoid abusing prisoners. But it's frustrating, for both the Iraqis and me, since this last point of my lecture doesn't seem to resonate with them. I have to remember that I am dealing with a completely different culture. The Iraqi legal system is based on confessions, and since confessions are required to find a person guilty and keep them in prison, confessions are what interrogators try to get.

 

It seems so easy to say, "No beating the prisoners," until I'm actually standing here teaching men who themselves have been beaten many times before. No matter how many times I wag my finger, I can see their minds turning and them thinking: "But this prisoner is a terrorist. He has killed women, children, or a soldier friend of mine. If he confesses, he will go to jail. Why should the world care if this requires that I hurt him? How typical of you hypocritical Americans." (39)

 

The incident at Abu Ghraib was a violation of the Army Ethic. It violated not only numerous international laws and conventions but was also a violation of the Army Values itself. While the consequences of what occurred had a negative impact on our national and strategic efforts, it also stained the honor of the US Army. In this instance, however, it was not the established ethic that was lacking; it was merely proper oversight. This is why, for many within the Army, we were perplexed as to how such an incident could occur, and we felt shame and anger for the impact that a few had on the hundreds of thousands of Soldiers who continued to serve honorably. Our culture would not allow such an incident to occur, and the fact that it did was shocking.

 

Individuals like Edmonds sought to reinforce his existing beliefs on the proper treatment of prisoners, not simply from the angle of morality and value but also from the angle of accomplishment of purpose. Torture and humiliation don't necessarily produce desirable results from the victim, and the public relations backlash makes the endeavor counterproductive. By reinforcing both values and objective-oriented instruction, Edmonds sought to instruct these Iraqis on the proper treatment of prisoners but was faced with a different culture than his own, which impacted their view of torture. The fact that many of these students were themselves products of Iraqi culture, which was shaped heavily by Saddam Hussien's Ba'ath Party, where torture was commonplace, we can see the potential for friction when one culture tries to adopt the ethical guidelines of another culture. It is culture that dictates the roles and functions that people play in society, and it is ethics that dictate how people should engage in those roles and functions. This means that culture drives ethics, and adopting ethics becomes a difficult prospect when the ethical guidelines don't align with the culture. This is the case between the cultures of different professions as much as it is between the cultures of different nations. Trying to apply the selfless, hierarchical, and collective culture that is the US Army to an American business can, therefore, be a difficult process because it is the needs of Army culture, its ultimate purpose, that dictates its ethics. The purpose of a business necessitates a different culture, which in turn requires its own set of ethics tailored to the accomplishment of its purpose. Directly adopting the Army's ethical framework may not be the best option without proper assessment. This is an issue with adopting or compelling ethics between differing cultures because ethics is merely a tool for the accomplishment of a group's purpose.

 

On the topic of culture conflicting with the sharing of ethics, within the United States, we have the overarching American culture, which is self-centered, individualistic, and outspoken, very much counter to the subculture of the American military. Ethics for the American public can differ from the ethics adopted by their military services, and the divide increases the more these cultures drift from one another. Military ethics, the behaviors it demands of its people so that it can accomplish its purpose for the nation, requires the public's understanding of the military as it is from the populace that new recruits and public support are derived. If the public begins to believe that actions that the military sees as unethical are, in fact, ethical, it can compel the military to deviate from what it views as fundamental ethical behavior necessary for mission accomplishment.

 

Samuel Moyn, in his book Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, tells of a story where Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, dean of West Point, traveled to Hollywood to discuss the depiction of torture in film and TV and the potential negative impact of it on public perception.

 

His request: stop glamorizing torture. "Torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst," he commented of the hero of the popular show 24 who engaged in harsh interrogation routinely as "the patriotic thing to do." But for Finnegan, angst didn't cut it. Finnegan was a lawyer. He always found time in the midst of his duties to teach the laws of war, trying "to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right." Aside from being offensive to military honor, Finnegan told the showrunners, war crimes were counterproductive. These new truths were hard to teach when popular culture purveyed old falsehoods. In the past, civilians had sought control over the military in order to curb wartime excesses. Now, with Finnegan's high mission to Hollywood, it seems the reverse was occurring - perhaps for the first time. (257)

 

Be they soldiers, sailors, lawyers, doctors, city workers, athletes, real estate agents, or volunteer workers, each new member of an organization has to be pulled from their respective communities or even from outside their community in the case of foreigners. People, therefore, come into the organization with their own sets of morals and ethical perspectives for how their work should be done, and it will be the duty of the organization to properly shape these expectations until the individual successfully adopts the organization's ethical framework. The Army does this through its professional military education and reinforces it periodically through mandated annual training. The Real Estate Agency does this during its initial mandated licensing courses and then through various forms of continuing education every two years. What I mean to say is that every organization takes its people from the general public and works on shaping and maintaining their perspective on proper ethical conduct for the organization to ensure that they are effective members of that organization. The story of Finnegan going to Hollywood is to reflect two important issues that we see with the divide between the general public and our servicemembers.

 

In the first issue about depictions of torture in popular culture, we have the problem of trying to re-educate new Soldiers who are entering the service into the proper treatment of prisoners. From the military's perspective, the use of torture has not been effective in the acquisition of actionable intelligence, and it is actually counterproductive to our ultimate ends. In their stories, Edmonds, with his Iraqi students, and Finnegan, with his Hollywood contacts, didn't make their arguments necessarily from the deontological perspective, i.e., torture is bad. Their arguments came from the utilitarian perspective, in that we can't trust the information that is gained through such forms of interrogation and that the political backlash far outweighs the potential gain. If the general public has some belief that torture has utilitarian value, then this has to be untaught to new recruits and reinforced through constant training.

 

The problem with Hollywood's depiction of state-sanctioned torture of criminals and terrorists is that they often reflect a situation in which the stakes, the actors, and the motivations are all known. They have scenarios where the captive is a known bad guy with bad intentions, and they have all the necessary intel; we just need to make them talk in order to save many more innocent people. The real world is not so clear. The captive may be innocent, often only tangentially related to criminal or terrorist organizations. The captive may be guilty but only have access to limited information or false information by their handlers. Or the captive may be guilty but refuses to talk. The real world also has consequences for engaging in such actions, diplomatically amongst nations, politically within the nation, strategically in the operational environment, and the potential moral injury: the shame, regret, post-traumatic stress, and fear of all those involved in the action.

 

Helen Frowe discusses this topic when she alludes to the hypothetical scenario of the ticking time bomb that compels the individual to do whatever it takes to get the information on the bomb's location - a torture version of the traditional trolley problem:

 

Perhaps the most important artificial aspect of the hypothetical case is the stipulation that torture will work. This assumption entails a number of further assumptions: that you have the right person; that if you torture him, he will talk; that the information he gives up will be reliable; that you will find the bomb in time; and that you will be able to defuse it before it detonates. In an actual case, perhaps only the first of these could be guaranteed. The others will be mere speculation. Information obtained through torture is not always (or even usually) reliable. And even if you did acquire the bomb's location, you still might not succeed in defusing it in time. The case also stipulates that torturing the terrorist is the only possible way of finding the bomb. Again, in an actual case, there might well be other ways in which the bomb could be located. And the number of lives at risk in the hypothetical cases is always very great. While some terrorist attacks do kill large numbers of people, many kill in much smaller numbers. The utilitarian pull on our intuitions might be considerably weaker in such cases. (214)

 

The second issue with depictions of torture in popular culture is that it is effective in the eyes of the electorate. If the electorate believes that such actions are effective and just, even if the military believes they aren't, the general public may compel their elected representatives to compel the military to participate in such actions. The United States Armed Forces are controlled by the civilian government but have the ability to disobey orders that are deemed illegal or unethical. This can compel administrations to circumvent the law and redefine torture and its techniques using new methods and terms, such as "enhanced interrogation." In this case, it is the pressure of the public and the civilian government compelling military action for apparently utilitarian purposes that is driving the military to engage in a violation of its own ethics. But, as we mentioned, ethics is about achieving the purpose of the organization by guiding expected social behavior in a way that allows it to achieve that purpose. If the organization's people aren't aligned in behavior that makes the organization effective, either internally through its own ethics or externally from the government and the public, then it may not achieve its purpose, its raison d'être.

 

Now, this discussion on torture is not intended to be a discussion on the utility of torture, its morals, or its efficacy, but instead, it serves as an example of the difficulties of applying ethics to the real world. There are inherent constraints within human nature, our own foibles and compulsions, that don't complement our collective efforts. There is also difficulty in applying ethics when you have to deal with other groups who don't share your organization's viewpoint on the efficacy of your own ethics, and when ethical priorities conflict, demand that their views supersede your own. When working internally and externally, it is important to understand why an organization's ethics, values, beliefs, and laws exist and to be able to educate others as to the reasons why a person does what they do in the name of their ethics. It is easy to be perplexed by the decisions of others, and you may believe that others may be acting unethically, but this could be because they have a different perspective on what must be done to accomplish objectives, accomplish the purpose of their organizations, and what that means for an individual member of that organization. In other words, an individual or group's perceived unethical behavior may actually be ethical based on their unique environment and the strategy they are employing to accomplish their goals.

 

When we discuss ethics, we must understand that ethics itself is not as concrete as it is often perceived. Values are themselves nebulous and flexible, and they can be adapted to the uniqueness of the environment in which a person operates. Regulation shifts as an organization's leadership determines what activities should or shouldn't be managed in certain ways. Laws are at times both easily circumventable since they are written to specificity, as well as dismissive and forgivable when extenuating circumstances are present. This means that even institutions that appear similar will have differing ethics regarding how they expect their people to behave.

 

Army personnel and civilian law enforcement both serve the state, both wear uniforms, both carry weapons, both operate under authoritative hierarchies, and law enforcement has even adopted some of the rank structures found within the Army. However, the Army and law enforcement serve different purposes and, therefore, have different ethics in regard to their conduct. Ethics differ because their functions in society require differing behaviors in order to accomplish the missions they are tasked to conduct. Since missions differ, behaviors must also differ, and since ethics is about socially expected behaviors, it makes sense that ethical guidelines will differ as a result. This is why military ethics are sometimes more somber, fatalistic, and selfless than found in other professions. This was succinctly put by James H. Toner  in True Faith and Allegiance when he said:

 

The preeminent military task, and what separates it from all other occupations, is that soldiers are routinely prepared to kill… When soldiers are not actually killing, they should be training to kill… In addition to killing and preparing to kill, the soldier has two other principal duties… Some soldiers die; when they are not dying, they must be preparing to die. (22-23)

 

All professions have certain levels of obligations to the organization, employees, clients, customers, and communities, but not many openly acknowledge that death may be necessary in the pursuit of one's duties. Death may be a consequence of hazardous work environments, which the business leadership may attempt to mitigate to safeguard their people, but for the leadership of military organizations that order and lead their personnel into battle, death can be an expectation. An oil rig platform is a dangerous environment with the potential for accidental deaths, but for military units in combat operations, the deaths are incidental. A handful of people could die on an oil rig, and the entire facility would shut down to figure out what happened and how to prevent it from happening again. A handful of soldiers could die, and the unit would continue with its mission, as the losses were acceptable and the unit was still "combat effective." The main difference between death in the civilian sector and death in military operations is that the source of death for military members is adversarial humans intentionally seeking to kill our people. Acts of nature or human negligence can kill an employee of a factory, and there is no further harm in shutting things down to figure things out, except in regards to production output. Our deaths in battle come from other humans, and we are not permitted to stop because doing so only makes it easier for our adversary to continue to attempt to kill us. This is why we "prepare to die," as Toner puts it so that in our training, we account for how deaths will impact operations and we can continue to function effectively. Failing to do this will result in more deaths and inevitable mission failure. Therefore, our ethics include the macabre aura of death and killing, as that is what is needed to do the job a nation requires of its military.

