The previous two posts have dealt with the problem of conflicts of interest, which is a somewhat easy topic to discuss because there is a direct right and wrong: it is wrong to perform certain tasks if you have a strong competing interest which prevents you from fulfilling that task.
But let’s say you get pas the conflict of interest and go to work in the business world. You go to work every day, and you do your best to make money without breaking any laws or causing any harm. Sounds simple, right?
Well, no, that’s not all. Let’s pretend I was talking about sports instead of business. If you were playing hockey, you would never play with the goal of just not breaking the rules. In order to be a good game of hockey, you also have to try to win. And that means playing to win without breaking the rules. And these two goals are often at odds with one another. If you don’t do everything you possibly can to win, its not a good game. And if you don’t follow the rules, its also not a good game. If you are on a team of superior players, this is not an ethical challenge: you simply play your best and you’ll win. But what if you’re the underdog?
But here’s the other thing about sports: if you cheat at everything, you lose everything, too. Because if the game becomes no fun to play, no one will want to play it. And then there will be no game at which to excel.
But sports is only so strong an example because, even if you lose, at the end of the day you’ve only lost a game. But what if the stakes are much, much higher?
For example, what about war?