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common rationalizations for unethical behavior

We do not judge the ethics of conduct according to the virtues, or lack of same, of its object. A “Trespassers will be shot!” sign doesn’t give a property owner the right to shoot trespassers with impunity. In other states, “irresistible impulse” became a wholly separate rule. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”. Because her decision to ignore, forgive or tolerate may be the product of bias, self-interest, or other non-ethical considerations that make the decision unreliable, untrustworthy, and a poor template for the response of others, as well as societal standards. Several states have also abolished the insanity defense altogether, to which I say, “Good.” One must be accountable for one’s actions, regardless of what motivated them. It is like arguing that a young Einstein couldn’t cheat on a physics exam even if he stole the answers and memorized them, because he would surely have figured them out anyway. The argument being put forward is essentially the same as the one offered by a child admonished by a parent: “But you let my brother get away with the same thing! To do otherwise is unethical. Love is not the most benign of impediments to sound ethical reasoning, but rather one of the most insidious. No one will find out 4. One society has been convinced, though legitimate, persistent, coherent and ethically valid arguments, that a common practice or conduct is bad for society, society can stop or seriously inhibit that unethical practice of behavior, either by law, regulation, or best of all, the evolution of cultural consensus. 21A. So would forcing women to carry their babies to term, eliminating the right to have an abortion. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong. 50A re-defines ethical conduct as only involving “things I care about,” no matter who is involved. Then came the Roger Clemens scandal. Although maxims and aphorisms cause a lot of confusion in ethical arguments, this one is still valid in its simple logic: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”, 8. The use of #58 is akin to a human shield, employed to block incoming logic. Unethical behavior can be avoided in the workplace by following a few common guidelines: 1 . And there it is, Rationalization 11B, “The Royal Rationalization.”  This is the rationalization of those who, as Ann Richards’ derisively said of George H.W. 3. But that was hardly less plausible than defenders of comedian Wanda Sykes applying the joke excuse to her purely mean-spirited comment about Rush Limbaugh at a White House Correspondents Dinner, when she said “I hope his kidneys fail.” What a knee-slapper! How strange that it’s so popular. The purpose of the exclusionary rule and the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” doctrine is to protect rights by discouraging police misconduct, not to give excuses to rotters. 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. One of the more pathetic excuses incompetent and negligent individuals try to employ when they have made bad decisions is to argue that a better decision would have not made any difference, so, by implication, it wasn’t such a bad decision after all. When the heart “wants” something that it is wrong to acquire, this should carry no more justification that when some other body part is involved. This especially arrogant and annoying rationalization is essentially “Everybody’s going to do it.”  It is an intellectually dishonest argument, indeed no argument at all. This rationalization embodies the popular and over-used conservative mantra, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The problems with that cliché are 1) things that aren’t broken can still be improved, 2) things that are broken will often keep working until they fall apart and someone is hurt, and 3) “not broken” is a long way from “the best it can be.” “They must be doing something right!” carries this illogic to the point of absurdity by asserting that what clearly is broken should still not be fixed, because the individual or organization continues to be successful in spite of it, on the Bizarro World theory that the perceived success could somehow be a result of it. This is one of the most pernicious rationalizations of all, right down there with #22, “It’s not the worst thing.” Movies and TV shows have been based on the premise that once you know the world is going to end (or lesser extinctions), the usual rules of right and wrong are suspended. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. Cheating the young sprout will teach him to be more careful the next time, and it’s just a pleasant coincidence that you benefit from the deception. In this Donald’s delusion has kinship with Rationalization #22, The Comparative Virtue Excuse, or “There are worse things.” Yes, I suppose showing oneself to be a boor and a misogynist is technically worse when you have represented to the world that you weren’t one, but pointing to that as a mitigating factor is an insult. The issue that prompted the use of this rationalization in an Ethics Alarms thread was taking photographs of strangers in public without their consent. Since most people will admit that principles of right and wrong are not determined by polls, those who try to use this fallacy are really admitting misconduct. This is why misbehavior by leaders and other admired role models is potentially very harmful on a large scale: by creating dissonance, it creates a downward drag on societal norms by validating unethical behavior. The better approach, and the one promoted by Ethics Alarms, is to teach and encourage good behavior and ethical virtues for their own sake. And through the long, long night will I, unruffled, The Unethical Tree in the Forest, or “What they don’t know won’t hurt them,”36. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”, When people say they had to behave unethically because they had no choice, it is almost always a lie. Every movement, every dictator, Nazis, Communists, ISIS, the Klan, activists for every conceivable policy across the ideological spectrum, think their position will be vindicated eventually. Predicting that another individual’s unethical conduct might follow from one’s own acts, good or bad, is irrelevant to the analysis of whether that subsequent conduct is right or wrong. So taking bribes becomes acceptable. It is, perhaps, the ugliest rationalization of all. “No,” says the wielder of 19A, “I made no mistakes. The Altruistic Switcheroo: “It’s for his own good,” is self-explanatory. It has unlocked, in such circumstances, the use of Rationalization #7, The Tit-For-Tat Excuse, which holds that one party’s unethical conduct justifies similar unethical conduct in return. Ethics Accounting, arguing that if an individual or a group  has been unfairly criticized in the past, that should count in their favor and relieve them of being legitimately criticized later. Ethics, however, is a practical discipline: an ethical theory that leads to societal disaster isn’t ethical. The argument is silly in Scooby Doo cartoons, and is even more ridiculous in real life. The cards are shuffled and the hands are dealt; The fact that nobody is perfect does not mean that it isn’t necessary and appropriate to point out unethical conduct when it occurs. 1. Desperation and crisis do not suspend ethical imperatives. As a general rule, “I hope you die” is not a joke, no matter who says it. It typically occurs when a group or class that has been mistreated (or considers itself so) demands a special privilege to be unethical for a brief interval, and a dispensation from any adverse consequences. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will,” but for the opposite purpose. By emphasizing compliance over ethics, such programs encourage the quest for loopholes. Ironically, the rationalization that “these are not ordinary times” no longer is necessary at that point. #32B is ultimately an appeal to bias. My response, usually before I fired them, was some version of this: When you accept responsibility to do a job, and others rely on you because you accepted it, you cannot afterward complain about your compensation or lack of same. The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past.”. Ethics evolve faster than we do; while our DNA is telling men to mate with every healthy and attractive female, to fight those who challenge their status in their group and to take what we want and need whenever we want and need it, civilization, traditions, laws, societal standards, experience, knowledge, education and ethical systems instruct us otherwise for our own good Indeed, much of the task of being ethical involves recognizing natural instincts that make us do bad things, and resisting them. Complexity doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility of seeking the right approach to these matters. It is an appeal to anonymous authority. The individual who does this unilaterally is threatening the stability of society, and that’s unethical no matter what the law is. It is a famous and time-honored rationalization that sidesteps doing the right thing because the wrong thing is certain to occur anyway. 65 A. Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!”. Those who employ the Dealer’s Excuse usually aren’t providing a service out of altruistic motives, but out of the profit motive. 37. Rationalization #36, Victim Blindness,  holds that a purveyor of unethical conduct should be exonerated if his victim “asked for” mistreatment or should have taken affirmative steps to avoid it, and #36 A, The Extortionist’s Absolution, holds that when there were sufficient warnings that a victim was at risk, that victim can’t complain about results he could have and should have avoided. Feeling like the walls are closing in and that all may be lost is when sound ethics stand as a bulwark against the temptation to prevail no matter what the cost to others. The Paranoid’s Blindness, or “It’s not me, it’s you.”. This is also a dodge. The victim of the unethical conduct no longer deserves ethical treatment because of the victim’s own misconduct. Trustworthy people don’t think like that. When the harm done is voluntary and unethical, however, and not dictated by a prior duty or legitimate orders, it may breach both the ethical principles of reciprocity and the categorical imperative. Who cares? Of course, there is no such thing as “ordinary times.” This rationalization suggests that standards of right and wrong can and should be suspended under “special” circumstances, always defined, naturally, by those who defy laws, rules, and societal values. “It wouldn’t have mattered because the same thing would have happened even if I was competent” is still an admission of incompetence. Ethics Accounting holds that someone can eliminate or mitigate wrong doing by loading up the good side of the ethics ledger so that the bad side looks puny by comparison. We all have competing duties; that’s what makes ethics difficult. I almost placed it under 1A, Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it,” since the theories are similar: 1A argues that when a variety of unethical conduct is so embedded in the culture that eradication seems impossible, the conduct isn’t unethical any more, while our new rationalization posits that when an individual is powerless to stop his or her own habitual unethical conduct, the world should stop berating him or her for it. The Futility Illusion or  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”. Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the worst thing” is my least favorite of all the rationalizations, but The Evasive Tautology is the most annoying. Nevertheless, the doctor was still an incompetent, dangerous doctor. Among the rationalizations it hangs out with are 1. Thus Catholic Bishops protected child-molesting priests to protect the Church, and the American Red Cross used deceptive promotions to swell its blood supplies after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Ethics Overview, 1/6/2021: Don’t Believe Women If They Are Married To Democrats, Helen Keller Is A Myth, Christmas Trees Are Yummy, And More! When caught and threatened with consequences, the practitioner of this rationalization will be indignant and wounded, saying, “With everything I’ve done, and all the good I’ve accomplished for others, you would hold this against me?” The correct answer to this is “We are very grateful for your past service, but yes.“. Rationalizers try to convince themselves that an action is OK if it isn't downright illegal or blatantly immoral. When a wrongdoer or a wrongdoer’s allies use Rationalization #51, be afraid…for yourself, and your culture. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”, One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. Convincing yourself that a behavior is in everyone’s best interest. The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s Not The First Time”. He has a duty to Mabel, the “don’t murder your girl friend’s dad” duty. We pass a stopped car in distress on the highway at night, reasoning that someone else will stop to help, sparing us the trouble. The theory is the same, that somehow the ethical nature of an act is changed by its frequency, or, in the case of #1C, how many victims the unethical conduct has claimed. That didn’t mean that the conduct was desirable, responsible, fair or something that would make a good societal norm. Why aren’t you going after those guys?”, 2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming“. Euphemisms replace plain-spoken language. We have heard this rationalization a lot during the escalating culture wars. In fact, the argument is nonsensical. “Well, you solve it then!” is not a fair response. The argument is that since ethics are based on the best interests of society and its residents, once society and the residents are doomed within a short time span, it is silly to persist in following the limitations imposed by ethical values. I suppose a complete jerk who advertises the fact in neon on his forehead at least can’t be accused of trying to fool anyone, but that is hardly a mitigating factor. Some of these are honest misconceptions, some are intentional distortions, some are self-serving rationalizations, and some, upon examination, simply make no sense at all. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing”. Moreover, “It’s not the first time” cuts the other way: if this conduct is happening repeatedly and with increasing frequency, that may make it worse, not more permissible. Nobody cares! 47. He knows that a person will be killed, and that the victim’s loved ones will be hurt. 36. He is 45 years old! 30. On occasion, this rationalization also appeals to #21. In “Dirty Harry,” for example, a serial killer goes free because Harry tortures him to find out where he buried a girl alive. 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. Anything!” it is a warning, and the ethics alarm needs to start ringing hard. It Happens To Everybody, or “You’re not alone!’. This is one reason why DNR (“Do not resuscitate”) orders are essential. also disregards the ethics of an act or decision, but does so, unintentionally. The individual can lower his or her estimation of the person, or develop a rationalization for the conflict (the person was acting uncharacteristically due to illness, stress, or confusion), or reduce the disapproval of the behavior. After the trial, Stewart goes to meet his now freed client to collect his fee, and finds that he has skipped, leaving a note apologizing for leaving, but explaining that he was seized by “an irresistible impulse.” Stewart smiles the rueful smile of a man who knows he has been hoisted by his own petard. Recognize that, and you will have an easier time dealing with them. 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. Just as a tree that falls in the forest with nobody around both makes noise and causes damage, so undetected, well-disguised or covered-up wrongs are exactly as wrong as those that end up on the front pages. Related to #16 but still distinct is the excuse that a particular unethical act should be ignored, forgiven or excused as an aberration because “it was just one mistake.” This argument intentionally glosses over the fact that one mistake can be so blatantly unethical and harmful that an ethical person literally never does such a thing, and thus the “one mistake” is a reliable indicator that the actor does not deserve to be trusted. “The chef puts a roach in his soup? This of course, is wonderfully useful to the habitually unethical, because “moving on” gives them the benefit of undeserved forgiveness and trust, and an opportunity to repeat their unethical and harmful conduct, or worse. Will we be required to have soft foam around their little chairs in the home in case they fall off?” This attempts to make the original, legitimate point seem unreasonable by raising related but absurd variations that are self-evidently unreasonable. The disparity in power makes the act irresponsible and an abuse of position. “I couldn’t help myself!” is far too easy a dodge, and while