Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ethics question one

You have been discussing ethics in your business class. Ethical considerations also are crucial at several points in George Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London." Please respond at some length (250-350 words or so) to one of the three questions posed here. Make shorter comments on each of the other two questions, either by responding to a comment that already has been posted or by adding an original insight or opinion. To make commenting easier, each question will be posted separately. All three posts should be on the blog by 10 p.m. Monday, September 18.

1. At one point in "Down and Out in Paris and London," Boris steals food from his workplace in order to feed his unemployed friend. Is this ethical behavior? If your answer is no, then are there some circumstances under which this behavior would be ethically justified? Assume for purposes of this question that no other food sources are readily available -- no food stamps, no rescue missions, no family or other friends.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Emily McGeachy said...

From a stern ethical view, I would say Boris is being unethical. Anybody knows that it is just flat out wrong to steal something you haven’t been given. Boris is risking his job by being caught with food he shouldn’t have without paying for. He could just tell his friend he is truly sorry, but just can’t live with the fact that he’s a thief at his own workplace. He could suggest digging through other food; say in the “trash”, since he’s so desperate. But, when you consider that his friend has been trying to obtain a job, and has no other way of feeding himself, he is being ethical by keeping his friend alive. If on the other hand his friend was just lazy and asking him to bring him food for pleasure, it would totally be unethical. You have to think of it in the other person’s shoes, wouldn’t you try to help them out any way you could, especially when it’s a life or death situation? Boris could also keep safe from being caught by taking small food that could fit in his clothes. Taking him bread would be a basic. Bread fills the stomach and has a lasting-effect on beating hunger. He could also take him wine or any other liquid by hiding it in a coat. By doing this everyday at work, I think it shows that Boris is a true, dedicated, and loyal friend. He cares about the welfare of his friend so much that he’s willing to risk his new job for him.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Pritchard said...

I think that what Boris does is a non ethical but justified thing. I feel that it would be considered unprofessional and a poor lack of judgment in the work place, in the book it goes on to say that they are given food to eat themselves but are not allowed to take anything besides what is given. This however does not stop the other people in the Hotel from doing so. Just because this is something that any of the employees take apart of, does not make it ethically right by a business standpoint.
On the other hand, from the view of Boris and the Narrator this is something that is of the utmost importance. Without this food the Narrator would surely starve. This does make the action of taking the food justified, for it is feeding an otherwise starving individual.
I think that something that would satisfy both Boris and his friend and at the same time be ethical from the Hotels view would be to have Boris share the food given to him. This would however give both men less food but it would still be food nonetheless. This way Boris would not get in trouble if caught and the Narrator still can go to bed with a full stomach

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Nichole Peterson said...

Ideally, what Boris did was unethical. Stealing is wrong, and it could’ve cost him his job, which was the only way that he and his friend could survive. It was definitely a huge risk to take, since he had just gotten the job, but I think anyone would say that a friend, in a life or death situation, is more important than a job. Since his friend wasn’t worthless and lazy, and he did try to get a job, I think he did a good thing, and made an ethical decision. It’s not like Boris was taking excessive amounts of food and keeping it for later, or feeding all of his friends, it was just enough for him. When Boris’s friend got a job, they bought food, it was just to get him by until he was okay on his own again. Boris knew that his friend was trying to get a job, and that he wasn’t just mooching off of him. He knew that his friend would be there for him if he needed the help too. I know that I would’ve done the same for a friend. Like Emily said, they could’ve gone in the trash to dig for food, instead of steal it, but why eat the trash for dinner when you can get food that was made today? Since they really had no other option, or place to turn for help, it only seems logical. Besides, it’s not like they were treated good at work either, they were more like slaves than workers. That can make a person not care about their job as much as they probably should, so why would Boris care when they treat him like crap? I believe that if you really look at the situation, and think if you were in that the spot, what Boris did was eithcal.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Katherine Moody said...

Boris's actions were definitely unethical. He stole the food plain and simple. He did it in a Robin Hood type mentality though and no one ever called Robin Hood unethical except who he was steeling from. Boris had plenty of justification for what he did it was just a matter of if he was willing to risk his "honor" to do it. Obviously someone surviving was more important than honor to him.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Jessi Campbell said...

When Boris steals food from his workplace, he is indeed being unethical. His employers are trusting him to eat what he is given, and nothing else. Boris still sneaks food out to his starving friend everyday. This is putting his job and food intake on the line, but it is important that his friend eats. Boris knows that he needs this job, and that it is a risky and stupid move, but it is justified. His friend is starving, and it would also be unethical to let his friend die. Any one with any compassion would do the exact same thing in this situation. Friends are more important than a job. It is clear that Boris and the friend are close enough that the friend would do the exact same thing for Boris. Boris also had the chance to ditch the friend after he got his job, but that's not his style. He values friendship, like any one does, and wants to help his friend out as much as he can. I agree with what Jeff said about Boris sharing the food given to him. This is a simple and smart way to feed his friend and keep his job. Sure, it means less food for both of them, but food is food, and a job is a job. I also agree with what Nichole said, Boris was not hoarding food, and he wasn't passing it around to everyone. He stole food for one person, one purpose. He had a good reason to do so, and so while it is unethical from a business view, from a social view, it is ethical.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Haley Goetz said...

Stealing food from a workplace, regardless of the reason, is unethical. However, sometimes you have to make that kind of decision in order to survive. If I were in Boris’s situation I’d make the unethical choice too. In my opinion, the survival of a friend is more important than keeping my karma good and not stealing food.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous cody rose said...