 

We know that different professions, therefore, require different ethics for them to function. My own roles as an American Soldier, a real estate agent, and a father all have their own ethics; sometimes in competition with one another in priority, but it is easy to separate them when the situation warrants me switching out which role I am fulfilling at any particular time. It can be much more difficult to employ ethics within a single role, but have entirely different ethical guidelines based on the environment. For example, military servicemembers and civilian law enforcement have different ethics because they serve different purposes, but when a nation needs to employ its military personnel as both warfighters and police, we see difficulties in housing two competing ethics systems within that of a singular role. This is why we are often hesitant to deploy the National Guard to support local law enforcement, because they are Soldiers whose ethics have been drilled into them since the beginning of their career and don't necessarily train for de-escalation and policing activities, except for military police, of course. Even the very foundational creed taught to all Soldiers during basic training, which all Soldiers know how to recite verbatim, the "Soldier's Creed," states, "I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat." No doubt, such a mentality, necessary in warfare, might be counterproductive during policing activities when the intent is to build trust and faith in local governance.

 

The use of the military as both warrior and police had occurred a lot during America's efforts to stabilize new governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Because terrorist, insurgent, and criminal organizations were still operating in these nations and were a threat to the host nation and American military forces, our Soldiers often operated as Soldiers always have, with heightened vigilance for the enemy and the liberal use of firepower to deal with the threat. This is good for warfighters but not necessarily for police, except in the most dangerous of circumstances. While in combat, a certain amount of non-combatant casualties are acceptable when engaging legitimate military targets; this is the doctrine of double effect (DDE), where military necessity dictates that some collateral damage is allowable. But during policing, the incidental harming of bystanders while dealing with criminal threats is often counterproductive to building trust and faith in the authority of the state, which is the purpose of policing itself.

 

In a contribution to The Future of the Army Profession - Second Edition, Tony Pfaff's chapter titled "Military Ethics in Complex Contingencies" discussed the difficulties of military ethics, the warrior ethos, to a military service that is also charged with engaging in policing activities during stability operations. 

 

The principle of proportionality was upheld in terms of civilian lives and property destroyed when weighed against the enemy killed or captured, or operations impeded. However, what is not measured is the costs to the fragile peace the major combat operations achieved. The law and morality of war do not speak to that concern. However, if only on political and strategic grounds, if one accepts that conditions of peace hold (even a fragile one), then the criminal model will be the most appropriate to apply… However, simply telling soldiers to behave more like police - which is appropriate in most peace-keeping situations - ignores the complex environment of the global war on terror. By hiding among civilians, insurgents can escape harm and thus continue their operations since even with precision weapons some non-combatants would be harmed. Such security dilemmas pose problems in the context of fourth-generation warfare, for if they are resolved in ways that enable the enemy to survive, they begin to bring into question our success in accomplishing the war's purpose. (421-422)


In this regard, we can see the difficulties of trying to utilize two separate ethical frameworks within the singular role of the Soldier, which is often why in the United States, when military personnel are used for policing, they are subordinate and in support of local law enforcement instead of operating independently under martial law. An autonomous military force using martial law to impose order upon the populace inherently feels more heavy-handed because the military doesn't share the same ethics as police forces. Pfaff, in his discussion of a solution to deal with the negative impact of military operations producing negative effects during policing, tries to adjust military doctrine to take into account a graduated scale where risk and force are relative.

Referring to the figure, as force is increased, then soldier risk is decreased. However, bystander risk is also increased alongside the use of more force. The premise is that the more firepower the Army can leverage against a threat, the less risk individual Soldiers will need to assume for themselves; as there is no need to close with the enemy if we can strike them from a distance with tanks, bombs, or artillery. However, as these are less precise than individual Soldiers and their rifles closing with the enemy, then there is a greater chance of nearby non-combatants getting killed or injured. Again, in war, non-combatant casualties are acceptable, but not so much during policing, so the chart is broken into two sections: the "criminal model," where force must be restrained to reduce risk on bystanders by increasing the risk to Soldiers; and the "enemy model" where more force and non-combatant casualties are allowed to deal with threats and reduce risk on Soldiers so that the enemy can be dealt with.

Pfaff Figure.png

Tony Pfaff's figure entitled "Relationships Among Obligations, Force, and Risk"

Referring to the figure, as force is increased, then soldier risk is decreased. However, bystander risk is also increased alongside the use of more force. The premise is that the more firepower the Army can leverage against a threat, the less risk individual Soldiers will need to assume for themselves; as there is no need to close with the enemy if we can strike them from a distance with tanks, bombs, or artillery. However, as these are less precise than individual Soldiers and their rifles closing with the enemy, then there is a greater chance of nearby non-combatants getting killed or injured. Again, in war, non-combatant casualties are acceptable, but not so much during policing, so the chart is broken into two sections: the "criminal model," where force must be restrained to reduce risk on bystanders by increasing the risk to Soldiers; and the "enemy model" where more force and non-combatant casualties are allowed to deal with threats and reduce risk on Soldiers so that the enemy can be dealt with.

 

These models, as proposed by Pfaff, would help create a proportional system that allows Army organizations to adjust their posture based on the needs of the environment. It has the ability to use overwhelming firepower to defeat major threats in battle and then adjust to support the civil authority, where firepower must then be restrained. It attempts to combine two ethical frameworks (the Soldier and the police) into a single doctrinal guide (a proportional use of force) that achieves its purpose (influencing through violence) and meets the needs of the state (defeating the initial military threat and then supporting local governance). Whether or not attempting to incorporate such a concept into the existing ethics of the US Army could be effectively employed or was merely conceptual, this is what it had to do to some degree for almost twenty years, to varying degrees of success and failure.


Just like the topic of torture, this is merely an example of the difficulties inherent in employing ethics. In the prior situation, the difficulties stemmed from groups judging the ethics of others based on a perception of the environment and what must be done according to their own ethics. In this situation, the difficulties stem from trying to incorporate multiple ethics into a single role, often resulting in competing interests being conflicting and the individual or group being forced to determine how to prioritize which element of their ethics takes priority over the others. Ethics are, after all, relative to the person and role that they play within society, but what does that mean for ethics between professions? Can we learn nothing from studying the ethics of the military and apply it to our own business development? Well, the answer is "yes" if you know how to frame your study.

Application of Military Ethics for Businesses

Based on the study of ethics within the military and the business sector, at face value, it may appear that the direct application of ethics is not viable. We wouldn’t say that we want our employees to serve the business selflessly; we understand that most serve for their own legitimately selfish reasons, providing for their families, for example, and that they may seek employment elsewhere if the pay is better. However, the foundational principles by which ethics are developed for military forces can be applied, as they are fundamental to human behavior instead of the profession itself. Here is what we have found on the military side of things that can help us better understand ethics in the business sector:

 

  1. Ethics need to align people to the purpose of the business.

  2. Ethics needs to be defined and understood.

  3. Ethics must prioritize values, beliefs, laws, and concepts directly tied to purpose; all else is subservient.

  4. Ethics can and does differ between groups.

  5. Ethics must be aligned with justifications.

  6. Ethics requires continuous training and leadership engagement.

  7. Ethics is about justified action.

 

These considerations do not include all the possible considerations that could be adopted by business leadership who desire to shape their own ethical frameworks; they are only the most prescient ones I have been able to assess. We will try to expound upon these considerations to a greater detail with business examples in order to help clarify.

Ethics need to align people to the purpose of the business.

Ethics is about socially expected behavior. While morals are those personal beliefs about how one should act within the world as an individual, ethics are socially shaped expectations of how one should act based on one's environment and the roles or functions one serves within society. As a human, one may not see anything immoral about consuming alcohol, but when that person is driving, working, or caring for others, it can be seen as unethical as society has placed an expectation of sobriety while they engage in those activities. As a human, one may see honesty as a moral good, but when charged with safeguarding confidential information for clients and trade secrets for their employer, then honesty with third parties about these details is unethical. Ethics is about expected behavior, and the expected behavior will be based on what is generally the most desirable outcome for someone in their position.

 

In the case of real estate agents, one of the first documents we provide our clients when we enter into an agency relationship is a disclosure of the duties owed between agents, clients, and third parties. This is where you start seeing terms like honesty, fiduciary, and trust start appearing. Since clients seek the support of licensed real estate agents in their home buying and selling efforts, often they may not fully understand all of the expected behaviors that each party is accountable for providing. We know the purpose of the client contracting out their representation to an agent is so that that agent can help secure the client the best deal possible, but there are more parties at play than just the client and agent. You have the other party and their agent, the real estate agency, the local government, escrow and title offices, and the general public, each with their own interest in how the transaction unfolds. To ensure the transaction is undertaken in such a way that no one is negatively impacted by its conduct, the client needs to understand what expectations there are for themselves and everyone else involved in this transaction. One duty owed to clients by their agents is to keep them informed of all these expectations so that they can make informed decisions.

 

Other than the initial disclosure of the agency relationship, there are many different disclosures involved regarding the type of transaction, each geared towards keeping the client informed of the proper expected behaviors of themselves and others. Vacant land, lead paint, homeowners associations, foreign investor taxes, home warranties, smoke alarms, underground oil tanks, and wood stoves are but some of the disclosures we provide to clients that keep them informed on some of the hazards, concerns, and actions they can take to protect their themselves and their investments without running afoul of laws and regulations. All of these disclosures to keep our clients informed are part of our ethics and are predominately part of our fiduciary responsibilities. But, of course, our ethics are more than just the values we hold based on our role as real estate agents and the client's role as a client in a real estate transaction, as our ethics are also shaped by concepts, laws, and regulations. This can include the concept of converting capital into hard assets, such as real estate, and the principles of free trade and property rights held by the American marketplace. There are laws regarding the protection of citizens' interest from illegal activities regarding the purchase and sale of real estate. And there are regulations safeguarding American interests from foreign investors and the proper conduct between American citizens. All of these represent the bulk of real estate ethics.

