World Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurship
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World Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurship

Edited by Léo-Paul Dana

This comprehensive reference work, written by some of the most eminent academics in the field, contains entries on numerous aspects of entrepreneurship.
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Chapter 15: Ethics and Entrepreneurship

Alan E. Singer


Alan E. Singer 1 INTRODUCTION According to Sen (1997), the economic way of thinking downplays the role of ethics. Since most theories of entrepreneurship have adopted that ‘way’, a contribution from ethics might be of substance. There is considerable consensus amongst contemporary philosophers that the economic way is a story or a narrative that mainly tells, in this context, how an entrepreneurial society based on trade is ethically superior to a totalitarian hierarchy, or a society at war, or overrun by crime (compare Baumol, Chapter 6, this volume). The ethics story plainly overlaps with this, but it mainly tells how a caring and just society that upholds rights and humane ideals is even better. Simply put, the former is somewhat dismal while the latter is idealistic. There is also a (meta)-story in which ethics is ultimately captured or eventually revealed by economic theory. This tells us for example that (i) illegal entrepreneurship is often unethical, although in some cases it can have an economic coordinating or liberating function, but also that (ii) ethics is already built into the activities of productive entrepreneurs. In addition, many of the latter individuals believe that they are already ‘acting ethically’ (doing good) simply by being entrepreneurial: crafting a synthesis, mobilizing resources and innovatively engaging stakeholders (for example, Brenkert, 2002; Christensen, 2008). Entrepreneurs are thus seen as role models demonstrating self-help, often providing an exit from poverty for themselves and their families or communities, in a world of undistributed riches. They are not ethically...

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