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Learning Activity #1

Our course materials this week talk about the relationship between wealth and power, and the role (if any) of government to regulate “business ethics” while in pursuit of that wealth (and power). One memorable quote in our reading this week was to the effect that some part of this discussion would be ‘left to the philosophers’ which, of course, ethicists are. We are all also familiar – undoubtedly – with the saying: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I had to google that quote, however, to find out who said it. I suspected it was Machiavelli, but it turned out to be a Lord Acton, who wrote it in 1887, going on to say, “Great men are almost always bad men.” (Online Library of Liberty – Lord Acton. n.d. available online:

Consider how the three ethical theories we have been concentrating on – Utilitarianism, Kant’s deontological ethical theory, and Virtue Ethics – would approach the question of power and wealth inequality.  Is there any part of the discussion between wealth and power that is being “left to the philosophers” that should be being considered and discussed a whole lot more publicly?  Is government regulation the answer?

(You might want to keep in mind this connection between wealth and power if you find yourself tempted to turn to legislation as the curb for absolute power. . . .)

This assignment description is 250 words long. Please write a response that is at least the same length, consisting of at least 3 well-formed paragraphs. You are not expected to come up with “the answer”, we have struggled with this relationship throughout history! I wish you to consider, however, how the ethical theories would tend to view this situation.

Learning Activity #2

Why do ethicists tend to reject the theory of ethical relativism?

If you agree, which argument do you find most persuasive – and why?

If you disagree, provide your reasons in the form of an argument.

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