1. There is a fine line concerning ethics when it literally comes down to a life or death matter. This is what Boris had to face and decide. I feel that he was justified in bringing home food for his friend. First, his friend had been looking for employment although unsuccessful so far. He was not just relying on society to feed him; he was actively seeking a paying job to support himself. Also, being slightly crippled, he did hit the pavement with Boris without blaming anyone or anything for his circumstances. In fact, he was more optimistic and knowledgeable then Boris was in searching for employment. Second, Boris did share what little he had with Orwell, whether it was food, ideas on surviving, or job possibilities. Their friendship may be one reason they did survive those long day and nights of starving. They supported each other mentally and talked of hope and better things to come even as they starved. Second, the food that was” stolen” was either scraps from preparing the food, leftover food that the customers did not eat, or just plain old garbage that was being thrown out because it was not edible. It was not per say good or even decent food that was taken and it was not going to be used at all for anything or anybody. Walking on the fine line, is it really “stealing” if you are not directly taking from others or hurting anyone in order for someone not to die? However, I would ask the boss if I could take home any kind of food for a crippled friend of mine who was near starvation, even if only once to tide him over until he found employment. How could someone live with the knowledge that they didn’t try everything they could (without anyone or anything being hurt in the process) to stop a man from dying of starvation?

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Beccah Maier said...

Stealing is unethical; I will have to go with the majority on that one. However, his friend would have starved otherwise. In general, stealing is always wrong when seen from a glance. To really answer this for a situation one would have to know the specific circumstances surrounding the situation.
In this situation, I believe Boris did the right thing. He and his good friend had been trying to keep each other alive. First they lived off of his friend’s money, and when that ran out, they frantically searched for jobs together and always shared food with each other.
Boris fell into some good fortune and wanted to share, returning favors given to him by his friend. Yes, he smuggled food out, but he had a good reason to. In this case, it was the right thing to do, and almost ethical. Boris’s personal beliefs were that he and his friend should both have fortunes. He was merely helping his friend to live.
If he had been caught then it would have ruined his job and good fortune, so he knew the risks going into it. Yet, he still followed through with providing for his friend like he had done for Boris.
If his friend truly did not have any other way of getting food, stealing some from his workplace, in the small amounts that he did, was the right thing to do, and ethical according to his own values and personal beliefs. If his friend had had and other way of getting some food, this behavior would have been completely and totally unethical.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Alison Elwell said...

I completely agree with Katherine. This was unethical and wrongdoing towards the company he was stealing from. It might be nice to know why Boris’s friend was unemployed, but it still does not justify the reasoning Boris had to why he was stealing from his own company to help out his friend.

Boris is also risking his own job and chances of finding another one by stealing. Even though he is apparently doing it for a good reason, Boris’s friend is asking Boris to be wrong and to put himself in a risky situation, even if he does not blatantly ask for the help of obtaining food.

If Boris really felt like he absolutely needed to help his friend with his hunger situation, I would suggest that Boris help his friend find a job or buy his friend food with the money he earned on the job.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Josh McClain said...

i think that Boris' decision was very ethical. Put yourself in that situation and see what you would do for your friend. Imagine that your best friend was absolutely starving and had no way to get food, what would you do? it may not be ethical in a business sense, but it is a morally good decision from a friends standpoint. I would most definately help out my best friend in that type of situation. But then, from the point of a business man's decision, i might not do it, only if i got caught. but that might be a slim chance, due to the fact that i own that restaurant. so i would do it.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Trent Panasuk said...

I disagree whit josh's comment. Boris's actions are unethical and that isn't the road that I would have taken. I believe that Boris should either buy the food for his friend or else help him find a job for himself. there is no reason that someone can't get a job for themself. If they look hard enough they will find work.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Luke Mahlen said...

Stealing is unethical...period. That is what we have been taught since we were all kids. Even though it is unethical it is justified. In some situations you can't be ethical. This is one of those situations, even though it is unethical he can't sit there and watch his friend starve to death.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Jessy Peterson said...

I agree with the many that said the act was unethical. The fact that he stole was the main reason. I feel that you can't always be ethical though, especially when it comes to someones life. I don't feel that Boris' act was ethical but he really didn't have many other options.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous maria pettersson said...

Stealing is, as we all know wrong, however I agree with Boris’s reasons for it.
Of course it’s a big risk to take, what if someone finds out, then they’ll both be broke and without food again. I don’t think it is ethical behaviour but if I was in that situation I wouldn’t hesitate doing the same thing for my friend. When it comes down to a matter of surviving, I wouldn’t care about ethics at all.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Arjun Chatterjee said...

Looking at this behaviour from the point of view of the situation i think this cannot be called plain stealing, also if there is no food stamps or government assistance or any assistance from any sort of place whatsoever then the guy would just starve. when things are looked on from that angle stealing food from the cafeteria should'nt and would not be defined as stealing. If Boris did not steal the food from the restaurant and didnt give the food to his friend he would have no option but to starve. i would call that unethical, since a few loaves of bread, some cheese wouldn't make any difference to a restaurant but it would make a huge difference to his friend. Therefore it cannot be called unethical. Also the guy is trying to look for work but he just cannot manage to get it, that also tips it in favor of being ethical. another point which should be given consideration is the fact that they have been quite hard up financiall for quite some time which entailed intermittent periods of starvation and living on just bread and wine. so that also plays a huge part. the working conditions for boris also was quite degrading so i odnt think it was such a great thing

11:10 PM  

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