Absolutely, ending “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was long in coming and necessary, but it is still a disgrace that it took so long to end a disgraceful policy. Saying ethics is a luxury simply means that the speaker believes that one should be good and fair when it is easy and benefits him or her, but when problems loom and crises have to be faced, ethics are optional. Any of us, no matter how virtuous, are capable of becoming “the bad guy”…especially when we are convinced that we are not. All of the Mount Everest climbers who left a stricken colleague behind to die protested later that they were certain the next climber behind them (or the next, perhaps) would stop to help the man. At the same time, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” is also a rationalization for rash action, deliberate inattention to predictable problems, and poor or non-existent planning. This is, however, nothing but a particularly insidious employment of the worst of all rationalizations, #21, The Comparative Virtue Excuse or “There are worse things!” Late is also better than setting the neighborhood on fire, but finally doing what should have been done before harm resulted is nothing to be proud of, unless the agency taking ethical action never had the opportunity of ability to do it sooner. 30. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” which employs misdeeds of presumably admirable figures of the past as precedent for misdeed in the future, this is an appeal to irrelevant authority. Frank’s favorite use of it was when he was seeking assistance from one of the many elected officials, appointees and others whom he has lied to or metaphorically stabbed in the back. This has long been the refrain in the Barry Bonds argument for baseball’s uber cheater to be admitted to the MLB Hall of Fame. The Saint’s Excuse allows charities to strong-arm contributors, and advocacy groups to use lies and innuendo to savage ideological opponents. All of us can benefit from reviewing them from time to time, so that we may detect them in the arguments of others, and be aware of what we are doing when we use them ourselves. It is true that certain iconoclasts, curmudgeons, rebels and critics naturally engender hostility from those upon whose toes they step in the pursuit of justice and truth. This one is so frequently employed that it doesn’t register as a rationalization, perhaps because the one who wields it is often a third party. Passion is especially a double-edged sword: it has sparked murder, mayhem, terrorism and too many crimes to list. They simply were unwilling to face the consequences of all the unethical acts they wanted to do. The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all. It is how schools justify giving out high grades to students who deserve low ones; how the the National Football League rationalizes allowing its game to sacrifice brains in the name of bone-crunching action; why governments use aggregated uninformed opinions revealed in polls to make complex decisions. We need each other now. Because — I believe this drug business — is gonna destroy us in the years to come. 54. The next step, however, in which a single life, or even many, is deemed justification for any expense or other draconian societal trade-offs, is impractical and irrational. Abortion is complicated; capital punishment is complicated; the Israel- Palestinian problem is complicated; illegal immigration policy is complicated; euthanasia is complicated; the proper use of U.S. power in the world is complicated. used to justify misconduct in these situations and others that pose ethical dilemmas: Convincing yourself that a behavior is not really illegal. Rationalization 51A. This is the common rationalization of the constant screw-up, whose explanation for always getting in trouble, continually making others angry or upset, encountering hostility or sanction in employment, and failing at personal relationships, is that everyone is out to get him or her, for reasons unknown. Recognize that, and you will have an easier time dealing with them. The Reverse 15 could also be called “The Kitty Genovese Rationalization,” recalling that the many people who heard the murdered woman’s screams chose not to “get involves” while convincing themselves that someone would come to her aid. The Unethical Tree in the Forest, or “What they don’t know won’t hurt them,”36. Hamm’s Excuse, or “It wasn’t my fault.”. How do we know that the steroids helped him? Most important of all, the fact that I may have done what you did under similar circumstances doesn’t make what you did less wrong, It only means I have some sympathy for you, and am more likely to apply the Golden Rule if I am assigned the responsibility of holding you to account—which I should apply anyway. Tortured or inexplicable defenses of otherwise clearly wrong behavior in public dialogue are often the product of cognitive dissonance. This is, it is fair to say, the current state of American politics. Whose idea was sequestration? Even Genghis Khan, Hitler and Mao spent didn’t spend the majority of their time killing, and so what? Another example is the open-minded and vulgar liberal who doesn’t mind four-letter words in public, so he uses them in front of everyone. The fact that nobody is perfect does not mean that it isn’t necessary and appropriate to point out unethical conduct when it occurs. The argument is silly in Scooby Doo cartoons, and is even more ridiculous in real life. A betrayal of trust is just as wrong when the betrayer has the manners to reveal it himself, directly and with a sympathetic look on his face. “He can take care of himself” is not a justification. rationalizations According to one study, there are four common rationalizations (excuses) for justifying misconduct: 1) My behavior isn't really illegal or immoral. 35. The Perfection Diversion, or “Nobody’s Perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!”