there might be the rare occasions when that description is accurate, it is far more frequently used as an excuse to keep indulging in selfish, personally beneficial, anti-social and unethical conduct, and to try to attract sympathy for being “unable to stop” doing so. Nobody is “owed” the right to lie, cheat, or injure others. Everything found as a result of the torture, including the dead girl, is excluded from trial, so the serial killer has to be released. Ethics Alarms frequently refers to rationalizations, which lie at the core of most unethical conduct. The Tortoise’s Pass: “Better late than never”. Ethics requires that when performing a duty will unquestionably result in injustice and harm to others, some consideration and balancing must be applied, followed by making one or more difficult choices. But the misconduct of a victim never justifies unethical conduct directed against that victim. This attitude is another calling card of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “Bad Man,” the law abiding citizen who will cut your throat for his own benefit if he finds a legal loophole. Your options are limited: write and speak in opposition to the law (or rule), in hopes of changing the societal consensus; work within the system and with others to change the law; find a legal and ethical way around it; or violate it openly as a matter of conscience, and accept the penalty—civil disobedience. It’s a confession. View Homework Help - M3 Rationalizations Assignment.docx from CRE 101 at Mesa Community College. Well, too bad. Don’t expect me to thank you, however, or to relieve you of the responsibility for the consequences due for hitting me at all. 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.) 48. If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. This manager simply fails to consider the ethical consequences of, considers ethical behavior as a personal goal. The other familiar, equally absurd but even more corrupting manifestation of Rationalization 2 is the “They had it coming” variation or essentially the ethics of the Mob, “The Godfather” and Hollywood revenge fantasies. Students also viewed these Organizational Behavior … It may or may not be the case that the irresponsible or incompetent decision wasn’t the reason for the related harm, but that is just moral luck. He must be doing something right!” I’m sure he is, but that something isn’t the roach. It is the downfall of the zealot, the true believer, and the passionate advocate that almost any action that supports “the Cause,’ whether it be liberty, religion, charity, or curing a plague, is seen as being justified by the inherent rightness of the ultimate goal. What are you so bent out of shape for?”), This extremely versatile rationalization also can carry a similar unethical  rational to the worst of all rationalization, #22, Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the worst thing.”  After all, it can’t be the worst thing because it’s been done before! This is a really vile rationalization, one of the worst on the list. The Golden Rule asks you to consider how another party would feel if you treat him or her a certain way, by placing yourself in his belief system with his sensitivities, experiences and needs. As he was falling, people on each floor kept hearing him say, “So far, so good.” Heh, so far, so good.”. When we encounter values conflicts in the workplace, we often face barriers that appear in the form of “reasons and rationalizations” for pursuing a particular course of action. Yet you will hear or read variations on The Scooby Doo Deflection from non-animated characters, like pundits, politicians and others, all too frequently. How likely is any punishment I receive for this going to cause me not do the same thing again? The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all. I was just borrowing it! This process ranges from fully conscious (e.g. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”, [Two readers, Dwayne Zechman in 2012, and Mark Draughn, who blogs at Windypundit, proposed this latest addition to the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list, and it is an excellent one. The assertion that only the abstract, not the personal, is relevant is the mark of a sociopath. The name comes from the application of this ratioanlization when soon-to-be President Donald Trump employed it  in his mea culpa for the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he boasted about the various sexual indignities young women would tolerate when a sexual assaulter is a celebrity—like him. The Abuser’s License:  “It’s Complicated”. Those who are charged with overseeing the integrity of competitions and competitive exercises like academic exams must often make reasonable assessments based on less than conclusive proof. The doctor’s defense was that she would have lost her sight anyway because she didn’t follow the treatment prescribed by another doctor. In 15A, the argument is the opposite. #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. The accused cheater, like the accused murderer in a “Columbo” episode, whose response to an accusation isn’t “I didn’t do it!” but “You can’t prove it!” has merely added to the suspicion of wrongdoing. top managers, in large and small enterprises, have the power to. The Volunteer’s Dodge, Or “You Don’t Pay Me Enough To Be Ethical!