v1n5: Martin on NormanPosted: February 25, 2013 Filed under: Uncategorized 2 Comments
“The Unification Challenge” by Dominic Martin
A COMMENT ON Wayne Norman (2011), “Business Ethics as Self-Regulation: Why Principles That Ground Regulations Should Be Used to Ground Beyond-Compliance Norms as Well,” J Bus Ethics 102(1): 43-57, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-1193-2
Abstract: Wayne Norman argues that there should be more similarity or unity between the justifications for markets and the extra-legal norms that apply to market agents. I question two aspects of his claim. First, why does Norman refer to this view as a view about the self-regulation of market agents? Agents could self-regulate with many different norms, not necessarily norms informed by the justifications for markets. Second, asking for more similarity might create problems in terms of the liberty of market agents to pursue other morally relevant objectives. How are we to balance these other relevant objectives and the objectives of markets?
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Interesting paper. I also think that “business ethics as self-regulation” is a strange slogan for Norman’s project (full disclosure, I did work with Norman and we argue for a similar view in a forthcoming paper(in french)). On one hand, if we take seriously what is arguing for, it seems to me that Norman is broadly making the case for a conception of business ethics as a normative theory of “regulation” in general (not only “self” regulation). On the other hand, if he really aims to derive norms of conduct for corporate actors from the requirements of market efficiency, he clearly is arguing for something similar to Heath’s “market failures” approach or McMahon’s “implicit morality of the market” approach…
Thank you for your comment Pierre-Yves.
If I may add a few things about the slogan, I see two connections between the idea of self-regulation and the idea of more unity between legal and extra-legal norms. However, neither of these connections justify using Norman’s slogan, because neither shows that self-regulation implies more unity.
The first connection is the one outlined in the commentary. Self-regulation could be understood as ‘complying with the legal norms by oneself’, given that the regulation refers to the legal norms. However, this does not imply more unity, since one could also comply with different extra-legal norms.
The second connection, not outlined in the commentary, is the opposite logical implication. More unity between legal and extra-legal norms implies self-regulation. By definition, the extra-legal norms are not legally enforced. If agents comply with these norms, they do it by themselves. If they comply by themselves, they self-regulate. Hence, if I want extra-legal norms to be informed by the justification for the legal norms, it means that agents will have to self-regulate in order to comply with some of these norms. However, one can’t infer from ‘P implies Q’ that ‘Q implies P’. You can’t infer from “more unity implies self-regulation” that “self-regulation implies more unity”.
In conclusion, if a slogan is needed, it should be “business ethics as unity”, not the other way around (business ethics as self-regulation). But this is nowhere as catchy as Norman’s initial slogan.