 

All of these ethics are aligned with the purpose of a real estate agent. The purpose of the agent is to help the client buy or sell real estate. Ethics aligns the agent to behave in such a way that it helps their client get the best deal possible in a socially acceptable manner. The consequence of successfully fulfilling their purpose in the most effective way possible is the earning of a commission upon the successful closing of that real estate transaction. If the agent fails to adhere to real estate ethics, then the conduct of the agent and those involved may put the transaction at risk. Depending on the nature of the ethical violation, agents, clients, and third parties involved may have lawsuits filed against them, get fined by the agency, or simply have the transaction fail. Ideally, everyone adhering to proper ethics will result in a mutual acceptance of the terms or the mutual agreement to terminate so that everyone involved is not harmed during the conduct of the transaction.

 

This example reflects the idea that ethics needs to align with purpose. Remember, our definition of purpose for a business was "to compel another to provide net value through cooperative forms of influence which are socially acceptable," and it is ethics that shape behavior to do just that. If businesses are generally viewed as an organization that seeks to provide a product or service to the marketplace, then ethics for that business, its internal values, and shared concepts about how their business should function, as well as external laws and regulations, should be framed in such a way that it provides the best product or service without harming clients, customers, and communities or violating existing laws and regulations. Any elements of a business's ethics that don't directly contribute to guiding employees and contractors to accomplish the business's purpose should not be prioritized.

Ethics needs to be defined and understood.

Having a shared understanding between members of an organization is critical in the execution of operations because if we want to have a workforce that doesn't need to be micromanaged in everything they do, we need to be able to trust them to accomplish goals and metrics. Other than the systems and processes that we use to guide people's actions toward a calculated result, we also employ ethics to ensure behaviors are aligned towards actions that produce positive results and avoid negative consequences. We have our laws and our regulations that are written for specificity, but the concepts and values that we promote are more ephemeral and ambiguous in nature. Transparency may be an important value for your business; something sought to build trust amongst your personnel and clientele, but if you or your people were discovered to have been "transparent" with confidential information to outside parties, then this can be counterproductive to your business's success. "The customer is always right" concept was common in the 19th and 20th Century and was intended to produce a customer-first type of mindset within the employees of a business, but had fallen out of favor as it led to negative consequences from exploitative customers, sacrificing quality to satisfy their unreasonableness, and the well-being of the employees.

 

It isn't that values and concepts, like transparency or "customer-first" mentalities, are wrong, as they are indeed valuable in building trust and satisfying customer needs, respectively. However, every element of ethics, including laws, regulations, values, and concepts, has both intended positive outcomes and potential negative outcomes depending on the environment. Looking at values, below is a chart of various values, starting with the Army Values and a few business-focused values, where we note the intended positive outcome of the value as well as the potential negative outcome.

Figure 2.5.1 Positive and Negative Outcomes of Values
Figure 2.5.1 Postive and negative Outcomes of Values.png

When discussing ethics, there is more to simply stating the values, concepts, laws, and regulations as a matter of fact. We need to know that our people, even ourselves if I am being honest, know the reasons why they exist. We need to understand the intent of a particular ethic and what it is trying to achieve. For one, it allows us to adhere to the intent while seeking to avoid the potential pitfalls that strict adherence can cause. In addition, we need to ensure that we all have a shared understanding of what ethics means.

 

A manager and an employee can both nod their head and concur that they understand what "equity" means, but they may, in fact, have a fundamentally different understanding of what that value will look like in practice. Employee Jim may believe that equity means that every member of the team will be provided the opportunity to contribute to a project and that their perspectives will be treated equally amongst every other employee, regardless of sex, race, religion, or sexual preference. The manager, however, sees equity in the form of equal representation of contributions and perspectives and may feel it is equitable to disregard employee Jim since he is already represented by another person of the same sex, race, religion, or sexual preference. I am not going to judge whether Jim or Jim's manager has the correct understanding of what "equity" is, as that is not the point. The point is that the people within an organization will not be able to function effectively to accomplish common goals and fulfill the purpose of the business if they don't even share a common understanding of what is expected of them. If the manager said that they were going to a meeting for an upcoming project and Jim was told he could not attend because they already have enough men, then Jim would view it as unethical, while the manager viewed it as the opposite.

 

This is why ethics need to be defined: We have expectations of others based on numerous directives, which include the guiding principles found in the elements of ethics. I expected the real estate agents of my brokerage to not share confidential information of their clients as they ascribe to the ethics put forth by the Real Estate Agency and the National Association of Realtors. Not only would doing so be in violation of laws and regulations, but it would also violate values associated with being a fiduciary (loyalty, duty, and selflessness) and concepts that are found within real estate, like the "arm's length transaction." I trust my agents to understand these ethics, and that allows me to provide them a modicum of freedom in how they engage the market, search for potential clients, and engage with other parties and agents during a real estate transaction. In an ideal scenario, the only direct supervising I will need to do will be what the regulations require of managing brokers, and that is the review and supervision of real estate documentation related to the transaction. The more an agent doesn't understand what is expected of them through ethics, the more involved I become in guiding them through the process. Thankfully, fostering an environment where agents can come forth and inquire to their managing brokers about ethical quandaries and uncertainty of what must be done in a given situation will allow us to develop a shared understanding of our subsequent actions. An organization that fails to develop a shared understanding of ethics will fail to achieve its purpose when the regulatory bodies of the state decide to shut it down, or the marketplace decides to no longer support them with patronage.

Ethics must prioritize values, beliefs, laws, and concepts directly tied to purpose; all else is subservient.

Businesses, like all organizations, serve some purpose for society. They produce a product or a service for the market for price, and the marketplace, in turn, is able to determine whether the value of the product or service is worth the price listed. If the value of what is provided to the market is greater than the cost it takes to produce the good or service, then the business has engaged in a positive net value transaction and has provided a net benefit to society, enriching themselves through profit and satisfying someone's needs or pain points. The business exists, or I should say it continues to exist, to satisfy this purpose. The behavior of those who command and control the business, shape its operations, develop its marketing, and manage its finances must, therefore, be guided in such a way that helps the business accomplish its purpose. This is what ethics are designed to accomplish.

 

The necessity of compelling our people to be transparent with each other, to care for the quality of their work, the safety of our product for the consumer, the security of our clientele's confidential information, and the promptness of employee due-outs are not without reason. We don't create a business ethic simply because it is a good thing to do or that it is simply what other businesses do; it is because a business ethic that is properly structured around accomplishing a purpose will assist personnel in actually achieving that purpose through their own contributions. Just as the Army Ethic was shaped overtime to better influence the behavior of American Soldiers to act in ways that were conducive to achieving objectives and supporting their organizations, a business ethic too must be shaped to help facilitate the business's various functions that allow it accomplish its purpose; these business functions include operations, marketing, management, and finance. These functions of a business need to operate in tandem for the business to accomplish its objectives and meet metrics, something we talk in greater detail about in the next chapter, but other than the systems and processes employed by these sections that were designed to do just that, the behaviors of the personnel that occupy the various roles within these functional areas will also need to be designed. Ethics is the design of tailored human behavior.

 

This concept of ethics, which is a pragmatic method of shaping behaviors that help an organization accomplish its ends, requires that the elements of the ethic itself be aligned with achieving the organization's purpose. Ethics are made up of internal values and concepts that the organization can develop and foster, as well as external pressures from regulations and laws that seek to ensure that the organization stays aligned with the desired ends of society. Now, based on the purpose of the organizations, everything that can be a value, concept, law, or regulation can be directly aligned to that purpose or merely incidental to running a business. We don't have much direct control from those external pressures, but those internal values and concepts that we take upon ourselves are ours to shape.

 

For internal pressures on behavior, the values and concepts we want to influence our personnel, we must prioritize those that directly improve our organization's ability to accomplish its purpose. For businesses, this can include values and concepts that are aligned to providing products and services, such as ones that facilitate making satisfactory and pleasurable customer service experiences, improving safety and security concerns for customers, clients, and local communities, and any other aspect that facilitates success in the business's engagement with the market. There are, however, values and concepts that aren't aligned or even associated with the accomplishment of the business's purpose. These should not be prioritized or codified if they serve no benefit in achieving that purpose. Remembering the incident with Google's Gemini, their purpose as a tech business should be geared towards providing a good product, but instead place values like diversity, equity, and inclusion over other values more aligned with purpose, such as quality and innovation.

 

For external pressures on behavior, the laws and regulations that we are compelled to have our personnel follow, we will need to develop workarounds or incorporate them into our existing processes and systems. Societies seek to shape our organization through these pressures, just as we shape our own personnel. It will be up to the organization's management to shape the systems and processes so that individual personnel and the business as a whole doesn't violate these rules. Whether or not the business truly desires to support the rules or only does so out of reluctance will be based on whether we have identified that they are actually supportive of our efforts to achieve our purpose or if they are merely hurdles to doing so. For example, regulations regarding caring for the confidential information of clients are critical to successfully representing our clients in a real estate transaction, and we enthusiastically incorporate this regulation into our ethics as it helps us accomplish our purpose of serving people in their real estate buying and selling needs. Conversely, paying taxes doesn't directly support our purpose of taking care of real estate agents and their clients through these transactions, as tracking commissions, brokerage expenditures, and operating capital are merely incidental to running a business in America, so we reluctantly go through the motion of filing taxes to the bare minimum possible; such as paying a fee to a tax service to do the work for us.

 

For either internal values and concepts or external laws and regulations, we suggest that you avoid incorporating elements that don't help facilitate achieving the business's purpose for the market. If you can't avoid them, then absolutely positively do not let them supersede those other ethical elements that improve your chances for success. Regardless of whether or not someone may claim that some incidental value, concept, law, or regulation will have no impact on performance, it is nonetheless a distraction from fostering and developing those other ethical elements that improve the organization. At best, incidental ethics are negligible to purpose; at worst, they are counterproductive. If you are going to have an ethical framework that includes tangential or incidental elements, then you need a way that is both unobtrusive and justified as to why you would include them in your ethics; otherwise, ditch them.

Ethics can and does differ between groups.

Just as ethics can differ between professions because each profession operates under its own unique environmental conditions, those of the same profession but who have differing cultures may also have their own distinct ethics. This is because these dissimilar groups can have different cultural variables that shape how each member is expected to behave within their society. A national or local culture that is more individualistic may have businesses that are more permissive of the individual autonomy of its employees and mid-level managers and, therefore, not only develop systems and processes that facilitate initiative but also encourage it through its company-guided values and concepts. Conversely, if there are people who are very collectivist, then their systems and processes for their businesses may emphasize the gathering of consensus, where its values focus on developing harmony amongst staff and being team-oriented.