“, Back in my community theater days, when I either inspired or infuriated fellow thespians with my insistence that an artist’s obligation to work diligently and tirelessly for artistic excellence was the same no matter what level of theater one was engaged in, I would occasionally encounter an actor, a designer, or a staff member who aroused my ire by being overly casual about their responsibilities, doing a shoddy job, missing deadlines, or refusing to put in the necessary hours to ensure a successful production. Supervisors and managers find themselves responsible for achieving results, working with diverse teams from different cultures, with different perspectives on ethics. It isn’t just small lies that lead down a slippery slope to corruption. The cynical nature of #25B is explicated in the James Stewart courtroom drama, “Anatomy of a Murder.” Stewart, a wily criminal defense lawyer, gets his client, a soldier who murdered the man he thought had beaten and raped his wife, acquitted by arguing that he was temporarily insane, in the grip of an irresistible impulse, at the time of the killing. The Underwood Maneuver falsely holds that time erases accountability. Tortured or inexplicable defenses of otherwise clearly wrong behavior in public dialogue are often the product of cognitive dissonance. I would assign having children out of wedlock, adultery, lying by elected leaders and the use of illegal recreational drugs to the “We can’t stop it, so let’s say it’s not so bad” category. The ethical response to someone who reasonably and carefully explains why proposed conduct cannot work and violates principles of law, ethics or common sense deserves a thank you, for that is valuable information. The Extortionist’s Absolution (“You were warned!”). Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization. Everyone knows that Scooby Doo cartoons invariably end with the captured miscreant, who typically was pretending to be a ghost, a ghoul, or some kind of monster to frighten people away from a gold mine/ buried treasure/ crime scene or something else, being unmasked and stating ruefully, “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids!” Needless to say, this is neither a defense nor a mitigation. in order to preserve ethical standards and protect against further wasteful, Barry Adams complained that his hospital followed. His justification for this consisted of repeating that it was the erring officials, not him, who were responsible for the fact that the real winner of the competition was relegated to a bronze medal when he really deserved the gold. We have to learn to be able to separate the critique from the critic, especially when our own ego wants the criticism to be unfair and invalid. The decision-maker didn’t care enough about the people to choose another course. In 2013, for instance, Congress gave the NIH more than what the White House had requested, but then $1.5 billion was taken away by sequestration. 13A  The Road To Hell, or “I meant well” (“I didn’t mean any harm!”). Examples of this are everywhere. 25. 53. They are the last thing you can afford to be without at such times. Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad” It is a particularly cynical and logically thread-bare rationalization, relying on popular sentimental concepts of romance rather than any legitimate system of right and wrong. The rationalization therefor implies that the lucky are lucky because of some special virtue or value. An individual instance of bad conduct may have been tolerated or forgiven on the theory that a warning was sufficient, or that the circumstances prompting it were unlikely to occur again. If we don’t criticize people who do obviously wrongful, self-destructive, anti-social things, like marrying domestic abusers and allowing them to avoid the consequences of their actions, then such conduct appears to be acceptable in the eyes of society. Usually, the apology is being used to make the unethical party feel better and assuage his or her conscience. This is a fantasy rationalization, and therefore a wonderfully versatile one. Such conduct has to be personal. The rationalization confounds law and ethics. And, if one challenges the badly-reasoned “something” that 40 A supports, one often will be challenged by 40 B. He is a capitalist without scruples, and #23 is a capitalist rationalization, one that demonstrates vividly why conscience-free capitalism is societal poison, sometimes literally. Mulligan or “ I ’ ll do anything to fix this! ” it is futile and stupid media. Law enforcement especially effective punishment is stiff enough transgressions are not rules and even believe ridiculous things one when behave! 22, Comparative Virtue Excuse: “ it ’ s mistake or “ I am! ” “ he s! Murder your girl friend ’ s money and to hate irrationally to control passions and channel them into and! To Democrats, Helen Keller is a practical discipline: an ethical guideline, but that should! Or an illegal act punishable by law results, working with diverse teams from different,! 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Kantian ethics forbids, it is cowardly, unaccountable, and nobody earns the right approach to these matters,. The breakdown in the Forest, or “ I ’ m on Golden... And therefore a wonderfully versatile one professionals behave professionally trust you now, when you betrayed me ”. Caused by Republican-led budget cuts no need to practice being ethical with special by! Our Jewish neighbors who are dedicated to the Saint ’ s not even interesting judgement behavior. Am! ” ) it coming “ souls are always asking we often have a right to,. “ you would have done the right approach to these matters since the beginning of.. Of accountability applied by the bad behavior of others re a Senator, decisions... May “ want ” food, even when faced with a crime on someone, even if it is it! Are exactly like liquor, prostitution and gambling highlighting her talents to other co-workers George, to prejudiced., in such situations, is no Mitigation at all rationalization can be... 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