“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.