As humans, we are very much the products of our environments, or at the very least, our environments dictate the rules we must follow if we want to be successful. The environment involves not only the natural environment but also the human domain, in which we must work with other humans in a series of complex social relationships in order to get what we want, but also, as individuals, we contribute to our associated groups to benefit the human collective. In other words, we provide value through our time and effort in order to extract value, which is the time and effort of others. If you want to extract value, society expects you to behave in certain ways that are beneficial to society based on the roles and functions that you serve. These expected social behaviors are ethics, as we have said ad nauseam throughout this chapter, but remember, it is the "social" aspect of these behaviors that can make them different between cultures, even if the role is the same.

Figure 2.5.2 Cultural Variables
Figure 2.5.2 Cultural Variables.png

If you look at all of the potential sources of cultural variables at play, it would make sense why ethics can differ. Of course, many things are also similar within a profession as it is the nature of a profession that dictates its purpose, therefore becoming the primary source influencing expected behaviors. This is why in the profession of arms, even in an individualistic society like the United States, its military ethics encourages more collectivist behaviors. This is because leveraging violence against other groups of people to compel them to one's will can more effectively be done through the coordinated effort of many different warfighters, bringing their own capabilities to bear against that enemy. In business, similarly, if the individualistic American wants to extract value from the marketplace for their own ends they too will need to play the game of placing the interests of others before their own; that of the business that allows the individual to create value a customer desires, as well as the customer that the employee is seeking to extract capital from.

 

The important thing to remember is that ethics are not exact. Ethics are merely the method of shaping human behavior so that the organization can accomplish its purpose for society. Since society itself is not a fixed concept, simply an amalgamation of people within a shared community with some form of order, the ethics it will place upon its people will differ both in what behaviors are perceived as a benefit to society as well as those behaviors that can effectively achieve desired results. Ethics differ because groups differ.

Ethics must have justifications.

Since ethics needs to be aligned with a purpose to be of use to the company; since ethics needs to be defined and understood by many people who must adhere to them; since ethics vary in their utility based on the purpose of the organization; and since ethics can differ between groups that hold different perspectives, for an effective, shared understanding of the value of ethics and to help keep people's actions aligned with a company's ethics there must be a justification for why the ethic has been adopted. What I mean to say is that for every company value adopted, you need to explain to the world why that value supports the business's purpose. For every concept employed and regulation and law adhered to, it must be known how they help shape people's behaviors to become more effective in their environment, both improving the quality of their work and safeguarding the interests of their communities.

 

In regard to ethical values, businesses will often claim to have an ethic, which is nothing more than a series of values that they have labeled on their company website's "About" page that is loosely associated with the type of business being run. If, for example, a company adopts the value of "innovate," it must explain how the value supports the business's overall purpose. For a tech company, innovation may be apparent, but for a landscaping business, not so much. Other than saying that innovation is a critical company value, you need to define what the company means by innovation and how innovation will be supported within the ranks. Does innovation come from internal group brainstorming sessions, or does it mean that they encourage even low-level employees to submit new ideas and concepts to the higher-ups? If you have innovation as a value, and you cooperate with another business that holds the same value, do both companies employ it the same way? Writing it out to not only you and your people but also the general public will let everyone know what you mean when you adopt a value: how it aligns with your purpose, its definitions, and its scope.

 

In regard to ethical concepts, we often operate under a shared understanding of what it means to engage in the free market, to be socially conscious, to utilize just-in-time logistics, or to be customer-focused. These concepts that help define how a business operates, setting the expectation of how a business will behave, are known only in their most general terms, but each can actually have a very broad meaning. When a business talks about the free market, it could mean they encourage competition or alternative products and services, or it could mean they are more inclined to attempt to actively shape the free market through mergers and acquisitions of competitors; both are natural functions of free market economics. When a business says they are socially conscious, it could mean they are simply well-entrenched with their local communities, supporting public schools, charities, or partaking in a chamber of commerce, or it could mean they were merely adopting policies driven by external parties that offer incentives for adopting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards. When a business employs just-in-time logistics, we can get the general idea that they are focused on reducing inventories through a responsive supply chain. Does that mean they have completely dropped inventories of all components or only certain components? Do they have a flexible response plan to natural disasters that may disrupt these critical supply chains, and/or do they hold small emergency inventories just in case? When a business says they are customer-focused, we don't necessarily know exactly where the customer enters the equation. It could be that the company has done market research, determined consumer pain points, and developed a product or service to satisfy consumer needs, and/or it could mean that they seek customer feedback on offerings and take into consideration online customer reviews. Concepts such as these can be far more varied in their execution and should be explained so that others, especially those within the business at the very least, understand how the concepts are to be employed and how they help the business accomplish its purpose.

 

In regard to laws and regulations, we are often compelled to adhere to external governing bodies and professional associations that demand our compliance with certain behaviors. They do this to ensure the business aligns with the interests of the community and that the benefits of some of the laws and regulations are apparent. These can include regulations regarding the cleanliness of restaurant kitchens and the maximum capacity of public facilities, both of which reduce the risk to patrons. Other laws and regulations are less apparent or are obtuse, such as the minimum distance between buildings and minimum-wage laws, both of which may need greater explanations as to their benefits. Even yet, there are others that have no benefit yet still must be adhered to, such as a company being compelled to ensure all of its employees or contractors are part of a union or association, something that is more beneficial to the unions and associations than it is to the individual and the community.

 

Every value, concept, law, and regulation that makes up the company's ethics must be associated with a justification for why the company follows and adheres to it. For one, it allows the business to do a bit of self-reflection as to why it even has them as a part of its ethics to begin with, which could be because it helps the business achieve its purpose or because external forces compel it to do so. In addition, it helps develop a shared understanding amongst personnel of what ethics seek to achieve for the business and what behaviors are expected of people who work in that profession and for that company. The lessons learned from studying military ethics are that they must be reasoned and reflected upon constantly to determine their efficacy in supporting that nation and its people. They are adapted and discussed as the environment changes to ensure the military still functions in the interests of the state and that these changes are reinforced through updates in both its doctrine and its training. After all, ethics are about socially expected behaviors that benefit the organization and the community in which it operates, and justifications help explain how it does just that.

Ethics requires continuous training and leadership engagement.

Ethics is not about doing "good" or being "nice" but about engaging in behaviors that are beneficial to the organization's purpose. Sometimes, that includes behaviors that are perceived as nice but don't get misconstrued that it is being done for truly altruistic reasons. They are done because happy, appreciated, and well-paid personnel work harder and stay with the company longer. Quality products at reduced prices make customers happy and retain market share. Henry Ford didn't increase factory worker pay and instituted the reduced 40-hour work week because he cared about the workers, but to attract and retain employees and prevent competitors from acquiring a competent and capable workforce. Ford didn't keep the cost of the Model T low because he cared about the customer, but because he knew the competitors could not enter the market and make a profit, and therefore, Ford retained the majority of the consumer base. Caring for employees and the customer is tangential to the purpose of ethics, which is the effective shaping of behaviors toward the desired ends of the organization: its purpose. Even if Ford truly cared, it was only incidental to effective behaviors that the Ford Motor Company utilized to better serve its purpose of providing quality automobiles to the public.

 

As a result, we can't look at ethics through a strictly moral or deontological lens as behaviors that are good or bad, but instead, we must focus on the utilitarian lens of behaviors that work toward the overall benefit of the organization itself. This means, rightly so, that there are behaviors that have no moral quandary but are still regarded as ethically bad based on one's role and the circumstances. For example, being late isn't necessarily morally bad behavior, but it can become bad when timeliness is critical to someone else's interests, such as being late to relieve someone else of their duties or to engage in a contract that requires promptness in responses. Drinking alcohol may not be morally bad in itself, but it becomes ethically bad when someone decides to drink and then drives a vehicle, or a doctor engages in a medical procedure while under the influence. We have ethics, these values, concepts, laws, and regulations that are designed to shape people's behaviors towards a desired end, and in regards to businesses, it is compelled in such a way that is socially acceptable.

 

As a result of ethics not being something that is naturally moral, even if morals may be considered a fundamental element of ethics, such as certain values, this means that ethics as a whole should be viewed as something that must be taught, as opposed to something that is inherently understood by all members of the group. Ethics, therefore, has less to do with preaching moral behaviors and more to do with both training personnel in effective behaviors and the leadership of an organization developing systems and processes that compel effective behaviors. People need to be more than simply competent in the functions of their craft; they must understand how their behaviors shape the overall conduct of their organization to become true professionals, and to this, they must be trained. For an organization to have effective control of its people's behavior, for which they are ultimately accountable, the leadership must develop checks and balances that ensure people engage in proper behaviors that are aligned with the purpose of the business, and this is done through the systems and processes they develop and use.

 

In regards to training, people are taught how to engage in what is expected of them for their duty position within their organizations. Soldiers are taught basic soldering skills, then move onto more advanced occupational training before being incorporated into an actual unit where they are given training unique to that unit so that their contribution adds to the overall readiness of the whole organization. Real estate agents are given courses in particular areas of competency required of agents for federal and state requirements and then are given further training that is unique to the brokerage that they decide to join. For professional trades, they have their schools, they take their tests, they engage in apprenticeships and residencies, join professional associations and unions, and then join an established business firm, hospital, etc., or even start their own as an entrepreneur, but all of these professions require various levels of training, at various stages of their professional development, before they can be considered an effective contributor to the collective effort that is the organization they eventually serve. Each will have their own version of an ethic: how they expect people to behave in order to be effective, even if some of these organizations don't concretely write it out in their doctrine or company values.

Jason Thor Hall, a programmer, hacker, and game developer, provides a great example of the necessity of training in keeping people ethical. He discussed his time when he worked for Blizzard Entertainment and was tasked to engage with their customer support in order to acquire information that should not have been divulged to the general public. Through his efforts, he discovered that those who had been with the business for upwards of five years were more easily tricked into giving up information than those who had been recent hires. He realized that the reason why the new employees were more effective was because the management only trained personnel in this aspect of operational security when they were first brought on board with the company. After years without retraining, they became complacent, so to prevent this from reocurring, he was able to work with management to develop a new training plan that corrected the issue.

Taken from PirateSoftware - Jason Thor Hall's YouTube Page

In regards to systems and processes, this has to be one of the most effective ways to control behavior. With effective control over how people operate, an organization can help prevent unethical behavior by putting in a system that has checks and balances or a process that compensates for human fallibility. If a system requires supervisors to review documents before a transaction can be closed or a filing can be submitted, then another person must be involved before behaviors can be carried out. If a process is developed that compels an individual to engage in redundant checks of their own work, often, they may be able to catch mistakes that they made before they execute an action.

