This is the most significant difference between organizations and individuals. Individuals do not have any internal conduct as such; this ethical evaluation applies only to multi-individual organizations. Given these four organizational aspects, it becomes possible to evaluate each one separately. Indeed, there is no inherent necessity that each aspect be subjected to the same ethical framework. It also allows for the question to be honed to be more meaningful than “Is the entity ‘good’?”. Some examples may flesh out this approach. 156 As a first example, the Ku Klux Klan (“KKK”) is an organization. Its ultimate end is the oppression of ethnic and religious minorities. The intermediate ends appear to be marginalizing the political and societal power of such groups. These also are almost certainly characterized as unethical. The means of the KKK include or have included lynching, violence and intimidation, but, for purposes of the analysis, assume that not all branches that are nominally part of the KKK use all of those means. Thus, depending on the particular branch at issue, its methods could be deemed either ethical or unethical. Internally, however, there is no necessity for any branchthat the dealings within the organization between members are other than honest and direct. Accordingly, taken on its own, its internal conduct cannot be designated as unethical. In making ethical judgments about the KKK, it is likely that most focus on its ultimate ends and intermediate ends. For them, the key question is “Are the KKK’s goals ethical?”. Even if the focus is on a branch that does not use unethical means and which also has good internal conduct, ultimate and intermediate ends would predominate. That does not mean that means or internal conduct are not relevant, only that are not dispositive. On the other hand, for purposes of analysis, one can imagine a KKK that has the same ultimate and intermediate ends as above, but which only uses legal means to accomplish its goals. It is unlikely that such a change in the hypothetical case would change the evaluation of the ethics of that organization for most people. Nonetheless, on several occasions the American Civil Liberties Union has defended branches of the KKK who seek to accomplish their ultimate ends by legal means. From its point of view, the KKK’s ends are within the acceptable range of societal discourse. As a result, the question that the ACLU believes is pre-eminent is only about the means of the organization; it is less interested in ultimate ends or the internal conduct of the KKK. From this, it is reasonable to 156 It must be emphasized that some examples use organizations that are clearly indefensible. Nonetheless, because they are so extreme, they help clarify the analysis.
infer that the ultimate and intermediate ends of an organization are also not necessarily dispositive. Instead, when the question changes, the answer changes.
- Summer '14
- Ethics, criminal law, Corporate Criminal Liability