Business Dilemmas and Responsibilities
Harvey S. James Jr.
University of Missouri at Columbia - Agricultural and Applied Economics
October 1, 2008
In this article I discuss the nature of ethical dilemmas and responsibilities. I begin by noting that there are two types of dilemmas, philosophical and behavioral. I distinguish between them, give examples, and explain why it is important to understand their differences. I also use the Prisoner's Dilemma to show why ethical dilemmas are difficult, highlighting the fact that dilemmas result from conflicts of interests and values. I then define what responsibility means, suggesting that there are two parts to responsibility. Like the Prisoner's Dilemma, I use the Contribution Game to show why it is less likely that someone will accept responsibility as problems become larger and why it is important to place emphasis on some entity, such as business, to take responsibility, thus giving rise to the importance of corporate social responsibility. I end with some words of caution about efforts to shift or assume responsibility by, for example, governments.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 10
Keywords: Business ethics, dilemmas, Prisoner's Dilemma, corporate social responsibility, contribution game
JEL Classification: L29, M14, Z10working papers series
Date posted: October 23, 2008 ; Last revised: October 27, 2008
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