 

One practical application of a system is the classification of information. Within the government, there will be information that has consequences of various degrees of severity should it be known to adversaries. You have unclassified information that is of little severity upwards to top secret, which could be devastating if it were leaked. The government, naturally seeking to protect certain information, will provide only certain people with certain levels of access. The doctrine that the Army develops, which includes the Army publications I have been referencing throughout this whole book, is unclassified and releasable to the public. The Army also has access to the personal information of Soldiers, which is confidential and only accessible to the chain of command and to pertinent staff members who need that information to function and provide for the needs of the Soldiers and the organization. The Army also holds information on weapons capabilities that it determines are classified as secret, develops plans critical to the accomplishment of the Army's purpose that is classified as top secret, and controls access to these sources of information to only those who need to know.

 

While transparency can be an ethical value to an organization, so too can secrecy, and it is the circumstances that matter. When we think of ethics in regard to the sharing of information, we look at the positive and negative outcomes and determine how transparent or secretive we need to be. While individuals may benefit by giving their social security number (SSN) to those people who have some fiduciary responsibility, such as employers, lawyers, medical providers, and representatives, it is obvious that it can be harmful if the general public gets a hold of it as that would increase the likelihood of identity theft with no apparent benefit that is commensurate. So many professions treat the SSN as personally identifiable information (PII) and take steps to protect it, such as labeling it as confidential and creating systems and processes that reduce the risk of PII accidentally leaking out to other unclassified areas.

Ethics is about justified action.

If ethics is about doing what is expected of people and organizations based on their roles or functions, and what is expected is that people and organizations function effectively towards accomplishing their purpose, there would be little need for ethics as it should be painfully apparent that this is what people and organizations do. No one would claim that the consequence of one's ethics is to fail. We claim that our ethics help us achieve our purpose. Therefore, ethics is about shaping behaviors in such a way that we can achieve success. But again, achieving success is already the expected intent of people's actions. Otherwise, there will be little reason for expending energy and capital. So, if ethics focuses on the right action, and the right action produces desired results, there is little point in identifying ethics as something separate from concepts like best practices, lessons learned, and strategic planning, each of which seeks to shape actions in ways that produce favorable results.

 

Of course, there is the popular view of ethics through the moral lens, where certain actions are viewed from the deontological perspective of being morally good or bad. From the utilitarian perspective, however, it is the ends that matter, not the means, and since the success of organizations is based almost entirely on the accomplishment of purpose, then we need to operate almost exclusively from the utilitarian perspective. If we didn't focus on the ends, on the purpose, any human endeavor would be pointless. There would be little reason to wage and conduct war justly if you didn't focus on shaping the battlefield to win and compel an adversary to your will. There would be little reason to build and run a business if you don't focus on making a desirable market offering and making a profit. Accomplishing the desired ends is the entire point of doing anything, and fighting battles or engaging the marketplace is nothing but a waste of financial and human capital, great effort, and time if you can’t achieve those ends.

 

As we have shown, however, we can't necessarily abandon any of the other schools of ethical thought in the accomplishment of utilitarian ends. There is value in the deontological perspective; if we run an organization that engages in immoral actions to accomplish its ends, then disgruntled or disaffected consumers may not accept our market offering and seek out a competitor; therefore, we would fail in our utilitarian ends. There is value in the legalist perspective; if we are organizations without regard to laws and regulations, then the state, local governing bodies, and affiliated associations will prevent our operations, fine our business, and otherwise hinder our freedom of action within the marketplace; therefore, we would fail in our utilitarian ends. There is value in the Taoist, Confucian, or Stoic perspective, as their focus on harmony, relationships, and sound rational decision-making will be imperative in making us more effective in honing our human capital, developing positive and amicable relationships between management and staff, and otherwise keep us adaptive and flexible to market changes that would otherwise prevent necessary the change that a business, who are blind to the nature of the environment, would need to take in order to survive; therefore, we would fail in our utilitarian ends. There is value in understanding the permissive and restrictive nature of the religions of the world (God's Ordinance) as we may need to operate in or with people, communities, and more theocratic governments that require a certain level of adherence to religious scripture otherwise we would not be able to operate in their marketplace; therefore, we would fail in our utilitarian ends. There is value in understanding the nihilistic mindset, which focuses on the logic, rationale, and critical analysis of each action, rather than accepting morals and maxims as truth; otherwise, we may engage in counterproductive actions that we believed to be productive; therefore, we would fail in our utilitarian ends.

 

For a business, its primary ethical framework should be that of one that focuses on the utilitarian ends but benefits from incorporating other ethical schools of thought in its decision-making process. It is the ends that matter, but we can only get to those ends through the ways and means available to us. We have our organization, its business functions, capital, systems and processes, and our personnel to create products and services for the market that are of value to the consumer. If we can make our products and provide our services at lower costs than the customer is willing to pay, then our efficiency will be rewarded with profit, and our business can continue to service its purpose. That being said, however, both ethics and concepts, such as best practices and strategic planning, focus on shaping the behaviors of people and organizations to accomplish their purpose. What makes ethics different? The answer is justified action, and it can be viewed twofold.

 

The first part of the uniqueness of ethics is its lack of specificity in expected and desirable behaviors. Of course, there are those specified restrictive laws and regulations that spell out exactly what you can't do, but other than them, everything else is either permissive or restrictive based on values and concepts that are often flexible and open to interpretation. We each may have an understanding of what we mean when we hearken to values such as loyalty, duty, respect, transparency, and diversity or concepts such as maximizing shareholder value, customer-focused service, or just-in-time logistics. However, others may not have the same understanding of these values and concepts as we do and may operate differently than we would in the same situation. Strategic planning, best practices, and lessons learned that seek to shape people's behavior towards a desired end involve more specificity in how people should act. In much the same way that national-level plans are more generalized than strategic-level plans for the Department of Defense, which are more generalized than operational-level plans, which are more generalized than tactical-level orders; we see the same in business. Business plans, something that we may view as strategic planning for the business, may be more generalized than the regional plans that are focused upon unique and specified sectors of a larger community, and of which, it is more generalized than specified instructions given out to individual branches and employees. Ethics are extremely generalized modes of behavior, with various levels of the business increasing specificity the farther down the echelons of the organization one gets up until they are face to face with the customer.

 

For example, a business may have the value of duty and the concept of customer-focused service as part of its ethics, but these values and concepts both manifest themselves differently at the different echelons of the organization. At the strategic level, these ethics manifest as a tailored market offering that engages with and provides for the needs of the consumers based on their socio-economic status; a graduated scale between cost-effective and luxury options. At the operational level, these ethics manifest in the location of storefronts and the establishment of robust supply chains so that the business can effectively service consumers based on the environmental conditions of their areas. At the tactical level, these ethics manifest in the training of effective customer support, rewards programs, policies on returns and repairs, and other actions that improve the consumer experience before, during, and after a transaction. Same ethics, different manifestations based on where in the organization one serves their role or function. The CEO, the regional manager, the site selector, the team leader, and the cashier all engage in ethical behavior that is tied to duty and having a customer focus, but each physically did a different activity. This is what I mean when we say that the first part of ethics that makes it unique is that it lacks specificity in regards to desired expected behaviors, and if I may be so bold, I may argue that ethics is, in fact, the overarching guide for all action that seeks to achieve desired ends as it permeates all levels of an organization. Or, to use a physics analogy, ethics is like the Higgs Field imparting mass upon all other particles.

The second part of the uniqueness of ethics, and what I find to be its most apparent factor, is that it stands as justification for action. There are times when actions need no justification, and we simply act in the most effective manner to produce a desired end. No one would claim it to be either immoral or unethical to pick up trash, to help a motorist change a tire, to cover a colleague's work, or to congratulate an employee who just had a child. We wouldn’t need to provide a justification to others for why we did it, however, under the right conditions, these could be constructed as immoral or unethical acts, and the individual would often justify their actions by alluding to some ethical behavior. Just imagine what you might have done in those four innocuous scenarios if it had been found out that your actions had caused a negative outcome in some way.

 

  1. While throwing out someone else's trash in the workplace, you inadvertently throw out some paperwork that had important information on it that they needed. You may say, "My apologies, I was just trying to clean up the area." Alluding to ethical values such as cleanliness and stewardship, concepts such as broken-window theory, and internal regulations about excessive clutter.

  2. While you stopped to help another motorist change a tire, you ended up late for work. You may say, "My apologies; while I was driving to work, I spotted a stranded driver and wanted to help. I just changed their tire and immediately came here right after." Alluding to ethical values of sympathy, empathy, or even duty.

  3. While covering for a colleague who had to go to the emergency room, you failed to accomplish some of your assigned tasks. You may say, "My apologies, Jim had to go to the emergency room, so I needed to cover down on his tasks. I know his tasks were critical for our operations, and I just wanted to ensure they didn't go unfulfilled, which could have been devastating for us." This alludes to the ethical values of empathy and duty, concepts that are tied to the mission's focus, and potential regulations and laws that need to be taken care of due to Jim's absence.

  4. While sending flowers and cards and visiting your employee in the hospital after the birth of their child, others are concerned by your apparent act of favoritism and fraternization. You may say, "That was not my intent, as I just wanted to ensure that the employee understood that we were happy for them, that we understand the difficulties they will have as a new parent, and that they will still have a job with us when they are ready to return." This alludes to ethical values of respect and empathy, as well as concepts such as work-life balance and family-like corporate culture.

 

Actions that are apparently innocent and done with good intentions, if they have the potential to produce negative outcomes, will need to hearken back to ethics in some way if the individual wants to avoid being seen as immoral or unethical. However, what if the actions are not as innocuous as these examples? Actions such as intentionally killing people, destroying property, laying off employees, shuttering businesses, and other actions that are not beneficial to the target. In these situations, justification through ethics is even more important. The individuals or organizations that partake in actions that can cause harm to others, real or imagined, will need to claim what they will do, what they are doing, or what they have done is in accordance with some form of ethics to the greater public at large. For one, this is to gain the tacit support of the society, or at least a reluctant acceptance, of the actions that are being done. For another, it is a form of reassurance to oneself and to the group in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.

 

Just as the nation and its military need to justify to its people why it spends its capital, trains its young people, sends them off to war, and engages in the horrors thereof, so too do businesses need to justify their actions. The forms of justification that the contemporary civilian government uses to justify its waging of war, that the military uses to justify its conduct of war and the resulting support or denouncement from the general public are different when compared to business, but they nonetheless occur. For military matters, the public supports or denounces actions, not simply through protest but primarily through the realm of politics. In fact, the primary reason protesting works, if at all, is the concern that it will shape public opinion in such a way that it impacts future politics, such as elections and donor funding. The nation, therefore, needs to tie its justification for action based upon ethical parameters: combating terrorism, asserting sovereignty, defending allies, expanding borders, acquiring resources, punishing adversaries, and whatnot.

