The Moral Minimum: A Complex Standard
Each person has a set of personal values and morals that they hold themselves accountable to, whether for religious reasons or the result of years of environmental conditioning. These standards of behavior often go above and beyond the laws set in place by government. Just like individuals, a business entity chooses a standard of moral behavior to uphold. A difficult task to undertake, considering businesses are comprised of people with varying behavioral standards, but a necessary one nonetheless. Businesses are required to act with a moral minimum, defined as the minimum degree of ethical behavior expected of a business, or more specifically, compliance with the law . Most businesses go above this moral minimum however, weighing decisions beyond profitability and legality, and analyzing what constitutes right and wrong behavior. With information rapidly available to investors, social responsibility is in constant check. Going above the standards set by law can actually increase profitability, ease capital attainment, and in turn, increase the stock price. In a world where environmental concern is mounting, businesses are being called to act righteously and hold itself to the highest standard: that of natural law. In this paper, the concept of moral minimum will be further developed through the work of Hart, a positive and natural law theorist, accompanied by an analysis of the responsibilities facing business today, specifically the standards they should hold themselves to.
H.L.A Hart defines law on two different levels; primary and secondary. Primary rules are driven by a natural demand for conformity and based on behaviors alone, typical of a pre-legal system, such as a community or tribe. Secondary rules however, are directed at primary rules, and supplement them by alleviating the uncertain, static, and inefficient characteristics of a pre-legal system. According to Hart, the two rules together form the...
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