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Business ethics is a very broad term and widely used throughout the world. The term “business ethics” first started to be used in the United States in the early 1970’s as businesses were growing bigger and more powerful. Business ethics are guidelines or behaviors that businesses and individuals use daily to deal with the world, and even smaller situations they might find themselves in. Race, gender, age and religion all play a role in a person’s ethics. The most important factor in a person’s perspective of business ethics is religion, because there are so many different religious views. Buddhists follow the teachings of Buddha to help with their ethics in business. Christianity uses the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Christ to classify their ethics. The Jewish faith uses the Torah, while Muslims use the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad to explain their views on business ethics.
Buddhists do not believe in one particular economic system. The main issue in Buddhist ethics is not how poor or wealthy a person is, but how they respond to the situation they are given. One goal of Buddhism is not to become attached to material things. They believe that material things should not control a person. Another goal of Buddhism is to end dukkah, which means ill-being, or unhappiness. The way that a Buddhist end ill-being is with dana, giving or generosity. Dana is the most important idea dealing with Buddhist ethics in society and business. “A person should have only minimal needs such as: enough food to stop hunger and keep up good health, enough clothing to be socially decent and to protect their body, enough shelter for cultivating the mind, and enough health care to provide sufficient care and prevent illness” (Knitter & Muzaffar, 60). Buddhists do not believe that a person should be poor, but what matters is how a person gets wealthy, and how they respond to being wealthy or poor. Buddhists believe that the economy is not usual or predictable, but that it is always changing. From a Buddhists viewpoint, “economic growth and consumerism are unsatisfactory alternatives because they evade the basic problems of life by distracting us with symbolic substitutes such as money, status, and power” (Knitter & Muzaffar, 75). The economy tries to cover up the problems of the world by giving people material things. People can become wealthy, but they should not become attached to material possessions and let them control their lives. In a Buddhist’s eyes, if a person has money or is wealthy then they should be using dana. A Buddhist’s view of business ethics differs a little from that of a Christian.
Christianity’s main concern is for the well-being of others. This concern is brought on by one of the Ten Commandments: Honor your neighbor and his goods. Christians believe that the government is an organization that was given by God to look after people. They also believe that any person who has made a mistake should own up to it and apologize. People following Christian business ethics should want to help others more than themselves. They also want to do what is needed to work with God in making a fair and continuing world economy. Anything that happens in the world, Christians believe God was responsible. They believe that he lets people make their own choices, but sometimes emerges and makes some decisions for them. If a Christian has a problem or finds that they are in a situation, they do what they believe is right according to the Ten Commandments and Christ’s teachings.
Judaism is a lot like Christianity in its beliefs in business ethics, but there are some differences. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:28), and “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deut. 16:20) define the values that guide a Jewish economic activity (Knitter & Muzaffer, 97). Jewish faith believes that a person should show reasonable concern for others. In these aspects Judaism is like Christian faith, however, there is a major difference in their beliefs. Jews believe that wanting wealth is wrong, and that it leads to envy or greed, which turns people away from God. Like Buddhism, though, Judaism believes that a person should just have what is necessary for them to survive and be happy. Judaism has rules that they follow as business ethics. Employers and employees have different rules to follow, because they are on different levels. One rule that Jews believe, is that an employer should not demand more from a worker than they are capable of doing. An employer is not allowed to embarrass, insult, or degrade an employee, and that they cannot hold a worker’s payment due to a debt. Jewish employees should be allowed to leave work and return home before the sunsets on the Sabbath and holidays. The main rule for employees is that they are not allowed to waste time, slack off in their performance, interrupt their work, or have meaningless conversations while at work. Judaism has a lot of rules and commandments they believe in dealing with business ethics.
Freedom, responsibility, and honesty are the three main ideas of Islamic ethics. To be a Muslim, a person has to have these characteristics plus has to be fair and productive. Muslims believe that there is no room for a person to be selfish. They also believe that the economy should not have absolute freedom. The economy will slowly get worse if it has absolute freedom. A person’s wants would then be controlled by the economy, which would lead to unlimited advertising and the economy would be wasteful in making that happen. Muslims have a strict belief that gambling is restricted. “This restriction will impinge on the operation of the short-term and speculative activities of fund managers, financiers, and their respective institutions” (Knitter & Muzaffer, 147). Muslims are not allowed to invest on the Stock Market, because they consider that gambling with money. Islamic faith is not against wanting to make a profit. They are just unwilling to let that want decide how a person lives and grows.
In all these religions, the basis for their business ethics is wealth and knowing how to deal with that wealth while staying in the boundaries of their rules or laws. The difference in their ethics is how they deal with the situations that occur in everyday life. Each religion follows a different set of guidelines, which separates them from one another. There are pros and cons of each religious view, but if a person keeps an open mind towards all of them, they will be able to deal with most any situation that would occur in the daily life of the world.