A spiritual approach to ethical dilemmas

TODAY'S HEADLINES are filled with reports of ethical dilemmas. Among them: the global debate about torture; voters' views of corrupt politicians in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere; and how to solve the financial crisis that began in the US and has spread around the world.

A recent opinion piece in The New York Times drove home the point that financial crises are often mired in dubious ethical practices. Suki Kim wrote of her native South Korea: "In 1999, af ter the Asian financial crisis, the South Korean government encouraged banks to issue credit cards to as many people as possible as a way to increase consumer spending (as well as to make it easier to collect taxes . . .)." Those who instituted the policy may not have anticipated that credit cards would be accepted so readily. But "by 2003 [people] owned on average four credit cards each and their collective debts amounted to about $100 billion" ("Notes From Another Credit Card Crisis," May 18, 2009).

Since then, this debt burden has been decreasing, but that experience highlighted a serious problem, which is central to virtually all ethics breaches—namely, giving in to the temptation that the end justifies the means, without taking into account the potential societal and individual casualties along the way.

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July 6, 2009

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