 

For business matters, however, in a free market, the public generally shows support or denouncement through patronage. If consumers don't like the actions of a particular business, then they choose to spend their money elsewhere. Unlike the military, in which the general public really doesn't have a direct say in how it is used, businesses compete with each other for market share, and therefore, the customer base can always select direct or alternative use competitors that are available to them. The business will attempt to justify its prices based on quality and features in such a way that potential consumers will be able to judge its value to them versus the price tag. The consumer could directly support or denounce such action by voicing their opinion, but often, the message is instead delivered through the bottom line. Similarly, the action of hiring and firing employees, setting hourly wages and monthly salaries, providing benefits, and establishing employee policies will be judged by the very employees these decisions impact. They voice their support or denouncement of the business's actions through their employment. If the employee felt that their work was worth more, they could negotiate for higher starting pay or future raises or quit and look for employment elsewhere. The individual likewise will need to justify their value to the business, just as the business justifies their pay, such as through an assessment of the fair market value for that labor. 

 

These scenarios are still rather innocuous actions that we have come to expect in the nature of business. However, imagine a situation in which a business decides to shut down stores in low-income areas because they are no longer profitable. This could be because, as the area might suggest, there isn't much disposable income in the market. Low-income potential, coupled with retail theft, local crime, and the resulting safety measures need to be taken to protect the store, employees, and customers, could mean that sustaining such a business in that location may no longer make financial sense. However, there may be a social backlash involved in removing a much-needed store from an already economically downturned community, further exacerbating problems. That being said, from the business's perspective, unless such a backlash results in less patronage in other more profitable stores by their customers choosing to denounce the action, the local backlash in a community the store was already abandoning to competitors would be irrelevant.

 

Ethically speaking, does such a company owe anything to the local community, to those serving as employees and consumers? As we mentioned before, ethics should be aligned to purpose, and those ethics directly aligned with purpose should be subservient if they are adopted at all. There is no other purpose to a business than to provide its products and services to willing customers in a socially acceptable manner that is profitable. Since, for whatever reason, such businesses could no longer engage in activities in a profitable manner, then such businesses should be shuttered. To continue to run an unprofitable business, it would either eventually burn through all its available capital, siphoning funds from more profitable markets, or require external sources of funding, effectively turning into a non-profit organization instead of a business. By hearkening to business ethics, which is socially expected behavior for a business, they justify the reasons why such unprofitable stores must be shut down, especially free market concepts like supply and demand and profit and loss.

 

As I said before, in regard to Google's adopted values, I am not here to pass judgment on the contents of an organization's ethics other than to say that ethics should be aligned with purpose. Purpose matters; it is the raison d'être of the organization. Ethics, accordingly, justifies the actions needed to support its raison d'être, especially when the actions themselves are questioned by those outside the organization or industry, yet the organization still needs their support, such as with the military and businesses needing the support of the general public. Ethics exist to support the accomplishment of purpose, and it serves as justification to the public for an organization's actions, which is true for both military and business.

 

Former Commander of the Combat Support Brigade for the XVIII Airborne Corps, Colonel Richard D. Hooker, wrote about the Army's 21st-century transformation in the face of the Global War on Terror. Knowing that ethics guide actions and the results of actions subsequently guide ethical change, his concern was the impact of a changing battlespace upon the Army community's acceptance of change upon an existing and longstanding ethical framework. If the battlespace changes, ethics will, in turn, change to reflect it since ethics exists to support mission accomplishment. Instead of adapting to this new ethically ambiguous environment that was counter-insurgency and the wider Global War on Terror, Soldiers may abandon elements of their ethics for the sake of battlefield prudence without realizing that prudence requires adaptation, not abandonment. Ethics guides actions at all levels of an organization in order to unify action towards objectives, and in the face of change to the environment, ethics itself will change to meet that need; it must.

 

This concern stems from the relationships that have existed historically between the Army's professional ethic and its functional focus on land combat. On the one hand, the primary emphasis on land combat and the direct fire battle has been a defining influence on the profession's ethic, and thus on how the Army trains its soldiers, develops its officers, and organizes its forces to win the land battle. On the other hand, as the ethic is accepted and adapted by the professionals serving within the Army, it informs their individual intentions and collective actions over time, and through these shapes the successes (and failures) of Army forces in combat - in turn re-informing the profession's ethic. Thus, as we transform we must remain conscious of the important role of the Army's ethic as both a wellspring of values and an engine of victory on future battlefields. An army that comes to view its professional ethic, consciously or not, as anachronistic is an Army in danger of losing its soul. (429) The Future of the Army Profession

 

Having ethics is not an option; it is mandatory. What I mean to say is that either your organization has a set of guiding behaviors that they must adhere to in order to function effectively, or you have no organization, just a mob. The Army Ethic had changed over time to meet the needs of the Army, which itself was organized to meet the needs of the nation in the domain of land power. The Ethic changed because the nature of the battlefield changed alongside the other elements of national power. It wasn't that the old ethic was wrong; it just wasn't a fit for the new environment, and thus, it had to change out of necessity. Because of the realities of this new environment, just as the Army had to come to grips in the past with a changing environment, ethics continues to be an adaptable framework of guided actions for its people. This ethic, adapted to serve contemporary needs, is utilized to justify contemporary actions. However, as it has changed over time, it has never sought to forget one important thing: its purpose.

 

In business, ethics is used to justify its actions. Through the formation of the business, the development of a product, the leasing of a storefront, the contracting of suppliers, the hiring of workers, and the service of customers, all of these actions are guided by the ethics of the business. Similarly, the shuttering of businesses, abandonment of product lines, the canceling of leases, the ending of contracts, the firing of workers, and the handling of customer issues are guided by the organization's ethics. As we have discussed before, ethics has less to do with what is good or bad, in the moralistic sense, and everything to do with what is best for accomplishing the purpose of the business. As a result, regardless of the results of an action, their justifications are sourced through their ethics, and when arguments about which behaviors are positive and negative, we look to ethics to justify the reasons why.

 

When the public is outraged at the exorbitant salaries and options made available to chief executive officers, especially when the business itself is facing shutdowns and layoffs, it must be justified through business ethics why that is the case, why a business may be failing, yet the CEO still gets their "golden parachute." Outside the industry, laymen may not understand, but it is up to the subject matter expert to explain why this is the case. Otherwise, the industry itself may lose the support of the general public. Ethics needs to be taught in a way that is easy for the general public and our own people to understand. We can't teach others the entirety of our ethics in a short duration of time, but we can teach generalized concepts that help frame the environment in the minds of the layman. This way, we can justify our actions by emphasizing the uniqueness of the environment that we have developed our ethics around, ethics that, in turn, will allow us to succeed and accomplish our purpose. Ethics may not be effective or understandable in the world of the layman, but nonetheless, it must be understood in order to gain their support. For businesses, one such method to inform others of the ethics of one's organization may be to conceptualize what military theorists have used to justify the proper waging and conduct of warfare: just war theory.


In the world of the military, under the concept of just war theory, we explain why we are able to engage in actions that are usually considered detrimental to society, such as killing and destruction. By emphasizing the uniqueness of the military's domain, the contest of political wills amongst peoples, the dangers and horrors of organized human violence, and the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous nature of the battlespace, actions that would appear abhorrent during peacetime are framed differently during the conflict. Intentionally killing others without just cause would label one a murderer, and in warfare, this is the same. However, the scope of just cause has only expanded; one can still intentionally kill noncombatants and surrendered enemies and be punished. To prepare our people to accomplish the purpose and survive, we train them accordingly, as Colonel Hooker mentioned, and while our strictness, discipline, redundancy, preparedness, and other characteristics of our training may seem harsh in the civilian sector, in the military domain, our harsh work ethic is merely the reality of what is necessary to succeed. Martial realities demand certain behaviors amongst those who wage war, those who conduct war, and what must be done after a conflict has concluded if a nation or people want to achieve their objectives and compel their will upon others effectively. Just war theory helps people conceptualize that demand.

Just Business Theory

The world of business has its own unique characteristics that compel organizations to adopt ethics suited to their purpose. There are effective ways to manage a business, as well as lessons learned throughout numerous successful and failed endeavors that we can reference in the development of our own business. The success of Ford Motor Company's factory structure and employee incentives, the success of Toyota's gemba and kaizen principles, and the failures of Kodak and Blockbuster Video to change their business models in the face of changing marketplaces each teach us valuable lessons about not only the implementation of systems and processes but of the behaviors of management and employees. These behaviors we learn in response to the effect of marketplace conditions also "re-inform [our industry’s] ethic," to paraphrase Colonel Hooker. So, we take what we understand to be the nature of the marketplace, determine the behaviors that our people need to employ to get desirable results and structure an ethic to support that effort. These values, concepts, laws, and regulations unique to our professions will guide our actions in such a way that helps us accomplish our purpose, but because this can be somewhat complex, with numerous unique variables, we can discuss our ethics around the framework of just war theory; in our case just business theory.

 

If we reference the three contemporary elements of just war theory; jus ad bellum, jus in bello, and jus post bellum, we can create a framework of ethical justification for business activities modeled around the justification for military action. We can even apply the appropriate Latin for each element. Each phase of Just War Theory has its own generalized principles, that we will reference and apply to Just Business Theory.

 

Jus ad negotium, the "right to business," serves the same conceptual purpose as jus ad bellum. Just as senior civilian leaders are charged with justifying the reasons why a nation should use its military arm of national power to accomplish its desired ends, business owners and chief executives need to justify their entry into the market. Businesses will attempt to research, develop, market, and engage with the customer base through their market offering, but before that occurs, the business must determine whether going that route will actually achieve the purpose of the business. What I mean to say is that, just because we can, should we?

 

  • Just Cause: Within ethics, values associated with justice, concepts associated with self-defense and sovereignty, as well as international laws and norms, compel nations to engage in warfare and conflict when the cause itself has been determined to be right and just. For businesses, we wouldn't say that engaging the marketplace is wrong, but how we intend to engage the market might be. We structure the purpose of our business, our raison d'être, around how we will engage the market with our offerings. If the purpose is immoral, unethical, or illegal, then we will have violated the jus ad negotium principle of just cause.

 

  • Legitimate Authority: For a nation, it is expected that only those with the legitimate and duly appointed authority for waging war are allowed to do so, and under the concept of civilian control of the military, this means that our most senior military leaders don't have that authority. For businesses, the decision to enter into marketplaces, produce new market offerings, or expand the scope or scale of the business should be centralized to those senior leaders delegated with the authority to do so. In this way, the actions of the business organization can be appropriately guided and aligned with the purpose of the business and the organization's ethics. If, by chance, those within the business enter into contracts or conduct strategic business planning and execution without the authority to do so, then the organization is in breach of the principle of legitimate authority.

 

  • Right Intention: Because war is often viewed negatively, with a veneer of death and destruction ever present, for many, the ethical checklist that satisfies the principle of just cause isn't enough; the intention of those waging war must also be just. For business, this is often seen when the organization is technically correct but nonetheless is viewed as being unethical or immoral due to its intentions, such as creating contracts that are confusing to laymen so that businesses can extract more value without providing more value in return or purposely leveraging legal and regulatory loopholes in order to enrich themselves. The intention of the business to enter the marketplace should be more than trying to make a profit legally; it should intend to "do good" by providing value through the product or service it provides.

