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Individual or group perceptions of what constitutes ethical behavior is heavily influenced by the cultures from which they come. What is considered immoral or socially unacceptable, let alone illegal, in one region of the world may not be the case in another. We can witness one such case today with the efforts of American diplomats and military personnel to train police officers and public officials in Afghanistan as the United States military presence winds down. American advisors see at as one of their primary tasks to inculcate in their Afghanistani counterparts the same ethical standards to which we hold ourselves (flawed though that sometimes may be). Unfortunately for the U.S., and for citizens of Afghanistan who are tired of systemic corruption permeating their governing agencies, centuries of police and bureaucratic corruption -- primarily manifested in the expectation of bribes for service -- has made that country largely impervious to the adoption of American values.
American business operating in developing countries in Asia and Africa are frequently expected to pay bribes to foreign officials and businesses in exchange for favorable treatment during a bidding process. As a result of a high-profile bribery case involving the Lockheed Corporation's efforts at winning government contracts in Japan in the 1970s, Congress passed legislation prohibiting U.S. companies from bribing foreign nationals. This law, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, has had its desired effect, but many American businessmen operating overseas complain that the law puts them at an unfair disadvantage when competing with other countries for contracts abroad. In much of the world, bribes are an accepted cost of doing business, and few countries maintain statutory prohibitions on their own corporations similar to the U.S.
Views of ethics are strongly influenced by the cultures in which people are brought up. Failure to understand the distinctions when operating in a foreign country can lead to serious legal and/or social difficulties.,
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