If It’s Legal, Is It Ethical?

This question has been asked numerous times in the past: If it’s legal, than is it ethical? I personally don’t believe that just because something is legal to do, doesn’t make it always the right thing or ethical to do. For example: Alcohol consumption is perfectly legal, but does that mean its ok to become drunks? Of course not. Just like certain instances throughout history that were perfectly legal, but weren’t ethical: Slavery was perfectly fine until the US Constitution abolished it in 1865 when the 13th amendment was created. And it wasn’t until the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938 that banned children working in mines, textile mills, and glass factories! Before then, children as young as 10 years old worked. Women also weren’t able to vote until 1920, and blacks weren’t able to vote until the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Before these years, it was perfectly legal to have slaves, have children as workers, and let only white men vote. But just because it was legal does not make it right.

    Today, lying, cheating, and breaking promises is not against the law, but is it the right thing to do in any event? No. You lose all of your credibility and have no integrity when you do such things.

    Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what is ethical when it’s not illegal because there is no rulebook. Ethics are the products of our values and upbringings.

    Personally, I don’t agree with all the laws we have today because it takes away the freedoms our companies have and the freedoms we have, which makes this country so great. I feel people and companies need to be ethically responsible. However, I also understand why the laws are in place as well: to keep wrong things that happened in the past from happening again. Without the laws, people will do whatever they want – even though it’s wrong.

    In closing, just because it’s legal doesn’t make it ethical. We as a people should use our better judgment. We all know what is right from what is wrong and therefore need to always do the right thing, and not be so much concerned about what’s written in the law books, just be concerned about doing the right thing.



Weinstein, Bruce, Ph.D. If It’s Legal, It’s Ethical, Right? Bloomberg Business Week, 2007. Web. 23 Jan. 2015


MacDonald, Chris, Ph.D. What’s Legal Isn’t Always Ethical. The Business Ethics Blog, 2011.

    Web. 23 Jan. 2015


It’s Legal So It’s Ethical…Right? Lawyer’s Weekly, 30 May 2012. Web. 23 Jan. 2015


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