“The Ethicist” Nails A Rationalization

I have often been critical of Randy Cohen, the New York Times Magazine’s longtime writer of “The Ethicist” column. This distorts, I fear, Randy’s performance, for he is right far more often than he is wrong, and he is usually right with wit, humor and clarity.

As an effort to balance the scales a bit, I want to salute “The Ethicist” for explaining, concisely and lightly, what is wrong with one of the commonly used rationalizations for unethical conduct: “If I don’t do it, someone else will”:

Responding to a man who felt that it was wrong to take a job facilitating his industry’s outsourcing of jobs overseas, Cohen assured him that there was nothing unethical about the assignment. He then added,

“That is fortunate, because your wife’s argument — if you don’t do it, someone else will — would not justify nefarious conduct. Someone else will do pretty much anything. I’ve met ‘someone else,” and he’s quite the little weasel.”

Well said.

One thought on ““The Ethicist” Nails A Rationalization

  1. I’ve often noted that, in the process of child exploitation in films, one of the defining arguments to reluctant parents is bound to be that of, “Well, if your child won’t, someone else’s will.” And the terrible thing is, it’s true! As in all scenarios, this argument carries additional weight when those involved have already compromised their ethics before.

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