. It may be complicated, but its still wrong. The Idealist’s Delusion is a cynical tool to bypass ethical decision-making by assuming the result, and using ego and guilt to stifle objective analysis. Nor is there any support for the assertion that where history goes is intrinsically and unequivocally good or desirable. Like Frank, real life unethical politicians know that if responsibility for a scandal, lie or crime can be denied, delayed, ducked, distorted and ignored long enough, the news media and the public will become fatigued and frustrated, and ultimately give up on holding the wrongdoers accountable. When an act suggests that more than an honest mistake or single instance of bad judgment was involved, and that an individual’s conduct indicates a broader lack of character or ethical sensitivity, “Nobody’s perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” are not only inappropriate and irrelevant, but are presumptively efforts to change the subject. When we are then faced with a challenge in life, we are better prepared to face it and find that Silver Lining…. A habit I often cite as the best way to use the Rationalizations list is to stop cold any time you hear one of them coming out of your mouth, and treat it as an ethics alarm. Our task in life is to make the most of the good luck life hands us for no reason, and to try to overcome the bad luck that builds character, encourages perseverance, courage and industry, and that sometimes, moral luck being what it is, has surprisingly beneficial consequences. Ironically, the rationalization that “these are not ordinary times” no longer is necessary at that point. Policy advocates quote statistics to “prove” what the numbers really don’t prove, counting on the inability of the trusting, inattentive, ignorant and gullible to see the flaws as insulation against rebuttal. Torture used without restrictions probably would save one life or more. He is 45 years old! …and others. 1B. Using rights that way, however, is to abuse them. The coins bore what historians say was Eric’s official motto: “God Gives to Whoever He Chooses.”. This manager simply fails to consider the ethical consequences of, considers ethical behavior as a personal goal. The position that there was nothing unethical about the conduct was supported by a chain of rationalizations: 1. Except in very rare cases, we cannot look into a human being’s soul and determine that because he or she has done wrong, that person is a bad person. Chemical warfare wasn’t “fair.” Germ warfare wasn’t “fair.” Abusing prisoners of war wasn’t “fair.”. The individual who does this unilaterally is threatening the stability of society, and that’s unethical no matter what the law is. One of the most seductive and simple-minded of rationalizations, The Hippie’s License flourished in the 1960’s and still haunts us today. In #57, the unethical actor substitutes himself for his victim, and his values and needs as well. “Our Jewish neighbors who are being shipped out of the country are being liquidated? Your conduct, however, still reaped what it sowed. The Unethical Precedent posits that because the conduct has been done before, it isn’t unethical; #39 is the fallback: “OK, it’s unethical, but it’s unfair to punish me for it if you didn’t punish everyone else before me.”. What they mean is that they didn’t like the choices they had, and taking the unethical option involved less sacrifice, less controversy, less criticism, less effort…in short, less courage, than doing the right thing. What matters is whether they make the government work. 44. 1. The stomach and the palate can “want” food, even when it must be stolen. The sub-category is “They asked for it.” Victim Blindness is similar, but it applies even greater responsibility to victims: whether they asked for it or not, they should have known their actions would be met with this unethical response, and their ignorance, carelessness or stupidity constitutes a waiver of ethics. If a proposed measure is too wrong and reckless to undertake, it shouldn’t be undertaken. But you still had a choice, and you are still accountable for the choice you made, 25A. From unseen sources, As with its parent, #19, 19A falsely changes an accusation of wrongful conduct into one of, “Generally, Congress gave the NIH about what the president requested — sometimes more, sometimes less. Journalists and pundits are often the worst devotees of #65. Not everyone can use 11B: just kings, sons and daughters of billionaires and other fortunate people who refuse to admit that they have been more lucky than good. A sub-rationalization to #38. Neat! Simple: he convinces himself that screaming conflicts aren’t what they are without “evidence,” by which he means “proof of a quid pro quo.” But a quid pro quo is bribery, not a conflict of interest. It is not only acceptable, it is necessary to use a variety of ethical approaches to solve certain problems. Forgive and forget. This use of the Bible passage illustrates the insidious nature of using famous phrases divorced from their contexts. 68. 5 Most Common Unethical Behaviors in the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) Survey . Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Factchecker and himself an Obama accountability-evader on occasion (though much less lately), pronounced that pointed finger a digital lie: “Generally, Congress gave the NIH about what the president requested — sometimes more, sometimes less. In fact, the argument is nonsensical. or “I’m just giving the people what they want!”. So taking bribes becomes acceptable. “Judge not, lest ye not be judged,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” have been quoted by scoundrels and their allies and supporters for centuries. The group version is perhaps more insidious. He has a duty to the pirates (I would say that his stated determination to “wipe them off the face of the earth” is also unethical, given their treatment of him.) You should not have to be paid to meet your commitments and obligations. 66 .The Pest’s Justification or “He/She/They can take care of themselves”, This a is a distant cousin of Rationalization 2A, Sicilian Ethics, which holds that wrongdoing toward a party isn’t wrong when the abused party has aggrieved the abuser. List 4 common rationalizations for unethical managerial behavior. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. The Scooby Doo Deflection, or “I should have gotten away with it!”. When the inevitable loophole opens up in the rules, when the opportunity to gain at someone else’s expense is there and nobody will ever know, it is the ethical, not the compliant, who will do the right thing. Wrong. If one is truly ethical, there are things you will never do and must never do, no matter what the crisis. Frederick’s Compulsion or “It’s My Duty!”. In “Dirty Harry,” for example, a serial killer goes free because Harry tortures him to find out where he buried a girl alive. It simply wasn’t the best choice. All of these policy conundrums and many others are too complex by far to use simple-minded absolutism as their ethical guideline, and about 30 seconds of logical clarity will usually make that clear. Our duty is to act to ensure that the final days, hours and minutes of everyone we share existence with are as endurable, free and painless as possible, not merely to indulge ourselves at their expense because their discomfort will be limited. #56 is a pretty neat trick, when you think about it: it simultaneously appeals to an individual or organization’s self-esteem while unilaterally declaring an objective, motive or methods demeaning. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”and #24. 53. principals. Arguing that as long as the misery inflicted has company, what was done isn’t as bad as it was. 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