 

  • Probability of Success: Because the consequences of war are so severe, the decision to wage war should be based on a calculated probability of success so that the death and destruction it will wreak will not be in vain. For business, the consequences of engaging in business are not severe; in fact, it is positive for society as businesses serve as avenues for people to more effectively convert their time and effort into value for others. Nonetheless, while it might not be unjust to waste capital on an endeavor that will ultimately fail, leaders should still conduct the planning necessary for the business to be able to succeed in providing market offerings that society desires. The alternative uses of the capital, materials, and human effort that was expended on a failure could have been expended on a successful organization that provides goods and services in an effective way, improving the marketplace and local economies. Before starting a business or entering the market, having a calculated probability of success will reduce wastefulness and produce a positive net value to society.

 

  • Last Resort: The destruction and suffering of war compels nations and people, through just war, to seek out and use other elements of national power, mediation, and arbitration before using violence to solve their problems. In business, while the conduct of marketplace exchange, employment, and competition amongst providers and suppliers is what commerce is all about, referencing the principle of last resort informs us that it may do us well to develop alternative courses of action to accomplish our purpose. Of the many avenues a business can take to provide a product or service to the market and generate a profit, some courses of action may be better than others. Some may be low risk yet low reward, while others may be high risk and high reward. Depending on the severity of consequences, the probability of success, and the benefits to personnel and the organizations, some courses of action may be viable, some may be infeasible, while others are workable, but only as a last resort when all others fail.

 

  • Proportionality: For a nation choosing the path of war, the benefits of doing so must be proportionate to the harms done in its prosecution. For businesses, this is the cost-benefit analysis of starting or expanding a business. If the margins aren't acceptable, if the profits aren't valued over the capital and effort expended to get them, then the endeavor isn't worth it. Every phase of just war and just business will have a principle of proportionality associated with it, as all actions have a cost-benefit analysis to them, but during the jus ad negotium phase of Just Business Theory, this analysis looks at both the probability of success and that of last resort, to determine which courses of action are best for the business to undertake. If the probability of success is low, and the costs and risks are high, then proportionally speaking, the course itself is wasteful and shouldn't be executed.

 

Jus in negotio, "right in business" serves the same conceptual purpose as jus in bello. Just as military leaders and their uniformed personnel are held to international and military laws and regulations regarding combatant conduct during the conflict, businesses, management, contractors, and employees are likewise held to their own laws and regulations concerning their conduct. Businesses will seek to establish relationships with workers, consumers, and other businesses in their respective marketplaces so that they can best provide market offerings that fulfill their purpose and generate a profit for doing so. These are the ways and means of achieving desired ends, and it is important to reflect on whether we are doing them in accordance with "just" business practices.

 

  • Distinction: During a conflict, distinction plays an important role for both military planners and the warfighter, as being able to positively identify targets as either a combatant or non-combatant, as friend, foe, or neutral, is critical for determining how we treat them. In business, we, too, base our actions upon our relationships with others, and it is important we are able to determine these relationships before we engage with them. You may share important confidential information with a fellow employee who has a need-to-know requirement, but you would not give out that same information to random third parties. Likewise, when engaging with potential consumers or clients, you wouldn't treat them like employees, dictating when and where they need to be to facilitate a transaction, but as the business, you accommodate their needs instead. Government and professional regulations and laws, as well as best practices and operating procedures, will dictate how you treat different people: employees, management, owners, shareholders, stakeholders, consumers, clients, government officials, the general public, etc. If you are unable to distinguish who is who and how you should treat them, then you may run afoul of some legal requirement or simply engage in counterproductive actions. 

 

  • Proportionality: During the conduct of war, proportionality implies that the violent methods used are in some way a measured response in order to reduce the excessive use of force and limit destruction to only what is necessary. This is another cost-benefit analysis, except with regard to the ways and means of conduct. For businesses, this comes into effect with how we engage in the market in response to different events. Based on the previous principle of distinction, who we are engaging and what we seek to achieve from that engagement, we must gauge how we respond so that it is appropriate. When engaging with a prospective client, you may have to weigh options between reducing your own fees enough to convince them to sign the contract and not so much that your profit margin is no longer worthwhile. When engaging with a legal issue or professional complaint, you may have to weigh your response to the claimant or representatives so that you neither get too defensive nor become too passive. Whomever the individual or organization is, depending on your relationship and your ethics, a proportional action must be undertaken.

 

  • Military Necessity: During a conflict, there will be an overarching set of political and military objectives that a nation will use force to achieve, but because of its destructive nature, they will desire to use that force only on targets whose effects will help direct the conflict towards achieving those purposeful objectives. For businesses, this helps focus time, effort, and capital on activities directly tied to achieving the purpose of the organization, or at least those activities tangentially related to the purpose. While apparently limiting, and it is by definition, in reality, this can be very open-ended. If it was determined that positive customer relations were important towards achieving the desired ends of the business, almost any action that passively improves the consumer experience before, during, and after the transaction could be seen as an action deemed a business necessity. Often, military necessity is invoked when there are times when negative consequences could arise, such as the death of non-combatants while targeting legitimate combatants. In the case of business necessity, it is more prudent that it be referred to when the negative consequences of some action are outweighed by the positive consequences that are directly tied to business objectives. For example, sometimes, the negative effects of breaking a contract and any resulting fines or legal issues are of lesser consequence than maintaining it. Taking into account the positive and negative outcomes of action, if it is both necessary for the business and a net positive, then it is just according to this principle.

 

  • Fair Treatment of Prisoners of War: In order to make the horrors of war a little less horrible, nations seek to treat captured enemy combatants fairly and avoid abuses and summary executions. War brings with it some of the most powerful and heated human emotions that we can muster in our lives, and we must restrain ourselves from taking out our anger and vengeance upon surrendered and wounded enemies who are no longer combatants. In business, while we don't really have enemies, per se, we do have those who have wronged us and worked against our interests, and we may also seek to retaliate against them in some capacity. Shops may have shoplifters, real estate investors and property managers may have squatters, and any business can have employees or contractors who steal, defraud, or damage the organization in some capacity. Emotions may drive us to act in ways that may be cathartic (violence, yelling, threats, etc.), but we must be cautious as the law requires a far more gentle touch in dealing with transgressors. This principle is all about restraining oneself from committing reprisal, and while we should always take the necessary precautions to ensure we are safe (just as enemy prisoners are disarmed, searched, and imprisoned), once our safety is ensured, we must act in accordance with the law.

 

  • No Means Mala in Se: In combat, again, to make the horrors of war less horrible, we also seek to ensure the tools we use don't cause unnecessary suffering. Yes, in the process of killing someone, pain can and will probably occur, but we have laws and regulations limiting the use of certain means and methods that we have so that suffering is lessened, such as not using incendiary weapons against people or using lasers with the intent to permanently blind the enemy. The Latin mala in se roughly means "wrong or evil in itself," and when we use it in the military, this refers to weapons or methods that humanity has deemed unethical in and of themselves. This includes not just using napalm against people but also land mines that can't distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, as well as the use of torture to extract information. In business, there are means and methods that we can use to get what we want, but what others would deem as predatory, such as the use of confusing contract language to trap others into unfavorable positions, industrial espionage, black hat hacking, child labor, and fraud, to name a few. Within every profession, there are things that society deems as inherently evil, and while this perspective changes over time, to act ethically within a contemporary environment, we must avoid those means and methods that would earn the ire of that society.

 

Jus post negotium, "right after business," serves the same conceptual purpose of the less often talked about post-conflict period referred to as jus post bellum. Just as nations and their militaries don't simply stop fighting and go home after some arbitrary signing of documents or suspense dates, businesses have post-engagement requirements that they must do in order to be successful. Just because a transaction is completed, an employee is fired or laid off, or a business leaves a marketplace doesn't mean that it is the end of their duties and responsibilities. The following jus post bellum principles cover the appropriate follow-through that needs to be considered, not only as an organization enters into the post-engagement period but also prior to and during engagement to ensure these principles can even be achieved.

 

  • Just Peace: There will be reasons why nations and groups of people go to war, and for a war to have been just, it must also include a post-war effort to improve the conditions so that those issues are addressed and a more lasting peace may be achieved. Conflict is generally seen as a negative and something to be avoided in the future, which is usually the opposite for a business endeavor that desires return customers and more engagements. The principle of a just peace implies an initial set of environmental conditions that need to be corrected to create a lasting peace, as war is seen as undesirable and cooperation as desirable. If we were to look at what undesirable conditions may be in the marketplace that can impact our business, then these could include negative customer experiences, lawsuits, bad reviews, and worker strikes. These are events or incidents that create friction and issues for the business, which result from initial negative conditions. A just peace for business, therefore, would involve looking at what risk mitigation, organizational shakeups, or changes to standard operating procedures and systems may be necessary to improve those conditions to avoid conflict in the future.

 

  • Proportionality and Public Order: For a nation at the closing of war and conflict, it will need to engage, as it does with every action it could take, in a cost-benefit analysis of what it needs to do to successfully close out its involvement. One such environmental condition for a nation, especially those wrought with death and devastation, may involve the focus on the improvement of public order. Militaries often engage in post-war occupations to ensure that peace terms are being met and that the defeated government has the necessary stability to actually execute the terms. It is another aspect of ensuring environmental conditions for a just peace are met but with a focus on determining proportional costs as well as focusing on critical conditions. For business, at the close of a transaction or a negative engagement, such as a lawsuit or poor customer experience, a just business will need to determine what areas it needs to focus on improving and how much time, effort, and capital the improvement will need. Doing so will ensure the organization has the means available to actually better its people, systems, processes, and market offerings that it identified needing improvement. Without proper proportionate resources, they will only have a list of things that should be done without having the ability to get it done.

 

  • Punishment for War Crimes: For a lasting peace to be attainable, humans often demand justice be brought to those who violate the law during the prosecution of conflict. While we can't guarantee that punishing the guilty will actually satisfy those demanding justice, we do know that not coming to a reckoning may be the catalyst that damages future relations and increases the likelihood of the lasting peace failing. This doesn't even mention that justifiable actions may still elicit calls for revenge as a fundamental factor of human violence, regardless of what the military and international lawyers may say. However, generally speaking, the creation of a condition of lasting peace is that the criminals of war, those that unjustly waged and conducted it, be punished. Similarly, in business, as is with most human endeavors, people will make demands for punishment against those they feel wronged them in some way. Chief-level executives and those with delegated authority who defraud investors, steal from pension plans, conduct insider trading, and abuse their personnel will often need to be seen as having been appropriately punished before people are willing to let a violation rest. A CEO who is seen to have damaged the business and the livelihood of others, simply being relieved and given their golden parachute, will not satisfy the calls for justice from those who have been wronged. During your jus ad negotium and jus in negotio phases, you need to determine how you plan to dispense justice within our organization so that you don't inadvertently create systems and processes that damage your reputation in the jus post negotium phase when you fail to punish those deserving of punishment.

