The relationship between ethics, our legal system, and local, state, and federal policy is complex and sometimes obscure. While extensive scholarship on this relationship exists, this section offers resources that are geared toward the ways in which behavioral ethics and general ethics may influence law and policy as well as some pragmatic approaches to understanding contemporary issues.
For instance, one may have the legal right to do something, but the course of action itself may not be ethically justifiable. On rare occasions, a course of action may be ethical but not legal.
Begin by viewing the recommended videos for an introduction to topics related to the relationship between ethics and law. These include ideas like conflict of interest, moral agency, and justified harm, as well as some of the biases that can cause us to violate the laws and act unethically.
To prompt conversation, use the discussion questions which follow each video. Read the video teaching notes for more details and (often) assignment suggestions.
Read the case studies for examples of how laws and policies may affect particular populations in regards to religion, race, class, speech, and freedom of choice. To dig deeper answer the case study discussion questions and sketch the ethical decision-making process outlined in each case. The case studies can start your class discussion on ethics.
To explore further, watch “related” videos and read their corresponding case studies. Many of the ethics concepts covered in Ethics Unwrapped operate in tandem with each other, so the more you watch, the greater your understanding of ethical issues.
2[Type text] [Type text] [Type text] Ellie and Guy are business owners with different specialties. Ellie makes clothes and requires unusual materials and Guy specializes in ‘high quality, hard to find fabrics’ 1 , so they agree on a price and delivery. When Guy realizes his supplier raised the price, he asked Ellie if she could pay more. Ellie agrees to pay the higher price so her business relationship is not ruined, but later fails to pay the promised price because her sales drop. When Guy brings it up, Ellie refuses to pay because she is obligated to their original price. Due to the parties only making an agreement, it becomes a gratuitous promise, a promise for which nothing of legal value is given in exchange 2 , and the ethical reasoning being fairness and justice, which states, “we should pay our debts and treat like cases alike” 3 . Regarding to legality, Ellie promised to pay for the price increment but she failed