Example: Ethics at Work

Note: In the previous assignment, I explain why I reject Kantian ethics in favor of Sartre’s critique of Kant.


“Write a story about something that you saw in business that you thought was ethical. Make the story about someone you personally know (a friend, relative, or yourself). Why was it ethical?

Part 1: What happened?

Part 2: Why do you think the event or action was ethical?

Part 3a: Define your notion of “good” or “ethical” since people do not all agree about what is.
Part 3b: Explain how someone could disagree with your 3a. Give examples.
Part 3c: After considering this strong objection to your vision of “good” or “ethical,” why is your story still compelling?

My Response:

1. Some decades ago while working at Starbucks in downtown Portland Oregon, I witnessed the daily injustice of the store throwing half a dozen garbage bags of food in the dumpster while record numbers of people were sleeping outside and starving, unable to access the indoor dumpsters which were only brought out when the garbage trucks came to collect them.

I started “liberating” this food from the secure dumpsters and giving it to hungry people. This was a clear violation of corporate policy which claimed that there was an intolerable liability risk to donating expired food to hungry people.

2. In reality, a federal law passed in 1996 called the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects all businesses from any liability that arises from donating expired food. The only real reason why a majority of the food that makes it to stores and restaurants ends up in dumpsters rather than donated is in order to artificially inflate scarcity and prices. The fact is they don’t want to feed people because then people wouldn’t be motivated to pay higher prices. This corporate propaganda of “intolerable risk” being the unfortunate barrier which forces them to waste the majority of all food rather than giving it to hungry people is a deliberate misinformation campaign intended to harm those people who would otherwise benefit from that food which is being unnecessarily destroyed.

3a. A moral good is an action undertaken through personal agency based on an honest and informed sense of moral justice within the context of the situation.

3b. This issue is an excellent example where someone whose only moral worldview is based on Kantian ethics would fail to see past the corporate propaganda being used to justify deliberately starving people by destroying perfectly good food, in order that those starving people should be motivated to pay higher prices. It’s yet another example where using Kantian ethics serves the cause of social murder, unnecessarily increasing suffering and harm to innocent people.

3. Social murder is an aggregate effect based not on personal agency but rather on structural injustice, so let’s look at a definition of evil that fits that kind of system. Philip Zimbardo of the Stanford Prison Experiment, The Milgram Experiment, president of the American Psychological Society, and author of, “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,” defines evil as, “The exercise of power to intentionally harm psychologically, hurt physically, and/or kill innocent people.”

In this case, the corporate propaganda is clearly intended to harm hungry people by falsely claiming intolerable risk as an excuse for destroying a majority of all food in order to deprive hungry people by destroying expired food rather than donating it. The risk is based on a lie, as they have been protected from that risk by federal law since 1996.

Therefore, everyone should consider “liberating” food which corporations seek to destroy in order to deliberately cause unnecessary suffering and harm.