 

  • Rights Vindication, Rehabilitation, Compensation, Reconstruction, and Reconciliation: There is a lot of fixing that needs to occur at the end of a conflict, and these include restoring rights that were violated, providing rehabilitation to wounded combatants and non-combatants, providing compensation to those that lost loved ones and property, engaging in reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, and the final reconciliation of grievances of all parties. In business, at the end of an engagement, be it positive or negative, we must ask ourselves:

 

  • Have we treated each other fairly and justly?

  • Was anyone harmed during the engagement, and what support may be necessary to help correct the harm?

  • Will financial compensation be necessary, either as a form of punishment or as just a form of goodwill?

  • Was there any damage to property or systems that we will need to fix?

  • Have all parties voiced and addressed their issues?


While Just War Theory includes these three phases (ad bellum, in bello, post bellum), the principles that I provided are not an exhaustive list. Mainly because there is no official authority that curates the discussion of Just War Theory, only many subject matter experts and philosophers on the topic. As a result, if you dig into conversations and writings that cover it, you will be able to identify many more areas that can be directly applicable to developing a Just Business Theory. Additionally, there may be areas that are unique to certain business professions, as well as business and commerce in general, that should be included in a discussion of a Just Business Theory that was not covered in a topic related to just wars. It is my intent, however, that through the development of a business ethic that seeks to explain the importance of how a business is ethical, you, as the business expert, can better explain to the general public (the layman) through the use of a concept like Just Business Theory and its three separate yet interconnected phases of jus ad negotium, jus in negotio, and just post negotium; just as we use Just War Theory to help us explain ethical war waging and conduct to the civilian populace.

Conclusion

Throughout this chapter, I hope that you will have a better understanding of the nature of ethics. It is a complex topic, and amongst the general public, there is not only debate about what people should or shouldn't do but also accusations of unethical behavior are thrown about by opposing parties on a whim. However, we see that it may not necessarily be the case that some people labeled as unethical are, in fact, unethical, but instead simply have a different priority of values than the ones passing judgment. Let's look at everything we discussed and summarize the points made throughout the chapter.

  • The concepts of ethics and morals.

Morals are those foundational principles that determine how an individual should behave in relation to others and their environments. Morals are determined by the individual themselves and are shaped by their beliefs and experiences. Ethics, conversely, are behaviors that we expect of others based on their roles and functions within society. Ethics are determined by society or the group and codified in values, concepts, laws, and regulations. Ethics are socially expected behaviors, and while each individual brings their own perspective on the nature of ethics to their particular function in society (such as Soldier, salesman, father, etc.), the collective keeps deviations in check.

  • The benefits that ethics provide society.

Society benefits from the use of ethics in that it allows each member of society to effectively trust each other to engage in expected and beneficial behaviors to society, or at least not detrimental ones. Ethics are not an arbitrary method of keeping people compliant with the collective. Some elements of ethics may do just that, however, predominantly, they exist to keep people engaged in actions that produce net positive outcomes and avoid actions that are disadvantageous to the group. Simply put, ethics are tried, tested, and vetted methods of socially expected behaviors, and if everyone acts in accordance with their ethics, then the group will succeed in its purpose if those ethics are properly aligned with the purpose of the group.

  • The nature of conflicting duties.

The primary source of ethical dilemmas comes when the ethics themselves conflict with one another. Having competing loyalties, conflicting duties between work and family, and multiple obligations to support different people and organizations require you to pick and choose where one’s ethics lie. These are examples of conflicting and dueling duties that we must weigh when we decide to act, and when our obligations are at odds, we will have to determine which ones take priority over the others. To others who have different ethical priorities, our actions may appear unethical when, in fact, they are ethical only with a different prioritization.

  • Schools of thought assess right from wrong.

One of the ways in which individuals or groups determine whether actions are "good" or "bad," "right" or "wrong" is through the teachings professed by various schools of thought. These various perspectives become the foundational approaches to ethical decision-making. They include codified guidelines for behaviors found within religious scripture and philosophical concepts developed by many different cultures and time periods. These frameworks are presented not as comprehensive solutions but as tools used to justify actions within a pre-existing moral context, highlighting that they often presuppose a basic understanding of what is considered "good" or "bad"​​ without necessarily explaining the reasons why other than producing respective outcomes.

  • Ethics can complement or conflict between cultures.

Ethics vary and interact differently across different cultures, organizations, and societal roles, often leading to either complementary or conflicting ethical norms. An individual often must navigate multiple ethical frameworks and reconcile the differing expectations based on their status in society, such as their national identity, profession, religious beliefs, political ideology, and familial roles. Cultural backgrounds influence the perception and prioritization of ethics, often leading to disagreements within and between cultures. For example, what constitutes corruption may vary significantly between peoples, influenced by cultural norms and ethical frameworks. Ultimately, ethics are deeply rooted in cultural and personal contexts, making establishing universal ethical standards challenging. To be successful in global business, it is necessary to understand and respect diverse ethical landscapes as a part of navigating global and multicultural interactions.

  • Military and business ethics.

Ethics in military and business contexts serve as a crucial framework for guiding behavior toward fulfilling an organization's objectives. These ethical guidelines are not merely about adhering to societal norms but are strategic tools designed to shape the behavior of individuals within an organization to prevent harm and reinforce actions that support the organization's goals. Essentially, ethics in both domains are aimed at preventing actions that could detract from an organization's mission while promoting behaviors that enhance its effectiveness. This dual purpose of ethics underlines their role as more than just moral guidelines and feel-good attitudes; they are integral to the strategic and operational success of both military units and business enterprises. Through ethical conduct, organizations avoid detrimental outcomes and foster a culture that supports robust mission fulfillment. Ethics aren’t about being nice, but they are a strategic decision necessary to guide behaviors towards successful outcomes.

  • The difficulties of employing ethics.

Ethical standards are challenging to apply universally due to human imperfection and diverse societal norms. People, influenced by their unique cultural, environmental, and historical contexts, often hold different views on what constitutes ethical behavior. These differences can lead to ethical conflicts, especially when individuals or groups from distinct backgrounds interact or when the same ethical principles are applied inconsistently across various situations. For instance, what is deemed ethical in one culture might be seen as inappropriate in another. Furthermore, ethical guidelines can clash within a single entity, such as an organization, where multiple roles or expectations may diverge. This complexity is exemplified in situations like military operations, where the ethical considerations of combat differ significantly from those of peacekeeping efforts, often leading to moral dilemmas and the need for adaptable ethical frameworks, something that we can see in less severe environments, like business.

  • Applying military ethics for businesses.

Military ethics, such as the Army Values and the concept of Just War Theory, can be insightful for shaping business ethics. These frameworks emphasize the alignment of behavior with key principles and the beneficial behaviors, attributes that are equally valuable in business settings. While military ethics prioritize values, such as duty and loyalty, essential for making critical decisions in business, these principles help ensure that corporate actions are consistent with legal standards, social norms, and organizational goals. Adapting such ethical frameworks in business promotes trust and a strong corporate reputation and ensures that business practices contribute positively to society. A structured ethical approach, akin to Just War Theory, could thus be instrumental in guiding businesses to act responsibly and effectively in achieving their strategic objectives.

Remember these key considerations when developing an ethical framework for your organization; considerations we expounded upon in greater detail earlier.

  • Ethics need to align people to the purpose of the business.

  • Ethics needs to be defined and understood.

  • Ethics must prioritize values, beliefs, laws, and concepts directly tied to purpose; all else is subservient.

  • Ethics can and does differ between groups.

  • Ethics must be aligned with justifications.

  • Ethics requires continuous training and leadership engagement.

  • Ethics is about justified action.

Entire books are dedicated to the discussion of ethics, so even with this lengthy chapter, I wouldn't claim to have completely covered the topic. There are other perspectives, schools of ethical thought, and different cultures and industries that may have unique takes on the nature of ethics. What I am sure of, however, is that ethics, as a method of social control over individuals for the benefit of society, requires the group to enforce their ethics by whichever means they have available. Failing to do so will result in the ethical manifestation of the broken window theory in that, in the eyes of individual members of this weak-willed society, if no one else is regulating themselves for the sake of the collective, then the individual will also forego ethics when it benefits them to do so; this is one of the ways in which society gets the literal manifestation of the broken window theory where people no longer care for their communities.

Whether the compulsion to behave properly (meaning behaving ethically) comes from the actual strength of the state or organization or merely the perceived strength of the group to force compliance, such as a concern for consequences, both good and bad, these are what are necessary to keep people in line. Without concern for punishment or ostracization, people may deviate from ethical conduct, and since ethical conduct is conducive to the benefit of the group, the authority of the state or organization will place great importance on keeping people ethical. A group of people, be it a nation, military, business, sports teams, or a romantic couple, if individuals behaving ethically is good for the group as a whole, then the group's perceived strength will improve. An ethical society will strengthen the state, and the wise state will use its strength to protect the society that gives it its strength. In fact, you could say that without a strong authority, in some fashion, you could not have an ethical society as it would be preyed upon by predatory outsiders and opportunistic insiders.

 

In a contribution to the book The Future of the Army Profession 2nd Edition, Lieutenant Colonel John Mark Mattox wrote on this perspective in his chapter titled "The Moral Foundations of Army Officership" when he said:

Since, according to Hobbes, ethical notions such as right and justice cannot exist except within the protected confines of the state, and the state cannot maintain its existence without the guarantee of safety afforded it by an army, the army become for Hobbes not only the guarantor of the state's existence but also the guarantor of morality (or at least the guarantor of the potential for the existence of morality). It may, in fact, be unnecessary to insist upon this latter point. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that in social contractarian moral philosophy of the kind advocated by Hobbes, one can argue that the sovereign is able to "guarantee" the security of the state (i.e., a place where morality can exist - for it cannot exist in the chaotic Hobbesean state of nature) only because the sovereign has at his disposal an army. At the very least, and in a similar vein, we can fairly conclude that, to the extent that an army serves as the guarantor of the state's safety, and to the extent that the preservation of the state represents a moral good, the army has a moral obligation to all within its power to ensure the preservation of the state. (393-394)

Another perspective, this time from that of the state as enforcer of ethical conduct, comes from Steven Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined where he stated:

A state that uses a monopoly on force to protect its citizens from one another may be the most consistent violence-reducer that we have encountered in this book… If a government imposes a cost on an aggressor that is large enough to cancel out his gains… it flips the appeal of the two choices [predation vs. peace] of the potential aggressor, making peace more attractive than war [Chapter 10].

Ethics must not only be enforced to ensure proper compliance but