Ethics & Law

Cite this article as:"Ethics & Law," in The Business Professor, updated January 30, 2015, last accessed October 25, 2020,


What is the role of ethics in law?

  • Both ethics and law deal with right and wrong and foster social cooperation.
    • Society’s ethical values become law through legislation and we often associate complying with the law as ethically correct.
  • That the state enforces law but that personal ethics are voluntarily observed.
  • Ethical systems are a broader based commitment to proper behavior than law.
    • The values found in ethics may be imposed on an individual, but motivation to observe moral rules comes from within.
  • That ethical values frequently become law and that legal regulation reflects ethical values.
    • –Ex. Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Legal regulation is a significant source of values for business.
    • The motivation to observe the law come from outside oneself – i.e., legal consequences.
    • Personal ethics is a much higher standard than legal compliance – which is a bare minimum.

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