The scandal currently engulfing Football’s New Orleans Saints illustrates some important points about adversarial ethics, and in particular holds lessons for business ethics.
The scandal concerns the fact that over a number of years, members of the team (and at least one assistant coach) maintained a “bounty pool,” which paid out money to players who succeeded in inflicting serious injuries on players from opposing teams. Football is a tough sport; so what’s the problem?
The problem, of course, is that even tough games need rules, including rules designed to keep the game worth playing.
Drawing on Joseph Heath’s work on adversarial ethics in business, I argue that the limits on adversarial behaviour in business can be defined as those limits that keep the ‘game’ beneficial from a social point of view. Free, competitive markets are enormously beneficial, and behaviour that threatens the benefits of markets robs them of their moral justification.
For the fuller version of my argument, see my blog posting for Canadian Business magazine: New Orleans Saints football scandal highlights limits of competition.